Specificity: The Key to Achieving Your Goals

Remember to save finished version on my personal desktop computer

“I’m going to pay off at least $21,500 in student loan debt next year”.

My heart skipped a beat. My palms started sweating, and it wasn’t because of the summer heat; my mind and body was sending me signals that I couldn’t do it.

“Hey,” I said to myself, cutting off the negative mental chatter. “I’m going to pay off at least $21,500 in student loan debt next year. I can do it. It will work”.

I was giving myself this pep talk last August on the eve of paying off an $8,500 debt. This seemed like a lot to pay off when I set the goal in December 2018, yet I managed to do it in nine months. It got me thinking of what else I could do.

“HEY! Listen. You can do this. You can reach this goal. Focus in and get serious”.

The part of me that was scared finally got on board and helped me break the goal into more manageable pieces.

“I’d need to pay off at least $1,791.66 each month. That’s $447.92 per week”.

“I’d also need to work at least 6 hours per week at my part-time job, as well as any overtime hours at my full-time job that I can get”…

The more specific I got with my goal, the more I believed I could do it. The specificity gave me objective proof that it was possible: the numbers showed me exactly what I needed to do to succeed.

Even though the goal was lofty to me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to achieve it if I followed my plan. The path ahead was as clear as day*.

Making your goals specific

You’ll need to set goals to better your finances. Whether you want to save money or pay down debts like me, you’ll need to decide what you want and come up with a plan of action. I think your goals should stretch you a little bit. If you always feel comfortable with your goals and plans, you aren’t growing as much as you could. So challenge yourself to go for the dreams that seem out of reach. You’ll be asking yourself to do something you’ve never done, and you may feel resistance as a result. If this happens and you start thinking of excuses for why you can’t reach your goal, get specific.

The great thing about goals is that you can break them down into the steps you need to complete them. You do this to create actionable steps that help you succeed. I didn’t have $21,500 on hand to pay off my debt. I knew if I wanted to succeed, I’d need to make $21,500 over the course of the year. That meant breaking my yearlong goal into monthly and weekly goals, and then figuring out how many hours I’d need to work each week. I even went as far as developing a spreadsheet to calculate this information in real time.

The end result was that my goal stopped being overwhelming and became doable. It put responsibility back on my shoulders by making my success or failure up to me.

When looked at in their smaller pieces, your goals will appear more manageable, too. From there, it’s just a matter of accomplishing the smaller tasks until you get what you want. If you’re ever feeling stuck, ask yourself how you could break what you’re trying to do into even smaller pieces. I can guarantee that by figuring out those smaller steps, you’ll feel more empowered to accomplish your goal.

Good luck, and happy budgeting!

*Unfortunately, I couldn’t predict COVID-19 or the effect it would have on the world. My industry has ground to a halt and, like everyone else in the world, I’ve been forced to put my life on hold. This includes pausing my goal. I’ve switched to using my emergency budget to protect my finances against economic further changes and I am using my time to learn about business and finance. When this ends, I’ll be ready to pick up where I left off. My plan may have changed but my goal has stayed the same.

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