How To Sprint Successfully Towards Your Financial Goals

When I complain about my spending habits to people, I often hear that if I had some big financial goals, long-term saving plans and far-reaching dreams, I would stop spending. Instead, I would work towards achieving these great goals and grand ideas.

I was even asked if I know what my long-term financial goals are in this life. Hmmm… I said to myself then, let’s see:

  • I want to retire with Beaker by the age of 55.
  • I want us to be able to take long trips at least twice a year when we retire .
  • I want to have a small house filled with five pugs and three cats.
  • I want to retire in this house with Beaker and our pugs and cats.
  • I want to feel secure in our retirement and never worry about money.

These are my ultimate financial goals. I also call them dreams.

Do they motivate me to stop spending and focus on saving? No.

I am not a marathon runner. I am a sprinter.

Some people focus on long-term goals that are exhausting marathons. Other people, like me, perform best under the stress of short but stimulating sprints.

While I love and understand the optimism of people who set long-term goals, I find the time frame of these goals depressing. The end result seems to be far away in the future: five or ten years from now. I find it daunting because I want to live and achieve right now.

I want to be able to travel while I can hike mountains without being bent over from the arthritic pain in my knees. I want to enjoy a zip-line without dropping my dentures in the jungles below me. I want to be able to stand in a long line at the Musée d’Orsay without leaning on my walker.

When it comes down to long-term goals:

  • I cannot see the light at the end of the limitless time tunnel

AND

  • In the absence of light, hope evades me, enthusiasm fades, motivation eventually whimpers out.

Yes, I am intimidated and overwhelmed by big long-term goals. Mostly I fear their time frame. Instead of setting up five, six, ten year goals, I break down my plans and dreams into small but intensive sprints. Instead of saying where I am going to be in three years from now, I choose to decide where I want to be in six or three months from now.

A short but meaningful sprint requires planning and strategy.

It is the challenge that creates motivation. It is the drive that pushes me forward.

When I decided to visit my grandmother last year, I set myself a goal to save up a certain amount of cash for this trip. I did not want to charge a penny on the credit card. I had about five months to accomplish my sprint. Being a spender who likes to self-indulge in blissful shopping, I did run out of steam by the fifth month. The end result was very rewarding nevertheless.

In order to sprint and finish your sprint successfully :

  1. Focus on what is important right now.
  2. Visualize the end result – see the light
  3. Maintain your eye contact (focus) on that light (end result.)
  4. When running out of steam, give yourself a short break, slow down a little, take a breath and sprint again.

Happy sprinting!

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39 Responses to “How To Sprint Successfully Towards Your Financial Goals”

  1. B says:

    Hi

    I began reading your blog and you do seem like a person with a focused mindset of what you want to do. Keep focusing and results will come to you automatically :)

    B

  2. Jackie says:

    Short term goals are exactly the way to go, because they can get you to your long-term goals. And of course because you stay motivated and interested along the way :)

    It’s a lot easier to do the short-term goals — and doing them is what counts.
    Jackie recently posted..Re-experience What It’s Like to Feel Good About Your MoneyMy Profile

  3. I am definitely a sprinter too! I just had one of those sprint moments this week doing some last-minute studying for an exam I should have been preparing for for a month! But it worked out and I always do it the same. Honestly, I want to pay off my debt faster than it seems possible right now, so I have sprint days where I work ALL day on blogging, traffic etc, then I take 1-2 days off. Consistency has never been a part of my life, so now I am slowly changing it. But I know sprinting and bursts of activity always will be!
    American Debt Project recently posted..Debt Update: December 2011My Profile

    • aloysa says:

      Interesting… When I was at school I was not a sprinter. I think because I studied in my third language and it took me longer to digest information. I think back then I was a marathon runner. I became a sprinter much later. :-)

  4. I hear you on the long term goals–it’s tough. my strategy is to start making small changes today. we started setting aside $100 a month to put into our retirement accounts. That’s not much and we’re definitely not maxing out, but we hope to increase as the years go by. When you think of the long term and how much you have to save, it’s daunting. you have to focus on the small changes that snowball into big changes.
    Newlyweds on a Budget recently posted..Paying down student loansMy Profile

  5. If you make each of your sprints in one direction, its eventually running a marathon much quicker. Achieving financial goals much earlier and easier.
    SB @ One Cent At A Time recently posted..How to Keep Heating Bills Low This WinterMy Profile

    • aloysa says:

      Hmmm…. Not sure if I agree but I do see what you mean. Marathon is all about endurance. Not everyone possesses it.

  6. I am not sure I agree with SB that sprinting in one direction will get you to run a marathon faster but it can get you there. Thinking about it many people run marathons by combining running and walking – they finish but not cecessarily very fast.

    I suppose with getting where one wishes to be what matters most is to keep focused on the ‘big picture’ – the rest is just different techniques.
    maria@moneyprinciple recently posted..Principled money posts of the week #9: the ‘welcome to 2012’ editionMy Profile

    • aloysa says:

      Some of us are hikers, as Retire By 40 admitted. I think you are right – different people, different techniques. But we all want to get to pretty much the same place. :-)

  7. [...] Broken Coin posted How To Sprint Successfully Towards Your Financial Goals – “Some people focus on long-term goals that are exhausting marathons. Other people, [...]

