Paying off debt, increasing savings and aiming for early retirement generally have one thing in common: time. In fact, they all require, in the majority of cases, a long time to complete. Some journeys are going to be shorter than others, but they all require planning and dedication to sticking it out over the long term.
But, lots of people do not like, nor are very good at, looking at the long term and staying on track. When your long term goal is months or years away, then it is hard to stay motivated for that amount of time, especially when there are going to be lots of temptations along the way.
The first thing that can help you along the way is to set smaller goals, rather than the one, overall, bigger goal. Having smaller goals mean that they can be met more easily, and you can essentially have as many as you like! Whether it’s to do with taking your lunch to work rather than buying it in the work canteen, to a percentage of savings every month, or overpaying your mortgage by £100 a month, they all are much more achievable than needing to save £XXX,000 for retirement, or being mortgage free. These goals are the overall ones, and whilst they are admirable goals, they could become demotivating after time.
Another aspect of having goals is to celebrate the milestones that you hit along the way. All those little goals you’ve made? When you complete them, celebrate! It is the little things that count when you’re in it for the long term, and it is important to look at how much you achieve over time, as well as how much further there is to climb. Sometimes it is very easy to still look at the mountain to climb, but you also need to look at how far you’ve come since the beginning. Be proud! Positivity will mean that you want to continue along your journey and give you a better sense of purpose and pride.
Although the long term can often be months, if not years, of dedication and hard work, you do need to remember to have a life in the present day too. You need to enjoy life at the same time and remember that although planning and having goals is a good thing, it can mean that sometimes mean that worrying over the future makes us miss out on what is in front of us in the here and now. I am definitely guilty of this sometimes, as I find myself worrying that we’re not doing enough now to ensure we have the future I want us to have. Whilst this is good to be thinking about, it can sometimes become all-consuming and that’s when I have to make myself take a step back.
Lastly, you have to remember to be realistic when in it for the long term; the very nature of the word means that time is a key player in the formula. Good habits form over time and there may be hiccups or set backs along the way. That is perfectly okay; we are all human and are not perfect all of the time. In fact, how boring would life be if we were?! If you do have a set back, the best thing to do is to re-evaluate your situation, then continue (or start over) and hopefully learn from your mistake. Recently I tried to change our budget and cut back on some of the categories, but I soon realised that I had made some of them too small, and ended up going way over the new imposed budget. I was disappointed, because doesn’t that mean I’ve failed in my quest? But then I analysed why it was, then adjusted accordingly. Yes, the budget might not be as low as it could be, but I find that if I tighten the purse strings too much, I end up having a blow out because I begin to feel deprived. Now I know I’m not deprived, so far from it, but it’s a psychological thing as much as anything else. I am learning to be more realistic about our budget and what works for us and what doesn’t.
How do you stay motivated over the long term? Have you got any tips?
Guest posts wanted! If you are a personal finance blogger or simple living blogger, I’m looking for some guest posts for the months of August and September to help me out as I’ll be quite busy with a new baby. If you are interested, please send me an email!