How to stay motivated when your goals are huge

What’s the point of having big, overarching financial goals? They’re so hard to achieve! And so tough to stay motivated to reach.  How do you stay motivated to do the day-to-day work on something when the result is years away?  

Get out your shovels, because we’re digging in deep here.

Personal finance tips || How to stay motivated when your goals are huge by The Wiser Miser. This is how you can stay motivated to pay off debt and reach other financial goals.

What do you want?

We’ll start by asking yourself a few questions. (Now’s a good time to whip out that journal you bought and never used past day 3).

  • What, exactly, is the goal here? Get really specific.

    • How much money will it take?

    • How much time will it take?

    • How much energy will it take?

Good goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based)!

Good goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based)!

The key to success with any big goal is to make it S.M.A.R.T. No, I’m not calling you dumb - it’s an acronym:

Making your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based will help your brain understand the steps needed to get there. This makes the path to beginning much clearer, and beginning is your real goal here.

What's your why?

Next up, you need to find your core motivation. Ask yourself:

  • Why is this your goal? Why do you want this?

    • And why do you want that?

    • And why do you want that?

Once you’ve found out your core motivation, you should remind yourself of it at every opportunity. Think about it every day. It’s your number one priority now. Sure, you’ve got to keep the rest of your life going, but don’t lose sight of what you’re doing here. You’re not just paying down a debt, you’re buying yourself freedom!

TIP: Visuals work great for this. The Simple Dollar has some great ideas. I also love construction paper chains that represent chunks of debt or savings that you break as you make progress. Buying freedom, indeed!

Let’s use an example ripped from the headlines, so to speak, of my own life.

My family and I want to live in an RV for a bit - rent out our house, hit the road, ditch the day to day for the open road. We’re fortunate in that my job can be done from anywhere (anywhere with wifi, at least), and slows down in the summertime, making it ideal for striking out, but we’d still need to assume some income slow down, as well as the fact that my spouse’s job is not like that, so we’d be down to just my income.

We’d need to deal with where to put basically everything we own, get the house ready to rent, buy, rent, or borrow an RV, deal with all the costs of actually being on the road, and then figure out where to crash for the winter. Let’s say we’d need $30,000 to do this (including the cost of buying a decent used RV). It’ll take at least a good six months to a year of planning to make it work, and it will be mentally exhausting. We’ll definitely fight about it, and then we’ll probably fight a lot while it’s happening. And then we’ll have to undo all of it when we’re done. Our goal is to do this in two years.

When I put it that way, you’re probably wondering - why on earth do you want to do this? Why do you want to cram your family, including a toddler, into a tin can and drive it around, searching for wifi and yelling at everyone to be quiet so you can concentrate?

The answer is that I want to do this because I have always wanted a nice, long, cross-country road trip.

Because I like my family, and want to spend a lot more time with them.

Because I can, and that won’t always be true.

Because I’m sick of mowing the lawn.

Because I want my daughter to know that she can do big, hard things that other people wouldn’t dare to do.

Because I want to feel more connected to the world, while feeling less tied down to my particular corner of it.

Because I want to narrow my world down to what matters and take that with me everywhere I go.

And why do I want those things? What’s underlying all of those reasons?

I want to feel in control of my life, and I want that for my family, too.

When you put it like that, of course I want this so much! I’ve identified strongly held values (personal agency, modeling a good life for my daughter), and something specific that will help me get closer to it.

In fact, when you put it like that, the path seems so much clearer. It’s not about living in an RV, it’s about freedom, it’s about owning my own life, and it’s about teaching my daughter that she’s got this.

What would I do to achieve that? How long, and how hard would I work?

For that? I’d move mountains. What about you?