Where am I now? Where do I want to go from here?
At the start of each year, many of us make it a habit to ask ourselves the two above questions. The answers help us map out a strategy, make resolutions and set goals. This annual exercise offers us the opportunity to take stock of our current situation and see the areas in which we want to improve. Maybe it’s to save a little more money each week, carve out more family time every day, make a big career move, or spend more time on your favorite jogging/hiking/biking trail. Big and small things, alike.
One problem with these two questions: We don’t ask them enough. Now that we have inched past the halfway point of 2015, it could be a good time to ask them again: Where am I now? Where do I want to go from here? This midyear checkup allows you to reassess where you want to spend two of your most precious but limited resources: time and energy. Asking these questions lets you to examine if the goals you identified in January are still where your focus should be. It allows you to review what has changed in your life and whether those changes have brought about new challenges or, better yet, opportunities.
Simply, asking these questions allows you to account for what you didn’t know then. And that’s often the key to successfully carrying out a plan — accounting for, and adapting to changing circumstances.
Carl Richards, director of investor education for the BAM ALLIANCE, wrote in his Behavior Gap newsletter: “Think back 10 or 20 years. Did you have any idea you’d be doing what you’re doing now? Living where you’re living? Earning what you’re earning? Or that you’d be contemplating chucking it all and pursuing some kind of radical change?
When we put it this way, planning seems pointless, even silly … Don’t get me wrong. We do need to plan. But we’re far better off setting specific but flexible goals that reflect our personal values and our best guesses about the future. Then we can do our best to reach those goals, revising our guesses and making course corrections when things change.
While it’s a bad idea to get attached to a particular notion about how things will play out, it is crucial to commit to the process. When you do that, you’ll feel different; you’ll be way more relaxed, at least around financial issues. Once you let go of the idea that the future must take a certain shape lest we flunk the plan that you spend so much time on, you’ll feel more engaged in something that belongs to you.”