A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

A goal without a plan is just a wish.  I don’t remember where I read that, but the idea was reiterated on page 9 “The tragedy is that everyone thinks they already have goals. But what they really have are hopes and wishes.”  (The Power of DISCIPLINE: 7 WAYS IT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Brian Tracy.)

I realized I had no deadlines on what I thought were my goals on the whiteboard in my garage. Was that why I did nothing to accomplish them last year?  Seems silly, but maybe that is it.  When I was focused on getting debt free, I had pay-off dates for everything written on that whiteboard.  I took great joy in changing the countdown-to-pay-off number every month.  Now I just had my 3 goals that weren’t happening.

Time to re-evaluate and follow the 3 simple steps:

  1. Write down the goal.  I never wrote a weight loss deadline down because I didn’t want a record of my failure.
  2. Create plans to achieve the goal.  My plan of starving close to the deadline (wedding, reunion, etc.) never worked.  I never wrote the amount of weight I wanted to lose each week or month  because I didn’t want my husband or kids to do the math.
  3. Work on the plan daily. I thought I did, but it was often the cycle of blown diet by noon, so try again next Monday or next month.

I erased that whiteboard and put deadlines on my 3 big goals.

July2017 Goal Whiteboard

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I Don’t Want to Know

I never took the frequent budget and dieting advice of writing down everything you spend or eat.  I don’t want to know the extent of my obsession–especially if someone other than myself will look at it.

However, after getting my dream job and being totally stressed out, I decided I wanted to retire for sure.  My husband, ever encouraging, pointed out what was obvious to him–I already spent more than I earned, so how could I retire?

Since I learn better from a book than a nag, I decided to read money books.  After reading Your Money or Your Life I kept track of everything we earned and everything we spent in a notebook, the idea being that you figure out your expenses and keep track of your assets until you reach the cross-over point where your assets equal or surpass your expenses.

Below is an example from my notebook.  Surely this is enough money for someone who used to have nothing but debt, ruined credit, and no cash–often not even $5.00.  Surely the husband is justified in being angry that our monthly credit card was over $5000.

Why were we negative $3115.55?  The little things…Target, Walmart, Timmy Chan’s take-out because I was too tired to cook.  Too obsessive to stop shopping.  I craved the thrill of buying everything I liked.  I felt rich.

What worked?  Seeing it in black and white every month–faced with the truth that it was all me.  I gave myself a wiggle room budget–what could I safely waste each month and stayed out of the stores after I spent that the first day of the new credit card cycle.  Why did this work?  Because I had a big goal–to retire and it was never going to happen unless I proved that I could live within my income.


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Don’t Sacrifice What You Want the Most for What You Want Right Now

A friend noted my one year retirement date on Facebook and I realized that I have not done anything towards my two big goals–to lose weight and fix my house.  I have fallen into my usual trap–I sacrifice what I want the most for what I want right now.

I spent last year working as a contractor for a supplemental reading program publisher, making more money per day than I have ever made.  Do I have any money to show for it?  No, but I had fun.  I felt rich and drove around new towns, staying in hotels, eating at new restaurants, spending all the money I made without any husband interference because it was fun money.  He warned me not to get myself in trouble with my zero- percent-interest-for-a-year credit card because he knows me!!!  Having to ask him to pay my credit card would have meant war, so I did not go nuts spending more than I made, but it was close sometimes.  The work stopped in January.

Now that I know the cycle of busyness (and long cycle of not busy), I know I need to focus my extra money on what I want the most instead of what I want right now.  I want to hire a painter and will give the money I earn to my husband and he will negotiate with the painter.  We’ve never hired anyone to do anything before, but my husband V. doesn’t want to do it.  Since I want it done, I will earn the extra money for it.  V. has almost agreed to this plan.

So-goal one: fix house

Onto goal two: weight

I have walked 3 miles a day since January and only lost 5 pounds, which I gain back and lose over and over again.  What am I doing wrong?  I rejoice at having lost weight by eating something fun, thinking I still have a couple weeks (or days) to meet my 5 pound a month goal.  Again, I sacrifice what I want the most for what I want right now.

This pattern has been going on for 40 years now, which is shocking to think about.  New habit: weekly 2 pound goal, since a month is too long for me.  I’m proud to say that I walk every day, even in the Houston summer, which is a miracle.  I get up early with the goal of being finished by 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.

It’s hard to believe, but days quickly turn into 40 years.  I am finally going to focus each day on what I want the most: an updated home and body.


