Goal Setting

Derek Notman |

The art of goal setting

Do you have life goals?  I think it is safe to say that you, me, and pretty much everyone else on the planet has life goals.  Do you agree?

Having something to look forward to, to work towards, gives us purpose and really just makes us feel good.  It gives us that drive when we wake up in the morning to go out and do whatever is it we need to do to realize our goals.  There are simple goals that we can accomplish in a single day, and there are life goals that take a long time to realize.  Regardless of the goal, the process and importance of them, in my opinion, is crucial to leading a fulfilling and happy life.

Life is one constant curve ball, just when you think you have things figured out, it all changes.  This is part of the fun of life, although there are certainly stressful times, change truly can be fun and exciting, but you may get some gray hairs along the way!

One of the many privileges I have being a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Professional (Designation) is helping people crystallize their life goals, and leveraging financial goals to realize them.  I get to meet with people from all walks of life, although I specialize working with successful entrepreneurs and their families.

I get to have dynamic, heartfelt, and meaningful conversations about what they want out of life.  It is an honor that people let me into their lives, to learn what is really important to them, and that they allow me to help them along the way.

The process of financial planning is not something a lot of us really get excited about.  Let’s face it, we are dealing with two things most human beings dislike talking about or doing:

  • Money (Financial):  Perhaps it is a societal thing, but most Americans don’t like to talk about money, so we avoid it
  • Planning:  Planning means work.  We as a species like to do things via the path with least resistance.  Planning just seems like a lot of resistance, so we avoid it

So how can you make it a fun and productive exercise?  By focusing on what you truly want, and then doing the things necessary to get what you want.  The best part of all this, is that YOU are in control of what you want and how you want to get it!

It has been my experience that starting this journey is the hardest part of realizing your life goals.  Think about it, do we really learn to identify our life goals and how to achieve them?  I don’t remember any classes in school or college that taught us how.

Ok, so let’s define Life Goals & Financial Goals, and then I will give you 5 tips I have compiled over the years working with people like you to start making things happen!

Life Goals

Goal setting is simply the process of figuring out what you want in life.  Your life goals can be anything from starting a family and building your business, to going skydiving and traveling to Mars with Elon Musk!  Goals are fun, positive, and exciting things we can dream about.  Life goals tend to be more idea & concept based, focusing on the outcome more than the process of achieving them.

I would argue that first defining what your life goals are is one of the most important things you can do to living a more fulfilling life.

Financial Goals

Financial goal setting is the process of determining how much money you need to realize your life goals, and what you need to actively do to achieve them.  Using the life goal examples above, how much money would you need to support your family?  How much money would you need to start and grow your business?  How much does it cost to skydive?  What is Elon going to charge you for a one-way ticket to Mars?

As you can probably see, financial goals must be based upon your life goals.

Tips for Realizing your Goals

Now that we have defined what life and financial goals are, what are some ways you can make it all a little easier to get started?  Here are some tips I have gathered from working with my clients over the years, if you have any you think should be added to the list, please leave a comment below!

  1. Think about what you want, write it down, and share it with your loved ones (spouse, family, friends, mentor, etc.).

The more people you share your goals with the more they will become a reality.  People want to help others be successful, your loved ones will do what they can to make sure you realize your goals. 

Realize that this list will be ever changing, you will achieve goals and want to add new ones to the list.  My wife and I sit down every New Year, review last year’s goals, our progress on them, what we accomplished, and add new ones to the list.  It is a great way to stay excited about what you are striving for while feeling good about what you have accomplished.

  1. Put this list in a place you will see it every day.

Life gets busy.  Keeping your life goals top of mind by keeping your list in a visible place is a great way to keep reminding yourself of what you are working towards.  My wife and I print our life goals list and put it on the side of our fridge.  Keeping a digital copy is also a good idea, that way you can look at it virtually anywhere.

  1. It takes a village.  Find people that can help you realize your life goals. 

These people could be family members, friends, people you work with, and your professional advisors.  They should share your goal setting process and values, giving you a much higher likelihood of successfully achieving your life goals.  The right person/advisor will be using the same process in their own life.  The professional advisor will have made it a part of the very fabric of how they work with their clients. 

You can’t do everything, so find people you trust & admire, tell them what your goals are, and ask them for help in achieving them.  This doesn’t mean you should ask them for money, but for advice, introductions, suggestions, feedback, etc.  Inevitably you will talk about their goals as well during these interactions and will be able in some way to help them achieve their goals as well.  A win-win situation!

  1. Know your cash flow.

Once you have found the right people to help you achieve your life goals, you will need to work backwards from them to figure out the how, the specific steps you will need to take in order to achieve your life goals.  Many times the how will require that you save and eventually spend money to realize your life goals.

Now of course there are plenty of life goals that do not require money to achieve them.  Yet, money is arguably one of the most important tools we have to work with during our lives.  Thus, having a strong grasp of your financial situation is a key piece when planning for how you will realize your life goals.

A simple example would be saving for a trip for your 10 year wedding anniversary.  You and your spouse decide you want to go tour vineyards in Italy.  The total cost for this trip (airfare, hotel, car rental, food, and of course wine) will be $5,000.  Hey, it is a big celebration!  You have 18 months to save for it. 

$5,000/18 months = $277.77 a month that needs to be saved.

This is oversimplified, but you should get the idea.  It is a lot easier to do a little planning in advance, this is part of the fun, and then figure out what you need to do to make your life goal a reality.  This is much more manageable and certainly trackable then deciding a spur of the moment trip and putting it all on a credit card, which then stresses you out.

  1. Celebrate your achievements!

One of the common things I have noticed about the people who continually set life goals is that they celebrate when they achieve them.  They make it a point to enjoy every aspect of the goal process, culminating in a grand celebration with the people they love.  It could be as simple as just getting a drink with your friends, the point being is that you are including others in your successes.  This makes everyone happy and shows that you appreciate the help from others along the way.  Be proud of achieving your life goals!

Common Life & Financial Goals

By now you can probably see how your life and financial goals are intertwined.  Crystallizing the things you want to do in life (life goals) and then figuring out how (financial goals) you will achieve them should be a fun, exciting, and inspiring process, one that will hopefully continue throughout your entire life.

I will end this post with a list of some of the more common life & financial goals I have helped people with over the years.  Being along for the ride with my clients has been very rewarding and also inspired me to add some goals to my own list!

Thank you for reading!


Derek Notman

  • Start a family
  • Learn a different language
  • Travel to a different country
  • Go skydiving
  • Learn to scuba dive
  • Volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary in a foreign country
  • Learn to surf
  • Drive a race car
  • Visit all of the US presidents birthplaces
  • Buy a house
  • Retire
  • Start a business
  • Sell a business
  • College education for your kids or grandkids
  • Adopt a child
  • Learn to sail
  • Become a million miler with an airline
  • Take cooking classes