Once you know where you are now, the next step is to figure out where you and your company want to go. Write the story of your future life as if it has already happened. By adding in all the rich details, this vision will be real for you.
Creating a plan and deciding where you want to go will give you “cause and control” over your future like nothing else. It will help you keep your perspective in spite of minor setbacks. Creating and then following a plan will help bring about happiness and peace because you will be more in control of your destiny.
Put it all into the story of your future life. We recommend keeping your plan in a notebook or journal that can be found in almost any bookstore. Keep the size manageable and the journal handy so you can work on it while you are between meetings, on vacation, or before you go to bed at night.
Start your plan with the end in mind and work backward. First, you create a 10-year vision, then one for three years, and finally a one-year vision.
Write the story of your life as you see it in 10 years – as if it has already happened. Add in all the details to make this story or vision real for you. Visualize a typical day in your life exactly 10 years from now.
Ask yourself, “What milestones will show that I have reached my goal?” “Where do I want to be?” “What roadblocks did I have to overcome or bad habits did I need to break?” “What are the non-financial goals I want to achieve?” Write your answers down to firmly establish them in your mind.
Here are some more questions to ask yourself, but you can make up your own questions as well:
- When do I want to retire?
- When do I want to be debt-free?
- How will I pay for our children’s college?
- Do I want to move to a new home?
- What do I want to have, do or be?
- How can we meet our goals and still enjoy the ride?
Here are some non-financial keys to address in your vision.
- Who are you with? Who do you love and who loves you? What positive people and things do you want to have in your life? What toxic or negative people, influences and environments need to be eliminated to make the 10-year vision compelling for you?
- How can you better serve others? Serving others is a critical key to being successful and feeling good about it. Ask yourself, “What groups need my help?” “What do I have to offer?” “How can I better serve my children, family, or spouse?” “Who can I help or mentor?”
- Do your spouse and business partners “buy” the plan? If you are married or have a partner, be sure the vision reflects both of your desires, directions, and goals. For your spouse, go to dinner or take a weekend trip and create compelling 10-year visions that excite both of you. Interview each other. Do not stifle the other’s vision. Keep the discussion light and in the spirit of possibility. If your spouse truly isn’t interested in planning, create the vision alone. Remember, the one who has the clearest vision will drive the family direction.
Consider doing the same exercise among business partners. If one of you has a second home, go there or alternatively go to lunch or dinner together several times to hash out the vision. We suggest getting out of the office to do this.
- Include all planned purchases and when you plan to make them. For example, say you are going to spend $15,000 to remodel your kitchen two years from now, replace your car three years from now, pay for four years of Susie’s college beginning five years from now, and buy a cabin or second home in nine years. Put these planned expenses in your vision as well.
- Does your plan need alterations? Your 10-year vision may include staying in your current house until the kids leave or only replacing your cars every six years to build up your savings. It may even involve downsizing to live within your means, get out of debt, and live a more stress-free life. You may be telling yourself, “I don’t want to live scrimping and pinching pennies.” On the same note, ask yourself, “Do I want to be up to my eyeballs in debt with no savings ten years from now?”
- Increase your economic value. If you plan to make more money, how will you do it? Include what you’ll do to improve the economic value to your company. What training can you, your partners and employees undertake? What skills need to be improved? What certifications should you and others pursue? When are you going to do these things? Who can mentor you?
- Learn from past setbacks. Address all the areas that have sabotaged your plans in the past. If you had a bad business partner, write out the lessons you learned from the experience. If you spent too much and were in financial trouble, write down what you did wrong so you do not repeat past mistakes. For example, if overspending was caused by remodeling your home, write down what you have learned and what you can do to avoid repeating similar mistakes. If you have a friend or associate who has successfully handled the same problem, ask them how they overcame it and model their behavior.
After you crystallize your vision of where you are now and create a compelling vision of where you want to be in 10 years, work backward from the 10-year vision to your present situation.
Now, figure out what you need to do, to be, or to have in three years to be on track for your 10-year vision. Be as specific as you can. Remember, the clearer your future vision, the more likely it will happen and the more likely you’ll know if you are off-track.
