A new year often encourages goal-setting and that’s a good thing! Without goals, we don’t get far.
It’s much like getting into the car without a clear destination. Driving around aimlessly will get you to … wherever you wind up when you tire of driving!
This is especially so when it comes to achieving your financial goals. There are many “side roads” and diversions where money can go unless you have a clear direction.
Today, I’d like to address a chief reason that most people don’t reach that “best destination” with their finances: Distractions.
Those of us who have tried and failed can most likely pinpoint self-sabotage and competing distractions. Eliminating these means identifying the habits, activities, and diversions that get in our way of success, and of which we are often not aware.
So how do you start to eliminate these distractions? First, you must recognize what things are actually pulling you away from where you want to go. We have habits and patterns in our daily lives that serve us – and some that don’t. Heightening awareness around where we are spending our time and focus is eye-opening.
As painstaking as it might sound, then, tracking your activity and focus patterns is an important exercise. I just completed activity-tracking for myself since I am expanding my company this year and want to be sure I am staying focused on the things that will help me to do so most effectively.
One client I will call Bob, a first-generation family business owner, asked for my help in strengthening his family finances. Now, I’m not a financial adviser, but he reached out because he was challenged with the ability to say “no” to family members when it came to money.
A simple fix, but not easy, was to learn to say no to them. However, as we talked, I noted that he also referred to some people in his company as under-performers. When I inquired, he was loathed to confront this as the workers had been with him for many years and he felt their loyalty was priceless.
As I recognized a theme emerging, I asked Bob to track his thoughts and activities when it came to money. For two weeks, he was to log daily each time a family member asked for money or when he noted something in the business or otherwise that hurt the finances.
At the end of two weeks, Bob and I reviewed his activity log. In that short amount of time, he had committed $7,500 to two family members that historically did not pay back their loans to him.
He also had identified two different areas in the business that were bleeding revenue and potential revenue due to two managers’ poor performance. We estimated together that these two areas were losing about $350,000 annually. Further, had these two areas been performing as intended, the company could have substantially increased its market share. Losing this market share put them miles behind the competition.
The bottom line? Bob was losing a good amount of cash flow and potential income by not placing boundaries around family members borrowing money, and by not confronting his managers’ under-performance. We worked on this over some months, and Bob was able to gain the confidence he needed to do both, without losing close relationships or terminating anyone at work.
Bob never would have realized the impact, however, of what he tolerated and allowed to distract him, unless he had actively focused on identifying these. And once identified, it’s important to note that in quantifying the loss to Bob, both immediate and future, the impact served as fuel to confront the tough issues.
Distracting activities and habits can have a significant impact on your ability to succeed by preventing you from staying focused and on track. What do you need to shift or change in order to achieve what is most important for you?
Achieving a goal is a complex process and it’s normal for people to face challenges and obstacles along the way. It’s also worth noting that not all goals are created equal, and some goals may be more difficult to achieve than others. Factors such as the complexity of the goal, the resources available, and the individual’s level of skill and experience can all play a role in determining how easy or difficult it is to achieve a goal.
It’s important, finally, to remember that achieving a goal is not an overnight process, it takes time, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt to challenges along the way. It’s also essential to have a clear plan, set realistic expectations, and stay motivated to achieve your goals. Be sure, as you do this, to include being watchful around distractors and habits that can get in the way of your success.
Patti Cotton serves as a thought partner to CEOs and their teams to help manage complexity and change. Reach her via email at Patti@PattiCotton.com.
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