2017 Personal Planning & Goal Setting

I am in the process of completing my 2017 personal strategic plan and want to pass on 15 questions which I find extremely helpful.  My planning has to do with setting personal goals for the year…which are birthed from my vision for my life…and tie directly into my financial plan.  These 15 questions help clarify that vision.

A lot has been written about setting goals. (Yes, it is that important.) Henry David Thoreau said, “If man advances competently in the direction of his dreams and he endeavors to live the life that he has imagined he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”  This implies that you must have a dream.  You must endeavor to live the life that you have imagined.  Furthermore, when the dream is linked to purpose and values, there is an overwhelming incentive to pursue it.

What does all this have to do with financial planning?  Everything.  Purpose-driven living provides meaning and direction as to how we order our financial life.  When one has a clear understanding of his/her purpose and values, making decisions about money become noticeably easier.

There have been several studies illustrating the benefits of goal setting. The best-known study was done at Yale University way back in 1950’s. The researchers asked the Class of 1953 a number of questions. Three had to do with goals:

Have you set goals?

Have you written them down?

Do you have a plan to accomplish them?

As it turned out only 3 percent of the class had written down their goals, with a plan to achieve them.  Thirteen percent had goals, but had not written them down.  Fully 84% had no specific goals at all, other than to “enjoy themselves.”

In 1973, when the researchers resurveyed same class, the differences between the goal setters and everyone else were stunning. The 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% of students who had no goals at all. But, most surprising of all, the 3 percent who had written their goals down were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent of graduates combined!

Goal setting is determined by your personal vision.  A personal vision is the deepest expression of what we want in life.  It is a description of our preferred future, not a prediction of what will be.  In this sense, your personal vision should describe what you want out of life and work and what kind of person you want to be.  Instead of a forecast of what you think might be likely in the future, your personal vision is a description of the future you dream about.

Here are the 15 questions that I discovered in Todd Duncan’s book “The Power to be Your Best” which are a great help in taking an inventory of where I am right now. I have found that they help me become more intentional about what I feel I must become to sense my true significance.

  1. Am I missing anything in my life right now that is important to me?  (What’s not happening that I want to happen?)
  1. What am I passionate about that gives meaning to life?
  1. Who am I, and why am I here?
  1. What do I value that gives real happiness?
  1. Where do I want to be and what do I want to be doing in 5 years?  10 years?  20 years?
  1. What gifts that God has given to me am I using effectively?  Which am I not using effectively?
  1. What is it that I believe so strongly in that I would be willing to die for?
  1. What is it about my job that makes me feel trapped?
  1. What realistic changes can I make in how I run my business so I can experience more freedom?
  1. What steps should I be taking now to ensure that the future is as meaningful as possible?
  1. With regard to money, how much is enough?   If I have more, what will the excess be used for?
  1. Am I living a balanced life?  Which areas are in need of time and focus?
  1. Where do I seek inspiration, mentors, and working models for greater significance?
  1. What do I want to be remembered for?
  1. What legacy do I want to leave for my children?

Consider your responses to all of the questions listed above as you reflect about your personal vision.  This may help you to identify the most important elements of your vision.

By Don James CPA/PFS, CFP


About Don James, CPA/PFS, CFP
Don is the Tax & Financial Planning partner with Kiplinger & Co., CPAs headquartered in sunny Cleveland, Ohio since 1982. He partners with business owners and families and specializes in goal achievement solutions, tax minimization strategies and serves in the role of gatekeeper of sound financial advice.

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