After adding up all future expenses and planned purchases, is there enough money going into savings? Are you realistic about your income increases? Does your past support your view of the future or make it seem unlikely? If you spent more than you made over the last three years, what are you going to do differently so you can save this year? Remember, experience is beneficial and mistakes are inevitable, but learn from these mistakes and do not repeat them.
If you do not check and recheck your savings and debt management status, money will most likely continue to create stress, not freedom. It is so straightforward to understand, but much more difficult to live. Still, the reduction in stress created from operating true to your plan is priceless. Spending more than you make creates a buildup of debt, a reduction of savings over time, and an increase in stress.
In our line of work, we see far too many people depressed about life because they have no control over their spending and debt. We’ve seen some even turn to drugs or alcohol, effectively masking the pain, and doing nothing to address the underlying problem. Take control here and watch how it entirely changes your overall attitude toward life.
If spending is a problem, a simple way to reduce the stress is to focus on your five largest bills and come up with specific ways you are willing to reduce them. If you are like most people, your largest bills might include your home mortgage, income taxes, cars, business expenses, debt, travel, child support, random purchases, home remodeling/repairs, dining out, and insurance.
Most people, unless focused primarily on reducing their largest bills, cannot afford the little pleasures that make life enjoyable, like going on a date with their spouse, having a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or belonging to a health club. The results from cutting out the fun stuff usually are the same as going on a starvation diet; you do not lose weight and over the long run, you just get heavier (or in the case of money, more in debt).
Instead, come up with at least five ways to reduce each major expense. Then decide on realistic savings ideas you’ll truly implement to save at least 10 percent of every income dollar.
As Tony Robbins said in one of his seminars, Date with Destiny (which we highly recommend), “When people do well, they tend to party. When they do poorly, they tend to ponder.” Pondering is advantageous, but it is better to set up a personal policy so that you don’t repeat past mistakes. Write down exactly what you will change to avoid the same problems. Then, run your solution by someone who has solved that problem in the past.
Write down your three-year plan – where you need to be, what you need to do, and what you hope to have – to ensure that your 10-year vision is real to you and feels achievable.
Does your future require you to spend less? By putting in milestones that do not cost a lot, this can help keep focus and reduce costs while giving lots of happiness. Some fantastic ideas include learning to play the guitar, going with a church group to help the poor, writing a novel, or doing a bike trip with a good friend.
Do you feel terrific about your 10-year and three-year future? If you do not, go back and rework your 10-year vision until you feel GREAT about it and cannot wait to make it happen.
Within One Year…..
Now write a story of your “ideal scene” one year from now. Describe the milestones required to be on track to achieve this scene. Depict how you will feel at that point.
Does your list of one-year goals look familiar? If it resembles your old New Year’s Eve resolutions, what you are willing to do differently to make them happen? Write down what you want, why you want it and what you are willing to do to make it all happen.
Do you feel that you are drifting away from your spouse? Come up with specific ways you can become closer. Have you addressed ways to improve your health? Come up with steps to eat better and be more active. These may seem unrelated to the topic of money until you consider the costs of divorce and being too ill to enjoy your wealth.
Finally, figure out what five things you need to do right now to move toward your one-year ideal. If there are decisions you have been putting off, decide which path is best for you. This will give you a direction to go so you can focus your efforts. Get the balls rolling by putting on the list reading this entire book, doing all of the exercises, and committing them to your journal.
Break this down even further by reviewing your plan at least quarterly. You are now on a three-month tracking program. It is not just manageable; it is achievable! Write your refinements in your journal every 90 days. Then, once a year, buy a new journal and revise and update your plan.
Remember the acid test for wealth accumulation: Are you going in the direction of your goals? Are you on track? Are you saving? Are you paying off debt? If the answer to any of these is “No,” consider getting help from a professional financial advisor.
Material discussed is meant to provide general information and it is not to be construed as specific investment, tax, or legal advice. Individual needs vary & require consideration of your unique objectives & financial situation.
Please consult with your accountant or tax advisor for specific guidance.