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Unearth the life you love-“tidying up”

“When I put my house in order, I discovered what I really wanted to do.” p. 176

-from the life-changing magic of tidying up the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo

Last May, I took two weeks of FML (Family Medical Leave) to pack up my mom for her cross-country move back to Duluth, Minnesota to an assisted living facility.  I spent the first week before my sister arrived, first overwhelmed by how to start, then diving in to clear out by category.  My mom now lives surrounded by the things she loves, mostly because there is no room for anything else.  She is happy.

How do we start? “..we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” (p. 41).   Tidy up by category, gathering all objects by category (one category at a time, in her prescribed order–and by sub-category if there is too much to do at once.) Hold each item and keep it if it “sparks joy” and discard it if it doesn’t.  Don’t let your family see what you’re getting rid of.  “Sparks joy” may sound weird, but I know what it means.  I still regret not buying the electric blue elbow-length gloves that sparked joy for me at a JC Penney store closing sale several years ago.  Rocks from my beloved Grandma spark joy.  Most of my books spark joy.

It’s not easy to let go of things that you’ve spent money on.  Think of the object’s purpose–and let it go because it’s fulfilled that purpose.  That dress that makes you feel ugly?  It’s purpose was to let you know that it is not your style.  What about my many suit coats I no longer wear?  They served their purpose in the job I once had, but never will again because I’m going to retire.  Someone else can wear those suit coats.  What about my husband who keeps everything and will be mad that I’m giving things away?  Items will leave when he’s watching football.  He’ll notice an emptier closet, but it will be too late then.  He’ll only care if I fill it back up.

Kondo says tidying up perfectly one time will cure us all of clutter forever because of the transformation into your perfect home containing only objects you love.  I believe her and look forward to it.

The process can take about six months (unless you’re retired) and should be done in this order (p.46), going from what’s easiest to clear out to what’s hardest.  By the time you get to mementos, you’ll be a pro at selecting what sparks joy.

  • clothes
  • books
  • papers
  • miscellany (decorations, for me)
  • mementos


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Retirement Financial Action Plan: You can get there from here


“The fastest way to achieve your goals is to stay on purpose.” from The One Minute Salesperson by Spencer Johnson and Larry Wilson

I am thrilled to be retiring at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.  I have an exciting goal for myself and my students this year and exciting goals for the next chapter of my life.  One of these goals is to help others reach their goals–one of which for most adults is retirement.  Analyze where you are and what you need to do to get where you want to go. Don’t be afraid to figure these things out.  You will be confident when you know what you have, what you need, and have a plan and timeline to get there. These are the questions and steps I used to develop my retirement plan.  You may have other things to consider in addition to these.

  1.  How much does it cost for you to live each month/year?
  2. Is your current salary sufficient? If not, what’s your shortfall?  How can you cut expenses and/or increase your income?
  3. How much debt do you have?  How can you cut expenses to pay that off?
  4. How much do you anticipate needing in retirement? Do you have that much in a guaranteed income?  If not, what’s your shortfall? Estimate high for unknown healthcare costs. Practice living on that income while you still have a job.
  5. What guaranteed income will you have?  (pension, social security, other assets)
  6. Do you have assets that could be converted into a guaranteed annuity, if necessary?
  7. Do you have assets that you don’t need to use for income right now (leave invested for growth)?
  8. Do you own assets you could easily sell if you need money?
  9. Do you own your own home? If not, will you have enough money to pay rent/house payment in retirement or should you buy/pay off your home first?  How long will that take?
  10. Could you retire from your current job, get a pension, and get another job?  If so, how long would you need that additional job?
  11. Does it make more sense to stay in your current job to build up your pension? Could you switch jobs if you don’t like your current job but still need to work for your pension?
  12. If you don’t have a pension, how much social security will you get?  Can you wait until you get the maximum before taking payments?
  13. How much do you have saved and in investments?  How long will that money last? What’s your contingency plan if there’s a market crash?
  14. How’s your health?  How much will insurance cost in retirement?  Do you plan on purchasing long-term care insurance?
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The Easy Rule of Life-Ernie Zelinsky

Because I’m on summer vacation now and thinking that this is how the rest of my life is going to be, I’ve been reading retirement books by Ernie Zelinsky such as “The Joy of Not Working” and “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.” He is braver and more of a hippy than I am–quite a difference in perspective from Brian Tracy and other business people whose books I like, yet these authors have read many of the same books and have some overlapping ideas.  I am struck by the Easy Rule of Life which is essentially If you do what’s easy, life ends up being difficult.  If you do the difficult and uncomfortable, life ends up being easy.  This is very true.  All my money problems from my youth were because I did what was easy at the time–buy what I want until I had no cash and no credit and no way to pay the bills. Doing what was easy made life very hard.  I was panic-stricken every day.  If there were debtor’s prisons as in David Copperfield, I would have been in one.  Later, after I was married to a man who would not allow stupidity with money, I developed what were for me difficult and uncomfortable habits that have now made my life easy.  Because we have no debt, I will retire next May 2016.  (See the post Article: Steps Toward Financial Freedom for details of how we did it.)

