Realistic Goal Setting

When I created this blog, I was excited to blog about all things related to sustainability, and have left personal (and mental) health by the wayside for finance and environmental sustainability.  While given the current political fervor over healtcare, I figure that it may be worthwhile to provide the readers with some tips in the coming posts.  However, this post will be about realistic goal setting.

Setting goals is hard, but having a target is key.

Setting goals is hard, but having a target is key.

Setting goals probably the most important thing you can do.  Without a specific goal, you can easily find yourself stretched too thin, and floundering due to your lack of a common goal or focus.  If you find that the above often happens to you, you dont need to tell me that it’s frustrating and that it makes you want to not bother with doing whatever you set out to do.  This could be because you dont know where to start, or because you have tried before and not found success.  At the beginning of your journey, you may have a goal like “I want to get out of debt” or “I want to lose X pounds”.  Well, if you are being squashed by ~25,000 in debt or are looking to lose more than 5 pounds, finding a starting spot may be difficult.  Now that your goals are there, you need to think about how you can go about acheiving them.

So you’ve got your goal, and you want to get out of debt.  Making the goal manageable is your first step.  We know that if we get discouraged, our goals seem larger than they truly are, and therefore giving up will be the easier option.  Making your goal realistic will give you a taste of success, and allow you to think that you can, indeed accomplish your broader goal.

Lets say that you’ve got $32,000 of debt, in the following form: $7,000 in credit card, $15,000 in student loans, and the remaining $10,000 on an auto loan.  Your first pick could be the credit card, due to the fact that it’s the lowest balance, but due to current circumstances, you can only contribue $500/month.  So instead of saying you want to have your credit card paid off in 15 months, it would be easier for you to break up your goals in three month segments.  For example, you say that you’d like to get your balance below $6,000 by December 15, 2009.  This goal involves paying the $500 you have three times, and can be reached much easier than doing it for 15 months straight.  Once the three months is up, check your situation and see if the goals have worked,  or if you can contribute more money to paying down debt.

This is not only for your finances, but can also apply to other areas of your life.  The next to be discussed is your health.  Alot of people have a personal goal of losing weight.  It does not matter if it’s 10 pounds or 100, alot of people share this goal in common.  This goal would also be best taken broken into little chunks, say you want to lose 3 pounds a month for 9 months (27 lbs) before upping that to five pounds in the next 3 months.  There you have a seemingly simple plan to lose about 40 pounds in a year.    As usual, re-evaluating your goals in a resonable amount of time is paramount.

Where you can really make some headway is by taking your goals: To save money, to lose weight or become healthier,  and maybe to do something good for the environment.  A perfect example of this is riding your bike to work (I know this is not feasable for everyone, but it is for some).   Riding your bike to work will allow you to save money on gas, get a workout in while you were normally just sitting around, and can take cars off the road and associated pollutants.  Way to go! you have reached three goals with just one simple change!

Here are 4 easy ways to reach multiple goals:

  1. Look for connections –  Part of the problem is that many people see one problem and think of one solution.  What if you could solve multiple problems with the same solution.  Riding your bike for errands would be good for the health of you, your bank account and the earth.  Most problems are related, and can be solved with one simple solution — look for it.
  2. Get out of your own way – one is crucial.  Dont try and make big changes right away.  Start small, getting rid of bad habits or anything else that can hinder future goals.  Once the “foundation” is in place, get started!
  3. Get all your stuff in the same place – This is important because if you cant visualize what you’ve got, it will be difficult for you to visualize where you want to be.  If you want to get out of debt, get all your bills, and put them in the same spot.  Figure out the total monthly cost, then find bills you can do without and cancel the service.
  4. Get Help — No, I dont mean rehab.  Talk to your friends, neighbors, etc.  See what goals they have.  Maybe both of you are looking to ride your bike more, and work in the same area…Ride to/from work together, become better friends and enjoy working on your goals with a partner!

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About Jeff

Jeff is the founder of sustainable life blog and has been interested in sustainability for most of his life. After realizing in 2007 that his finances were a total wreck, he started reading financial blogs and quickly realized that what is best for your wallet is typically better for the earth, and is usually healthier. On sustainable life blog Jeff shares his journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. For updates, subscribe by email or like us on facebook.


  1. [...] quality don’t get near the traffic some of the other ones do. For example, I had one titled Realistic Goal Setting that got hardly any traffic (I’m talking like <10 hits, but got published by an industry [...]