We are often told that in order to realize any achievement, as in going on a diet, or training for a marathon, we must break the process down into small steps. Small stages in our goal setting is one way that we can encourage ourselves to succeed.
The small stages are just a convenient way of stepping nearer to the big goal - hence the term stepping stone. As we pass each stepping - stone we are actually moving nearer to the impossible-to-achieve dream.
It is easy to think of setting up goals for running a marathon: you can just add a little more distance or speed each week. However, it is not so obvious to find a system to save up for your first house.
Generally speaking, stepping - stones need to be specific and they need to be in writing. Writing it out means you really have to think about it, and you can stick a copy in front of your sink/fridge/TV etc wherever you will keep seeing it.
This is just to remind you and give you some reinforcement, so that your mind is aware of what you are aiming for. If you draw up the whole list of goals at once, you can draw a thick red line through each one as you succeed!
Goal setting for most things seem to have different sections to consider. Your stepping-stones must be measurable, they must be written in precise language, they must be achievable but not easy, they must fit in with your life-style and they must have a time limit. Phew! This could be fairly demanding!
The first item - measurable - can be difficult, because often we will just think in non-measurable terms, like: I want to run 26 miles, I want to start saving for a house. This is not only an unrealistic challenge, it even makes you want to give up!
If stepping- stones are used, they sound more reachable: I want to be able to run one mile; I want to be able to save two hundred dollars. For the time factor, you could add 'every month'. If you want to be more precise you could add that it must go into a separate account by the 7th of each month. It is a good incentive to open an account specifically for your savings.
That type of stepping stone is probably too easily achievable and not a real challenge. You can keep saving the two hundred dollars, but try and add another. Perhaps you want to buy a home while the foreclosure deals are still available. So you want to have a bigger push.
The experts (!) say that you have at least a year for this type of opportunity - most feel it will go well into 2009.You could have an additional stepping stone of planning to work for the summer, while there are more casual jobs around.
Most of us will automatically fit the goal into our lifestyle, for instance, we will not plan to earn extra cash offering lessons in piano, if we can't read a word of music etc!
When you have drawn up a schedule it may look something like this:
Measurable: I know I can save $200.00 per month.
Challenging yet achievable: I am going to look for a summer job in 08 and 09 and save an extra $200.00 a month.
Precise: I will have funds automatically transferred to a new savings account by the 7th of each month.
Time specific: I will have $4,200 accrued by saving this way.
Lifestyle: I will advertise to baby sit on weekends for extra savings and put it into the savings account.
If you need more incentive, draw up a monthly chart and draw a red line through every successful 'save"! And here's a sneaky thought: sometimes when parents see kids trying so hard, they pitch in a little extra for Christmas and birthdays - so don't keep your savings plan a secret!!