Another easy thing I’ve done for years that has made life difficult is overeat.  Because I have been the workaholic Ernie talks about in his book and life was busy, I bought food.  I overate for fun and stress-relief.  In fact, my main source of entertainment has always been eating.  I have fond memories of our family eating all the junk food before groceries ever got put away.  We raided the cookie jar and ice cream freezer before saying hi when we visited my grandma. My mom, brother, and I ate crackers and peanut butter for dinner–three knives, a jar of peanut butter, and a box of crackers–one of my favorite meals.  Now, stooping down or sitting on the floor is an ordeal and I don’t even know when that happened—just like I don’t know how I never noticed my bedroom mini blinds are filthy. So, again, the Easy Rule of Life applies.  It was easy to eat and now life is more difficult.  It truly would have been easier to exercise self-control than to try to lose the extra person I’ve become.  Same with my house:  It was easy to keep hoping someone else would clean, and now the clean up is more difficult than it would have been to maintain the house in the first place.

Am I in despair?  No.  I will conquer these problems with daily effort.  In the big scheme of things, my life is good.  I am debt-free and I will retire.  My big goals are to lose weight, clean and fix up this house that is paid for, and become a Road Scholar .


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Optimism and Persistence


“The most important quality you need for success and persistence is optimism.  This is the boundless confidence in yourself and your ability to ultimately succeed.” –Brian Tracy in No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline

Today I’m reading No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy, author of another of my favorite books Eat That Frog!  Two important concepts to help me with my next (and frankly scariest) goal are: “I am responsible,” and the Seven Step Goal Setting model.  Why would I need to underline the sentence, I am responsible? Because I have not believed it to be true in the case of weight.  I have believed I am powerless; I have blamed the delicious food industry; I have blamed my job for being too tired to exercise; I have blamed my family, job, and life for making me too busy and tired to cook; I have blamed being born in Minnesota for the fact that the only veggies I like are corn and potatoes.  The reality is I choose to eat popcorn, fried chicken, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and junk food.  I choose to watch Entertainment Tonight and HGTV instead of getting out that door to exercise.  I choose to be too technologically challenged to turn on an exercise DVD.  So, I am writing about the biggest and scariest goal I’ve never permanently achieved.  I’m going to achieve it this time because it’s holding me back from the next big stage of my life: retirement.  I want to spend my time on beaches, but I will not do that overweight.  I wish I could make myself do it, but I cannot.  My feet hurt, so how can I tour Pompeii?  Therefore, I have to lose weight.

The Seven Step Action Plan (paraphrased from Tracy, p. 77-78)

  1. Decide exactly what you really want in life.
  2. Make a list of ten goals you want to achieve in the next year.
  3. Select one goal that could have the greatest positive impact on your life if you were to achieve it.  Write this goal on the top of another sheet of paper.
  4. Make a list of everything you could do to achieve this goal.  Take action on it immediately.
  5. Brainstorm a list of twenty ideas that could help you achieve your most important goal, and then take action on at least one of those ideas.
  6. Resolve to do something every day, seven days a week, to achieve your most important goal until you are successful.
  7. Continually remind yourself that failure is not an option.  No matter what, resolve to persist until you succeed.

More than anything, I have to change my mindset.  I have to know I am responsible.  I can do it.  I never thought I would have enough self-discipline to become debt-free, but I did.  I will do this the same way–make it automatic (develop the daily exercise habit at a set time every day; have no irresistible food in the house; make myself clean something before I can overeat—I don’t want to overeat that badly!) and monitor my eating and exercise like I monitored my daily spending–write it in my notebook.  Most of all, I will pray, and visualize my success by writing our vacation plans on my whiteboard.  I will tell my husband we’re going to Hawaii when I look good in a swimsuit again.  He will agree to that.  That whiteboard is magic!  So far, everything I have written on the whiteboard in the garage has come to pass.


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