How to make wishful thinking reality in 2023

As the year draws to an end, will 2022 end on a good note?

If you are like many, you are also asking yourself how to make 2023 memorable. Many of you are setting goals, intentions and researching the best ways to shift into newer, healthier habits.

Setting goals can be powerful. Reaching these culminates not only in great reward but also in a sense of achievement and confidence moving ahead.

But goal-setting can also be perilous.

In my practice, I generally partner with business owners and CEOs to work through transitions of all kinds. If they approach me about doing organizational work, they generally seek success in helping the enterprise expand or realign to keep up with current and future demand. If I am brought in to help them or a member of their team on a personal level, they focus on goals such as higher productivity, better performance or a greater ability to meet company objectives.

The challenges for which these leaders engage me are important. The world demands that we show up and keep up if we are to remain competitive and viable. But these goals are transactional.

And transactional goals can actually be harmful and counterproductive unless these are tied to a bigger transformation. This is especially so when it comes to setting goals for your money.

Before I explain why and how, I want to explain the difference between transactional and transformational goals.

First, the word transaction relates to the action of conducting business. It calls to mind those tasks and activities that are required to ensure smooth operations. The word transformation, on the other hand, connotes a metamorphosis or life change.

Here are some examples for comparison:

—Transactional goal: lose 10 pounds

—Transformational goal: adopt a healthy lifestyle

—Transactional goal: Double business revenues

—Transformational goal: build a business legacy

—Transactional goal: Attend 5 of my daughter’s baseball games

—Transformational goal: Be a loving and devoted father

The goals are all worthy. However, unless you set your transactional goals with how this transforms your life (the transformational goal to which it leads), you may get into trouble.

Let’s come back to setting your goals when it relates to money.

I meet driven leaders and other professionals every day who can’t seem to identify the “why” of their monetary goals. Because they cannot tie their articulated number to anything, this transactional goal becomes “never enough.”

In other words, if someone reaches a certain number one year, they try to outdo themselves the next year – but without tying this to a transformation, such as saving enough for retirement or producing enough income to create the life they desire.

The carrot at the end of their nose keeps moving forward, and they become exhausted, sometimes burned out, because they have not related this to the greater reason for generating this income.

Are your monetary goals aligned with who you are and what you want? Are they transformational? Here are some guidelines to help you determine this, which will help you to set goals that support what is important to you.

Does this monetary goal align with my values? Unless you begin with your values in mind, you may wind up setting goals that conflict with what you hold most important.

For example, if a chief transformation you desire is to become a more attentive and devoted parent, but all of your transactional goals keep you from being with your family, this is a conflict.

When it comes to monetary goals, are you able to reach these while living your values, or is the way you generate income conflicting with what’s important to you? Does this need to shift? Before you set any goals, revisit your top values and use these as your compass.

Does this monetary goal support my own priorities? Transactional goals may be subconsciously chosen to please or impress others, instead of being in your own best interest.

I have coached executives who seek to achieve more so that they meet an ideal that is important to their spouse or others – but not to themselves. Living your life for someone else will eventually wind up as a life “un-lived.” Ask yourself why you have set a particular transactional goal and whether this is truly a priority for you, regardless of others.

What transformation does this monetary goal support? Your transactional goals should support a sought-after transformation.

Quite often, we can become addicted to reaching transactional goals and treat these as the “end game,” or tie this to self-worth (“I achieve, therefore, I am worthy”). Either is a dangerous and misleading path.

Make sure that your transactional goals are simply milestones toward a larger transformation you desire for yourself.

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A good example would be, “I will put $1 million away over time for retirement (transactional) because this supports my goal to be financially secure and live the lifestyle that I want to enjoy (transformational).”

In addition to these cautions, be sure to enjoy the journey as you work toward the transformational goal that your monetary goal will support.

Patti Cotton serves as a thought partner to CEOs and their teams to help manage complexity and change. Reach her via email at


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