  8. I go for both the long term and the medium term, as well as the short term. Long-term, I would love capital-based financial independence, but that will take a long time, so in the short and medium term I am focusing on building up side income. :)
    Invest It Wisely recently posted..Do You Really Want To Know How Much Others Make?My Profile

  9. MoneyCone says:

    Happy sprinting indeed Aloysa! Keep your primary goal in sight and tweak your methods till you get there! Best wishes for 2012!
    MoneyCone recently posted..And Let There Be Light!My Profile

  10. Buck Inspire says:

    Great point Aloysa about sprinting or running a marathon. Nice imagery about ziplinging with dentures flying out, haha! Kudos for finding out what type of “training” works for you and what doesn’t. Good luck with your sprint!
    Buck Inspire recently posted..BI 006: Make Today Better Than YesterdayMy Profile

  11. I’m really digging your approach, I have a hard time thinking so far into the future but try anyways. Maybe I’ll try this out sometime. :-) Great post.
    Jen @ Master the Art of Saving recently posted..$25 Amazon.com Gift Card Giveaway!My Profile

  12. Creating medium term goals is very important. If you just focus on the long term goal you may get discouraged.
    LaTisha @YoungAdultFinances recently posted..Opening my IRA with BettermentMy Profile

  13. Your dream retirement life sounds awesome. I like it. It is similar to the dreams I have. For me, I find closer term goals that add up to the big goal works really well. Meeting those milestones along the way helps with keeping motivated for the big goal.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..How to Make a Relationship LastMy Profile

  14. I’m one of those people that needs to combine approaches. I love seeing the big picture, so I track everything long term, but if I have to go forever without a success, like you, I just get disprited and turn to something else to get me my emotional high.
    For that reason, I set milestones along my long term path and celebrate whenever I reach one of those. For example, this last fall, I finally owed less money than I borrowed on my undergrad student loans. That felt like a huge win. And then this April, we will pay off the work we had done on our basement, and we’ll reach 50% of our non-mortgage debt paid (from when I started tracking at the end of 2009). I am totally motivated to reach those milestones. Once I do, I give myself a few weeks to enjoy, and then I find the next point on the path I want to be at and set a new milestone.

    • aloysa says:

      Interesting word choice: emotional high. I think that is exactly what I get from short-term goals – emotional high. It can be addicting and motivating at the same time.
      Wow! You are doing so great! I am impressed!

  15. I’m the more slow and steady type. I’m not a marathoner or a sprinter, I’m a hiker. :)
    You have to find your own path because everyone has different temperament and experience.
    I think as long as we are making positive progress, we are doing pretty good in general.
    retirebyforty recently posted..Is The Costco Executive Membership Worth It?My Profile

    • aloysa says:

      A hiker?! I love it! I think Beaker is a hiker, slow and steady type. lol The most progress I ever made was sprinting towards my goals. I think that’s why I like them the most.

  16. Squirrelers says:

    I’m a marathon runner (in money terms, anyway!), but like to break things down into shorter term goals to get to that long-term destination. I think you have to work with what’s best for you, and how you operate. Those short-term sprints could get you someplace great down the line! Anyway, I like the way you describe this whole concept, nice post.
    Squirrelers recently posted..15 Ways to Grow and Protect Your Net WorthMy Profile

    • aloysa says:

      Thank you! I just explained what best works for me and why. We all have long term goals. But for me, short term goals take me to the final destination faster.

  17. Andy Hough says:

    As others have said a combination approach can work well. Just make short term goals that lead toward your long term goals.
    Andy Hough recently posted..My Picks for the Money Pros Index Fund ChallengeMy Profile

  18. 101 Centavos says:

    I’m more of a plodder. But I highly admire people who have the energy to sprint successfully.
    101 Centavos recently posted..How NOT to Invest in WaterMy Profile

  19. Hank says:

    I never quite thought of it like that, but I love the sentiment. Great post!
    Hank recently posted..Weekly Roundup: Great Articles This WeekMy Profile

  20. [...] I love hearing entrepreneur success stories.  I love to hear people talk about their short term goals and their long term goals! I think it is so great to have Cavanaugh here that he can share some of [...]

  21. I’m like you when I’m making a significant change in my life. I think, ‘I can do anything short term’. I mostly say this when I’m trying to add a mile to my run- God, I wish I was a sprinter!
    When we first started getting serious about cutting back we made our goal short. The first one was six months (that seemed LONG at the time). I checked into it monthly though and reminded myself that even if I stopped after one month we were a huge jump ahead of our debt. It got me to the end. And then…I didn’t want to go back to how we were spending!

  22. [...] I recently established my financial goals for the short term (2-3 years). When I wrote out these short-term goals and put figures alongside these goals, I began to see how much it would cost to reach these [...]

  23. [...] trying to pay down all of the debts at once, the person in debt instead concentrate on individual short-term goals of a single debt at a time. They pay as much as they can on this particular debt while paying the [...]

  24. [...] 2. How to Sprint Successfully Towards Your Financial Goals [...]

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