How to Ensure Your Goals Align with What You Truly Want

How to Ensure Your Goals Align with What You Truly Want

After 20 years of being a financial advisor, there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty: Money is emotional. We love it. We hate it. We feel guilty about having too much or too little. We worry what others will think about our purchases. Will they agree with them and congratulate us for being a savvy shopper? Or will they sneer at us and accuse of being frivolous or unwise? And that my friends, is part of the problem. You need to stop worrying about what others think and instead worry about what you want.

My first money lessons with the girls revolved around setting save, spend and share goals. I wanted the girls to set goals so they had something tangible to work towards achieving and something to compare against when they found other things they wanted.

But goals alone are not enough. Tied into setting goals is knowing what makes YOUR heart happy. Not my heart. Not your BFF’s heart. Or the Joneses heart. Your heart.

Most of us are aware of the dangers of trying to keep up with those mythical Joneses. What we don’t often think about is the danger of putting too high of a value on the opinion of those we respect, including personal finance bloggers.

I’ve seen PF bloggers who are hesitant to share things they want or bought out of fear of being ridiculed because their purchase might break some sort of unwritten PF code. They are worried about the judgement their readers and fellow PF bloggers might rain down on them, so they immediately adopt an apologetic attitude for even daring to want something.

Maybe even something somewhat frivolous or showy.

You can’t stop people from making judgments nor stop finding things you want. It’s human nature. What you need to focus on is what makes YOUR heart happy. And while it may not be something that I might choose to spend my money on, so what. It’s your money and you get to choose how to use it.

I suggest you use it on the things that make you happy.

How to Ensure Your Goals Align with What You Truly Want

Goal alignment is critical to achieving them. So let’s take a few minutes to ensure your goals are for you and not to please or impress others.

#1. Set Authentic Goals

You may noticed I used the word authentic, which is intentional. Too often I’ve seen people set goals based on what is expected or commonplace, rather than what they truly want. Many times they don’t even realize they did this. I can tell you it’s very hard to achieve goals you really don’t care about (just ask Tanya). Tune out everyone else and figure out what you want.

#2. Make Your Heart Happy

Do you know what makes your heart happy? This may seem like a strange question, but what I find is most people really don’t. What makes them happy is whatever makes others happy. You need to figure out what really brings joy into your life, long-term. Not a momentary high you might achieve from an impulse buy. But what would make you do a happy dance, high-five or pat yourself on the back over and over again? If your goal doesn’t make your heart happy, you need to question whether you set the right goal. Are you setting your sights too high or low? Or are you still subconsciously worried about what others might think of your dream to buy a brand new car, or take a 3-month European vacation or start a new business? Remember, your goals should make YOUR heart happy, not mine.

#3. Celebrate and Honor Your Uniqueness and Others

We all have different goals. And even on similar goals, such as retirement, our vision is uniquely our own. Some want to retire quite young while others want to work into the 70’s. Someone who wishes to retire in their 30’s may live a frugal life that may seem too extreme for someone who wishes to retire later in life. Or vice versa. You may be willing to forgo some luxuries today if it means early retirement that others are not. Neither goal is better than the other. Both are great goals for the right individuals. Don’t be ashamed of your goals or the things you want, nor should you judge others harshly for having different goals. Celebrate the fact that you both know what you want, however different they may be, then focus on achieving your own goals.

Your Goals Are Personal

The bottom line is you shouldn’t be ashamed of the things you want. Just be sure the things you choose to spend your hard-earned money on are the things you truly want and make your heart happy. You want them for your pleasure and not to prove you’re better than others. And, of course, wait until you can afford them without creating debt. Trust me, if it’s something that really makes your heart happy–it’s worth saving to buy it outright.


