Updated on 07.24.08

Will You Ever Reach Your Goals? And What Will You Do When You Get There?

Trent Hamm

About two weeks ago, a friend observed that since I started The Simple Dollar, I seem to have become really goal-oriented. Then he asked two big questions that really made me think:

Will you ever reach your goals? And what will you do when you get there?

I’m a goal-oriented person. I find it much easier to accomplish the things I want to do in life if I set clear milestones and aim straight for them. One big aspect of my personal finance success is that I began to set goals that focused on getting my money straight – before my turnaround, I used to focus on other things.

I have small goals, like my list of 101 goals in 1001 days. I have big goals, like complete debt freedom, financial independence, and raising emotionally and intellectually centered children.

These goals drive me on a daily basis. Each day, I get up intending to push myself towards one or more of these goals, and every once in a while, I feel the relief of accomplishing one or more of them.

What happens, then, when I reach my goals? Where will I be at if my children grow up and have healthy and normal lives, I’ve achieved financial independence, and I’m completely free from debt?

I move on to new goals, ones that I’m not able to reach for right now because I haven’t achieved enough in life yet.

I would love to spend a few years doing volunteer work in a poverty-stricken nation, where people don’t have access to the basic food and water they need. I would love to be able to work for a foundation that pushes for basic personal finance education in all schools. I would love to be able to just drop everything and write the novel I know I have inside of me. I would love to be able to start a granting agency to financially support and promote people who go beyond the call of duty in their lives for social work – something of a MacArthur Genius Grant for social work.

But I’m not there yet.

These dreams are the really big ones, the ones I won’t be able to reach for for twenty or thirty years. These are the dreams I have that might just help change the world. But they require me to have a platform of support that I can leap from.

To a degree, I’m working towards one of them now. My dream about pushing for basic financial education in schools is coming true in part because of The Simple Dollar, and I’m going to do a few things over the next year or two to push that idea even further.

What do these things have in common? They all seek to uplift as many people as possible through communication. It’s a common thread through almost every big life-altering dream I have.

Some people refer to this general idea as a vocation, that your career is just one element of your true role. I look at it this way: what is the purpose of your life? It’s a difficult question for many people to answer, and I’ll confess that sometimes, when I’m troubled, I wonder what my purpose is, too.

So, will I ever reach my goals? Probably not, because each goal I have is just another step in a life’s journey. I’m just thankful that I have at least some semblance of an idea where I’m going and why.

Just sit down for a minute and think about it. What do you want to do with your life? Do you have an answer? Mull it over in your head for a few days, and realize that you have many, many years ahead of you to make it happen. If something begins to take shape in your mind, think about what you can do to get there. It starts with a goal for tomorrow, a goal for next month, and a goal for the next decade.

Your money and your career are just small parts of that bigger picture. Good luck in finding it.

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  1. I’ve found it very useful for myself to set incremental goals. I want to be debt free and retire to our dream house. But with a $200k mortgage, that goal will be a long time in the reaching. So I set interim goals, like finding an extra $650 this month to throw at the principle, or getting the well drilled on our land.

    I know you’ve posted about this before, Trent. It’s much easier and more productive for me to be able to say, “I met that goal this month,” even if it’s not *the* overarching goal.

  2. AaronO says:

    I find that the people who question your goals usually don’t share them. My co-workers are a prime example.

    They question my frugality by asking “Why don’t you just buy a flat screen tv? You will be 60 before you are debt free…then it will be too late…why wait to buy an item when you can finance it and have it now”

    The only pressure I receive in relation to frugality and debt related goals is at work. They think I am crazy because I pack lunches and don’t buy things impulsively. I used to be like that but I think I am winning the battle.

