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Enjoy the process for this year's goals

Ringing in the new year may not automatically make the pain of 2020 go away, but there is hope that 2021 will bring new
Ringing in the new year may not automatically make the pain of 2020 go away, but there is hope that 2021 will bring new opportunities. (Dreamstime/TNS)

How are your goals for the New Year progressing?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably passed a few exciting checkpoints while also tripping over a few pebbles.

Some goals might be easier to spot on the horizon now that you’ve been putting your plan into action. Other might seem like they’re fading out of sight.

It’s important to remember that improving this year isn’t just about that end goal.

Here are three guidelines to help you manage the ups and the downs of your process so that you’ll feel better and live more thoroughly all along the way.

1. Get Better Each Day

It can be difficult to sustain the positive momentum you feel at the beginning of the year. Once you’ve settled on a goal and worked on your daily to-do list, that goal can start to feel less inspiring and more like a chore.

To keep mental fatigue from setting in, look for small ways to keep challenging yourself.

Are you meeting your monthly savings goals easily? If so, shoot for a slightly higher goal next month.

Start now and organize the incoming envelopes with “Important Tax Document” and label them as you receive them. This if nothing else will give you a sense of control and lessen the mental burden of gathering all the documents at once.

If your workout goals already are becoming secondary, be honest with yourself and schedule several half-workouts on your schedule. This may provide the momentum you need to get back in the full routine.

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Remember, the reason you set goals at the beginning of the year was because you wanted to keep improving.

The biggest challenge with any goal whether financial or otherwise is to establish the goal, but then focus on the necessary daily steps necessary to reach them.

Sometimes looking out at the goal post from 50 yards instead of the process right in front of you can hinder the outcome.

2. Turn Negatives into Positives

My approach to any negative situation is to convert it into a positive. One that may even be more beneficial long-term if I am able to learn from it.

People who easily are discouraged are among the most likely to abandon their annual goals before spring.

A large impulsive purchase or an unanticipated household repair can throw off a monthly budgeting goal. One missed day of exercise snowballs into a lethargic week.

A couple of meetings that run longer than planned alter your schedule and cause you to get off track.

When “life” gets in the way of your goals, identify the areas you have control over from things you don’t. There’s not much you can do if your furnace goes out in February other than to write a check and get your budget back on track next month.

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But if you have lost your motivation because of something you can control, assessing what went wrong and why can be a key to meeting your long-term goals.

If all the positivity in the world can’t turn you into a morning person, don’t quit your morning run — move it to after work.

Understanding yourself and creating a process that is compatible with your personality will provide you the greatest opportunity for success.

3. Reflect and celebrate along the way

As you pursue your 2021 goals, ideally you will follow a process that allows you save more, feel more comfortable in your financial situation and become healthier.

During this time you will discover many things about yourself. Checking off daily tasks might reveal a skill you want to develop or an interest you want to explore more deeply.

Working toward a goal with your spouse might add a new dimension to your relationship. You also may realize you are working toward a goal that isn’t really going to fulfill you and change course for the rest of the year.

That’s OK. Continue the process and adjust accordingly. Take a step back occasionally to see where the goal post is and if it makes sense to make some adjustments.

The goal is to enjoy the process and celebrate not only the accomplishment of your goals, but the progress toward them.

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The things you learn and accomplish along this journey should be very gratifying and can celebrated in many different ways — dinners, trips, new books to read or just give yourself a night off to relax, reflect and watch an extra episode of your current TV series binge.

Let me know if you need any suggestions.

This article is provided by Pete Alepra, a financial adviser at RBC Wealth Management in Cedar Rapids; peter.alepra@rbc.com.

The opinions in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. RBC Wealth Management is a division of RBC Capital Markets, a member NYSE, FINRA and SIPC.

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