Images courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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August 5, 2013  •  56 Comments  •  Goal-Setting

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  1. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    I'm all about setting goals and often utilise the SMART method. I completely agree that if it is something that makes you happy then go for it. You only get to live once.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      I agree, Glen. Money is gift and should be enjoyed, responsibly, of course!
  2. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    What a great message Shannon! Life is all about finding what makes YOU happy, which isn't always easy with all of the different messages out there about what SHOULD make us happy. I've definitely struggled over the years with worrying too much about other peoples' opinions, but you can only really find your own values if you're able to tune those out. Anyone who can follow the advice here will be setting themselves up for a much happier future.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Matt! We do spend an awful lot of time worrying about what others think, which is often how we get ourselves into trouble! Learning how to handle money is finding your own values and money philosophy and respecting those who have the same values than you do. We do get bombarded with a lot of different message, most with good intentions, but sometimes they contradict one another, etc. That's when you do have tune out all those well-meaning voices and figure out what you want.
  3. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    I LOVE talking about goals and how they can (and should) align with what we truly want. The first thing to understand is that not everyone will have the same goals. Everyone has different desires in life and they require different savings/spendings/income requirements.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Absolutely, DC! Everyone does have different goals and we need to respect that. Frankly, it would be boring if everyone wanted exactly the same thing. I think talking about your goals is so important. You should be proud of them and your true friends want to celebrate your success with you.
  4. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Great post! There's nothing wrong with spending your money on something as long as you plan and save for it! I spend a lot on some things and not as much on others. It's a personal thing.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Exactly, Holly! Money is very personal. There are some things I am willing to spend money on and other things that I'm not. It's about knowing what you want and then prioritizing. Once I start prioritizing, some things naturally fall off the list while others move to the top.
  5. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Great post Shannon! I love your points about making goals personal and authentic. If you don't have that, it can become easy to be living for others and not yourself and your specific situation. Life can become awfully dull & quickly if you're living for others and not you and your family. I find that having authentic goals, and the plan to reach them, really can make it a much more personal endeavor - which is part of what can make them so great to reach.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, John! It's surprising how many people's goals really aren't their goals. They may want retirement, a home, vacation, etc but it's based on other people's timetable or expectations rather than their own. When I hear people talk about not achieving goals they set, I always wonder if it was truly their goal in the first place. You need to be Goldilocks and find the goals that are a perfect fit. And it does make it so much sweeter when you achieve them.
  6. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    I LOVE this post - I do admit that I get some of the guilts you mentioned, but I agree it's our own path and that at the end of the day, we only have to answer to ourselves (well, and our partner, as well). I love making my heart happy - I often say that to loved ones, but it's true with purchases as well to curb frivolous or impulse buys. Thank you for this, it couldn't have come at a more timely moment!
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      You're welcome, Anna! I think we are all guilty of worrying too much about what other's think and disappointing them. We are surrounded by the things we buy so I want to make sure they make my heart happy. And it is a great litmus test to determine whether it's something worthy of your hard-earned money.
  7. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Excellent post! I love the point about doing what makes you happy and not what others expect. And to stop apologizing for your choices and your spending decisions. Yes, of course it is absolutely important to save up for what you want to buy, but if you slip up, you are still only accountable to yourself and you don't need to apologize to anyone for buying something that someone else may feel is too extravagant or unnecessary.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Sicorra! People have no need to apologize for the things they want and doing so takes you out of the driver's seat. You want to be in control of your money and that includes knowing what you want. It is important to save for those things but knowing that you truly want them and they make you happy also makes saving so much easier.
  8. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    I don't really care what anyone thinks about where I spend my money BUT I do listen. I try not to judge people rather offer suggestions. No one has to listen but if they do they might benefit. If someone has genuine information and tips to share with me I'm always open to save money the next time around. The fans appreciate it when we mess up just like them. They tell me time and time again, thank goodness you spent more than your budget and you don't act like you are perfect. No one is, so don't be afraid. We learn from lessons in life... not by throwing a cover over our mistakes. :)
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      So true, Mr. CBB. We all make mistakes and the worst mistake we can make is pretending that we don't! We're human beings! It's in our DNA to screw-up occasionally. While I can't pretend that I enjoy making mistakes. I always certainly learn from them! And you're right; it's important to listen what others have to say and to respect their opinions, especially when you disagree.
