Goal setting or guessing?

Establishing and defining goals can be a daunting prospect for most of us.  If you’re like me you tend to shy away from that and think about something else.  Talking about the future in definite terms isn’t easy for many of us.  Taking the time to think about the future in the distracted world we live in can be the real challenge! 

Personally I find it easy to establish goals in certain areas of my life and really hard to in others.  A good example is hobbies and sports and for the past two years I’ve become a keen cyclist.  For the first few months I was happy to ride my bike for pleasure and improve naturally but after six months I determined that I wanted to get better and take the steps necessary to do that.  So I hired a coach and Colin sets me training plans and most importantly checks that I’m doing what he wants me to do!  For 2016 I wanted to improve my power output throughout the year and continually improve my time trialling.  Those were loose goals but I could measure progress throughout the year.  I had a fixed goal of setting a personal best in the Prudential RideLondon 100 event and I achieved that one last month.  We are now chatting about what I want to focus on in 2017.  Without goals I would flounder and aimlessly cycle – sure I would have fun but I want to get better. 

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(On my way to completing Ride London 100 2016)

The same goes in my business life and for years I’ve set goals for both the company and myself.  Achieving Certified Financial Planner status and Accredited Financial Planning Firm were the big ones.  In January of this year I was finding it difficult to work out what was next.  For sure business was going well but I didn’t want my goal to be financially motivated i.e. to increase turnover for the sake of increasing turnover.  That sort of goal doesn’t do it for me.  So again I turned to a professional executive coach.  Russell is based in Australia and we have monthly Skype chats which have been really good for me.  During our last conversation he asked me to think about what I wanted to do next.

So I suppose it’s a good time for me to write about goal setting and what it means as I’m having to do this for myself. 

Anyone who has been in my office will have seen sketches by Carl Richards who has a knack of cutting through complex ideas and getting to the crux of the matter in a simple way.  I listened to a series of podcasts of his recently and he talked about goal setting and how it can be off-putting to potential clients.  He thinks it’s helpful to consider a ‘best guess’ scenario.  So rather than talking about what we want our future to look like in 10, 15 or 20 years time in definite terms (something I find really difficult) he says let’s take a best guess about what we want to be doing and where we want to be.  I found this to be a really helpful approach.  I’m 37 and trying to figure out what I want to be doing in retirement is nigh impossible but having a think about 5 or 10 years down the line and not being too hard and fast about it is much easier.  Financial planning has to take account of what you want your future to look like (and when we’re doing lifestyle financial planning with new clients I’ll be using the word ‘guess’ more than ‘goal’!) and just like cycling, it’s important to have an idea of where you’re headed and as your financial planner it’s my job to keep you and your investment portfolio on track to get you there.

David Gibson