As “New Year” fever winds down and we head into the end of January, this is the time when committed goal seekers really nail down what they’re doing and how they’re going to achieve their dreams. When I meet with clients who have big goals for a new year or a new quarter, I always ask a pivotal question that makes them pause: What will you give up?
During conversations about goal-setting, we tend to think about the upside, or the achievement that will be gained or added to our lives, but we rarely discuss what we must “subtract” to accomplish what we want. In truth, though, you have to create space in your life for the new opportunities and achievements. To gain the upside, you have to decide what you’re willing to let go of or stop doing to allow your most important goal to come to fruition.
For instance, I work with a client who has had the goal of buying a home for three years, but each year, he’d spend the money elsewhere instead of saving it for a down payment. He’d buy a new truck, off-road vehicle or trailer to join his friends on their outdoor adventures, which was a great way to spend his money on items and experiences that brought him joy and created special social outings. However, he felt held back financially from putting effort into his larger dream of buying a house. Several months ago, he looked around and realized the “toys” he accumulated were part of the problem. Enough was enough.
To refocus on the dream of buying a home, he decided to get rid of everything — the truck with the expensive car payment, the off-road vehicles, toy haulers and other gear — and save for a down payment. He sold it all in three months. Once he started in this direction, his progress exploded, and as each month passes, his momentum is building as he saves more and more since he no longer has those monthly bills.
When I tell others about his amazing and quick transformation, I point out three main pivots that helped him to move quickly:
• Once he admitted that he wasn’t where he wanted to be, although he was having fun with his friends, he realized that owning all the “stuff” wasn’t fulfilling. He decided that he could buy that “stuff” again later, if he really wanted it, once he bought the home of his dreams.
• He also realized the balance between owning “toys” that you like and being captive to your things, especially when you have high car payments or high-interest credit cards. When you’re working to pay for “stuff,” you’re not moving forward into your future. Instead, you’re carrying forward financial obligations from your past.
• Once the emotion behind obtaining his goal was high enough to make it happen, he immediately took action to get everything into order.
My favorite part of this story is that once my client sold his vehicles and gear within three months and began saving, his friends wanted it, too. One wanted to buy a house, and another wanted to climb out of the financial hardship of paying minimums on credit cards and living paycheck to paycheck. Once they saw him do it, they thought, “Hey, I can do it, too.” My client’s actions started a movement in his social group, and now several of them are ditching expensive “things” to get what they truly want.
As another brief example, I have a client who owns an investment property in California who has to work an extra day per week to afford the property. It costs her money nearly every month, and it detracts from her lifestyle. Although she dreaded coming into 2020 with this responsibility and liability hanging around her neck, we envisioned what her life could be like otherwise. Instead of hanging onto a property that others told her would be a good investment, she’s selling it, and we are working together to invest the proceeds into a passive investment with positive cash flow. Rather than work an extra day, she can work two fewer days per week and have flexibility. She’s not anchored by that mortgage payment.
How can you decide what to give up? I like to offer this advice:
• In my opinion, people inherently know what’s not good for them. You know what’s keeping you trapped, whether it’s an expense or an action that you’ve become comfortable with that no longer serves you in a positive way. Question whether certain actions and payments are worth the benefit you’re receiving. Search through your monthly expenses and ask if the new truck payment is worth it and whether you’re wasting time on social media or TV. The last time I deleted the social media apps on my phone, I laughed when I realized I wasn’t truly “busy” all the time.
• Next, create that space for your new goal. This could mean physical space or emotional energy. I find the “physical” to be helpful because we have stories about our belongings that we don’t even notice, and being able to let go of certain items may help us to start anew with other goals as well. If your physical environment is full, you may not feel spacious within yourself to grow.
• Finally, seek out support to take your next step. It’s easy to get into your own head and make the change seem harder than it is. We have self-doubt about why we can’t change or what we can’t do. However, a mentor or friend inherently has a different perspective than you do about yourself, and someone else can point out what’s possible and keep you motivated as obstacles appear.
Change is difficult. Once you realize what’s holding you back and decide what you can give up to make space for what you want to achieve, it’s possible to quickly take action and get your momentum back. As we approach February, consider it: What should you give up this year?