  9. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Great tips, as always, Shannon. There are certainly things I buy that I know other PF bloggers would deem frivolous and a waste of money, but it's what I value and save my money for.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Erin! We all have those items that mean something to us but don't to others. And that's perfectly fine. What's important is that you know what matters to you.
  10. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Such great advice Shannon as always. I think one thing where I was "apologizing" was groceries and personal care. I just can't be like some other PF bloggers and spend less than $200 (or even $300) on groceries. I do make an attempt to do my best, but sometimes it just doesn't happen for one reason or another. Also I know some PF bloggers who boast about only having to get their hair cut once a year. I would look old and haggard if I had long hair. It just doesn't make me look or feel confident like short hair that goes better with my age and face. I'd only do it if I REALLY had to, but I don't WANT to. But I've sacrificed other things like driving a really old car and not shopping for clothes as much, so it's a trade off to spend on things that are important to YOU!
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Tonya! I'm with you! :) I couldn't get by with one haircut a year either. Unless, as you said, I had no choice. I am willing to sacrifice in others areas if need be. Looking good and feeling good is important to me too. It's easy to get caught up in comparing budget numbers with others. Sometimes if there are huge discrepancies it's worth reviewing your budget to see if you have some leaks you can shore-up, but otherwise if your budget works for you - that's all that matters.
  11. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    Great post. Setting goals at a young age teaches how to be accountable for our actions. I think many people set goals for things that they are supposed to want. Cars, new house, latest cellphone, but many times these things are not the things that make us happy. If we remember to take out the ego in goal setting then we are moving the right direction.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Kevin! I agree we often set goals based on what society says we should want without making sure that's what we truly want. We assume we do, but when dig deeper, sometimes we don't! Removing your ego is key. It's not always easy but worth doing.
  12. Monday, August 5th, 2013
    It took me so many years to realize this. I can't be happy by trying to make everyone around me happy. I still try sometimes because I grew up as a people pleaser, but for the most part I now try to find what makes my family and myself happy. I used to think it was things, but it's really experiences at this point. Make your heart happy. I'm going to totally steal that one as my new catch phrase.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      So many of us are people pleasers and don't even realize that we set goals to please others, rather than ourselves. I'm glad you are now rightly focused on what makes you and your family happy. Absolutely use it as your catchphrase and teach it to your daughter! I love that my girls now use it to measure whether something is worth saving for.
  13. Rita P @ Digital Spikes
    Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
    We cannot please all the people around us and no point in pleasing others. Do what you would love to do so that you stay happy. Nice thoughts Shannon
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      Thanks, Rita! We spend a lot time worrying about others think when the person we need to be concerned about is ourself.
  14. Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
    Shannon, another awesome post!!!! Love what you said about not worrying about what others think. I believe this is SO common and such a cause for making bad PF decisions, either in spending, or in not spending. Making your own heart and conscience happy is truly important.
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      Thanks, Laurie! I agree - we make so many decisions based on trying to please others. You have to figure out what makes your heart happy and work towards achieving it. Otherwise you're really not living for yourself.
  15. Girl Meets Debt
    Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
    What a great post Shannon! You know GMD - I'm all about doing and buying things that make me happy ;) I know I sometimes get ridicule but as long as I'm making extra debt repayments every month and side hustling like crazy, there's nothing wrong with saving up to buy a nice pair of shoes. :)
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      Oh, I know you, GMD!! At that's exactly right the right attitude - finding that balance where you are taking care of your financial responsibilities but also allowing yourself to enjoy your money too. Even if it's shoes! Which I completely understand!! :)
  16. Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
    Love this! Personal finance is personal, after all! And Tonya, grocery prices can be regional! Maybe these people are super silly crazy couponers, or maybe you just live in California. :)
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      Thanks FF! Personal finance is personal. And you're absolutely right - groceries are more expensive here so we always need to take those things into consideration too.
  17. Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
    I'm going one step further- you should't be ashamed of the things you want or ashamed about what means you need to do to get there. This can be a tough pill to swallow for some but usually worth it in the end.
    • Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
      Great point, Catherine! It can be hard saying "no" to a night out with friends but sometimes that's what you need to do in order to achieve goals. And you're absolutely right - in the moment it's tough but it's worth it when you achieve your goal.
  18. Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
    Money is very emotional. I completely agree. Taking time to purchase the little thing that make you happy as long as you can afford them is important too. We all need a break from the mandatory costs.
    • Friday, August 9th, 2013
      Absolutely. We certainly need to prioritize our needs and any debt obligations first, but it's okay to give ourselves a little fun money and use it on the things we truly want. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!
  19. Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
    Great post, Shannon!

