September 22, 2011, 5:00 am

Do You Ever Lose Track of the Big Picture?

by: MD    Category: Financial Planning
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Staying Focused Long Term

“I sometimes got distracted easily and allowed my mind to wander when I needed to be focused. It’s quite subtle, really, and just being aware of it helps.” — Payne Stewart.

In July I found myself going out pretty often. I didn’t feel bad because everything else was going well. I had been making good money, saving money, working out, and eating well. Short term I had no issue. Long term, I was losing tracking of the big picture. Once in a while I need to remind myself of longer term and not just today.

What’s the “big picture?” This is your long term plan. This is where you want to be in the medium-to-long term. You won’t be there tomorrow morning. You won’t get there by next Saturday either. However, with consistent effort and a little determination you can get there in six months perhaps. If it’s a more audacious goal, then you might not get there until five years from now.

My long term plan is to live life on my own terms. I want to make decent money while being able to help as many other people as possible. I don’t want to be forced into a job that I hate to pay for things that I don’t really need. Yet I often myself spending money foolishly and falling behind on important work. The short term often trumps the long term for many of us. This can be highly dangerous. We don’t want today to negatively impact tomorrow too much.

The big picture is different for everyone. A few ideas of what the long term plan can be for you:

  • Retire early and live in the countryside.
  • Travel the world with your partner.
  • Start your own business.
  • Quit your job.
  • Become debt free.
  • Move out of your parent’s place so you can finally have dates over.

We all have long term plans that we need to stay focused on. How can you prevent yourself from losing track of of the bigger picture?

Keep a daily reminder.

We need daily reminders to stay focused. If you want to buy a home you can put a picture of your dream home up in your room. Every morning that you wake up and every night before you go to sleep you’re reminded of your ultimate goal. My friend keeps a picture of his daughter and a Hummer in his locker at work. He knows that if he works hard he can reward himself with a Hummer one day. He also keeps a picture of his daughter because he wants a better life for her. He wants to pay for her college education and her wedding.

Reminders (pictures, videos) are important because they help us gain focus when everything seems to be going wrong. Whenever you ponder why you’re working so hard or running on little sleep, all you need to do is look at that physical reminder of your long term plan. This got me through many all-nighters in college.

When I was working long hours and running on little sleep I was reminded that one day I would be renting out a piece of property while I traveled. Now as I type this I’m sitting in Poland and my condo is rented out at a good price. It took me longer than expected to reach this one goal, but I eventually made it.

Get your friends/family to hold you accountable.

An accountability partner is like a workout buddy. When you go to the gym alone you can slack off because you won’t have anyone pushing you. When you go to the gym with your workout buddy you know that you have to give it your best or you’ll be letting this person down (assuming that you care about them). I personally fall on both sides. I can be that person pushing you to wake up at six in the morning to get work done after a night out. I can also become complacent and in need of a kick in the butt. That’s why accountability partners are important.

Whatever your long term plan is, it helps to get your close friends and family on board. You don’t need to keep your plans to become debt free or to quit your job by 2012 a secret. If your friends judge you or try to discourage you, you might be associating with the wrong crowd.

Think of the worst case scenario.

When I wrote this post I was debating going out on a Wednesday night. The best case scenario was that I would have a good time. The worst case scenario was that I would be tired the next day, behind on my work, and I likely wouldn’t feel like going out with my friends when the actual weekend came along.

I would also be diverting my energy from my writing. My writing is very important to me write now because I’m on my first vagabonding sting through Poland. The harder I work now, the more fun I can have on future trips. I would much rather hang out in Budapest with new friends then go out in Toronto and pay $7 a drink.

What’s your worst case scenario? You need to be brutally honest and think of what will happen if you lose focus of your long term goals. Will you be in debt forever? Will you have to wait another few months to purchase that dream home because you wanted the newest iPad? The worst case scenario can be a swift kick in the butt.

Ask the readers– I’m curious to hear if any of you have lost track of the big picture in the last little bit? How did you recover? How did you reignite your focus?

(photo credit: jennnster)

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Congrats on vagabonding in Europe man, that’s awesome! Keeping the big picture in mind is always hard for me. I tend to get lost in the details a lot. Thanks for the inspiring post, as usual 🙂

How long will you be traveling?
I think keeping a long term goal reminder is a great way to keep yourself on the path. For me, I keep those goals on my blog and give an update once every quarter. I’d like to think my readers keep me accountable. If I suddenly say I give up 4 out of 5 goals for example, I’m sure I would hear from my readers.

Great reminder to think for the big plan. I think it is great to think of long term, but I personally am also worried that I could focus too much on the future and not live today. I want to be able to enjoy today and also think for the future.

I always keep my goals in front of me because it keeps me focuesed on them. I constantly monitor my progress and adjust my effort to reach my goals.

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