  3. Shanel Yang says:

    The question of what you want out of life is not as easy as it seems. Over at my blog, I just started a 30-day exploration of exactly this important subject (we’re now on Day 2), and I invite everyone to participate. It’s called “All About You!” and starts at http://shanelyang.com/2008/07/18/all-about-you/
    So far, participants have been asked to list their own top 10 lists on Day 1 (best moments in their life, most influential people in their life, etc.) and to take the Big 5 Personality Traits test on Day 2. All of these exercises are designed to help us figure out the 3 most important questions in our lives: (1) Who are we? (2) What do we want? and (3) How do we get there from here? I would love to hear from you about what your big goals are in life — like Trent has shared here! Because one thing’s for sure, if you don’t know what they are, you’ll never get there from here. ; )

  4. Writer Dad says:

    My wife and I talk about our goals, both long and short term, as the frame. How we fill the inside are the actions we take everyday. Ultimately, our life is our masterpiece. We need the tools and time (goals and schedule) to paint the best picture possible.

  5. Eden says:

    Goal setting has really changed my life for the better and I still feel like I have a lot to work on as far as setting goals and following up with them goes.

    It really makes a difference when you put things in writing and as Trent said in the article, take the time to dream big and far into the future. It may take a long time, but you need that road map if you ever hope to get there.

  6. Linda says:

    I am impressed with your thoughtfulness–all too often missing in younger people. So many young adults seem to be driven by acquiring things today.

  7. Nadine says:

    Does it ever occur to your co-workers that it is none of their business what you do with your money?

  8. AaronO says:


    It’s not like they are prying into finances and things like that. We are a close bunch and they are good people. But they like their “toys”. They know I’d like to have some of those things…eventually.

    I just have other priorities and goals. They do not understand that because their “toys” mean too much to them at this point of their lives. I am no expert but I will offer advice if they look for it. I don’t preach frugality to them. Honestly, they wouldn’t listen anyway.

    My goals are small scale right now. I expect them to grow as I accomplish my current list of goals. Being debt free, not relying on a single paycheck, and so on. Things are looking pretty good for me right now. When I get the urge to shop or look for things, I look at my finances and read articles (like the ones on this site). It keeps me focused and reminds me of the goals I am working toward.

  9. Beth says:

    Goals are a love hate relationship with me. When I was 20 I set some very lofty goals, I hit them buy the time I was 24. I went on with living my goals for a year, then came up with new goals. Even bigger, I hit that by the time I was 32. Now I am trying working on my next set of goals. I do not think they will be as large this time, I have worked so hard on my goals over the last 14 years, I have lost some of me. So I know my new goals will be to work less, have a smaller company, and to take a vacation.

  10. Murali says:

    Hey Trent

    Thanks for a thought provoking article. I know being a goal oriented person you will achieve most of them if not all of them however high they may be!

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading them.


  11. Sue says:

    Hi Trent

    I thought you abandoned this list…? I refer to your post – The Fine Art of Abandoning Goals.

    Did you decide the new list was too short?

  12. Onaclov2000 says:

    I finally have decided to start a “goals” list like your post mentions. I am working on finding 101 goals, I have about 30 right now, but I don’t have kids, so I can’t put them on for spending more time, but I can add my wife so that kinda can make up for it.

  13. Rachel says:

    Good article, I need to define my goals and get them written down so I can start achieving them. I guess that is my first goal, LOL.

    PS: I didn’t get my Simple Dollar email today, I know there was a problem yesterday with tons of duplicates, but I was so sad when I checked my box and didn’t see Simple Dollar. Should I re-subscribe?

  14. getagrip says:

    I think this question goes back to the idea that once you’ve accomplished a major goal you can just plop down and “live” because you’re “done”. The point is if you plan your goals right (both short and long term, both financial and life), the process of achieving them “is” living.

  15. stayfly says:

    do you really have to wait 20 or 30 years before you can start living your dreams?

  16. I have some big goals and some smaller goals. I have big goals to change the world and to use money (and my blog) to influence people to make the world a better place.
    I also have smaller goals I need to reach before I reach these big goals. I am living my dream right now, but I have even bigger dreams I will be living soon

  17. Des says:

    I’ve just finished writing some detailed goals on my new blog. Getting them tou of the way gives you this really good feeling.

  18. Guthenberg says:

    you reach your goals and then you die. That’s life in a nuthshell

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