    I love what you said about setting authentic goals. I never thought of it that way, but you're right. Setting goals based on what you think you should do instead of what you want to do, just isn't the right way to go about it.
    • Friday, August 9th, 2013
      Thanks, Mackenzie! So many set goals to make others happy and they don't even realize it. Often they struggle to achieve them too and wonder what's wrong with them. Nothing, besides not setting authentic goals they care about. :)
  20. Thursday, August 8th, 2013
    Ha! Love it! Brilliant post! Love the whole authentic goals point! It's so true, how so many set goals or want things on what is expected, rather than what, as you say, "makes your heart happy". It's so important to want something for yourself, and although I do, I even find myself not sharing some things that I want/purchased with certain others, because I already have a feeling of what their reactions may be. One of our friends travels quite a bit, but even though we talk almost every other week, they never discuss their vacations or even that they're going until you see a few pics on Facebook of their family on some island. Ha! I guess they don't want come across like they're bragging.
    • Friday, August 9th, 2013
      Thanks, Anthony! It's true we often worry about what others will think of the things we want. So we don't tell them or we chose something safe. You bring up an interesting point - there is that fine line between sharing and bragging! I guess when it crosses the line into bragging, you're back to trying to be the Joneses. :)
  21. Thursday, August 8th, 2013
    Being financially responsible doesn't have to mean that you are missing out on everything that is good in life.
    • Friday, August 9th, 2013
      Agree 100% Jefferson! :)
  22. Friday, August 9th, 2013
    It was interesting, when I interviewed Gretchen Rubin on our podcast, she said something similar that I found interesting: She mentioned people who talk about giving away all of your things. Without taking away from that lifestyle, she said that for most people, we have an important attachment to our "stuff." By purchasing and respecting the stuff you buy, you acknowledge that it was money well spent. If you constantly buy, buy, buy, it's impossible to have that attachment.
    • Saturday, August 10th, 2013
      I'll have to download that podcast as it sounds very interesting. She is right. When you just buy things and don't care about them, there is no real attachment, beyond perhaps regret. I always wanted to buy things that made my heart happy, so when I looked around my home, etc it was filled with the things I loved. And it is money well spent.
  23. Monday, August 12th, 2013
    I found your blog from Mom & Dad Money, and I love this post! Finding authentic goals is tricky...with all the voices out there it can be difficult to determine which one is your own.

    And the phrase of knowing what makes your heart happy is a great one...cool way of putting it.
    • Monday, August 12th, 2013
      Matt is fantastic and I'm glad he helped you find my blog. :) You are spot-on - with all the different voices telling us what to do or what's expected - it can be very hard to identify your own goals. I think one of the best tells is your enthusiasm level. If the thought of achieving a goal doesn't put you on cloud nine or you find you lack the will to do what it takes to achieve the goals - it's probably not really your goal. Making your heart happy is something I've been saying for years and the kids have really embraced that philosophy, which I love! Thanks for stopping and commenting.
  24. Kendrick Gaston
    Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
    Great advice! There is a definite correlation between success and goals. Most people complaint about being unhappy and hating their job. I asked to see their written goals and often find they have none.
    • Thursday, August 15th, 2013
      Thanks, Kendrick! Goals have always been a big part of my life. I like working towards something and they help me make better decisions. Thanks for stopping by and commenting - I appreciate it!
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    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan