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Goal Setting for your Future Self: Why it’s a Good Idea and How to Do it

George Grombacher November 16, 2021

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Goal Setting for your Future Self: Why it's a Good Idea and How to Do it

To develop empathy for another, we’re told to walk a mile in their shoes. But how do we do this for ourselves?


It’s hard for us to imagine our future-selves. To think of ourselves as getting older and one day dying.


It’s for this reason we have a difficult time with things like saving money for retirement. It’s difficult to delay gratification. 


Sure, we intellectually understand we should be mindful of what we eat and that we should be putting more into our 401(k)s. So why don’t we?


It’s because simply knowing we should do something is not compelling enough to get us to take action. 


Enter goal setting for our future selves, an approach I’m confident will help you to bridge the gap.


I want you to be happy today. I also want you to be happy 20, 30, 40 and 50 years from today. In order to do that, I’m going to help you balance today’s desires with the desires of your future self. From there, I’ll help you develop a plan for making it happen. 


Here’s what I’ll cover:


  • The six key areas to focus on and how your future-self feels about each area

  • Why they want to feel that way

  • What you need to do in order to feel that way and what actions you can start taking today


The six key areas to focus on and how your future-self feels about each area


As we’re getting started with this exercise, I want to take a moment and put yourself in your shoes when you’re older, say 70.


Now, just write down what comes to mind. What does that person want? Don’t judge your thoughts or answers, just write. 


When I did this, here are some of the things I came up with:


  • I want to be someone my kids want to spend time with 


  • I want to be professionally or intellectually relevant


  • I want to always make a contribution


  • I don’t want to be a burden


  • I want to be financially secure


Once you done that initial thinking, I’d like for you to think more deeply about how you’d like to feel about each of these six areas:


  1. Family. Your loved ones and extended family
  2. Community. The places and people you focus your energy outside your family
  3. Career/money. Your work and your finances
  4. Wellbeing. Your physical, mental and emotional health
  5. Personal development. What you’re learning for the sake of learning
  6. Peace of mind. Your sense of contentment and or spirituality


This is an important step and it’s slightly different from traditional goal setting. Often, we think that once we have what we want, then we’ll feel how we want to feel. 


Instead, I want you to think about how your 70-year-old self will feel about those six areas. 


Why they want to feel that way


Once you’ve thought about how you want to feel, drill down deeper and think about why your 70-year-old self wants to feel that way. I’ll provide two examples:


  • Family. “I want to feel valued by my kids.” 
    • Why do you want to feel that way? 
      • “Because I want them to enjoy spending time with me.”


  • Career/money. “I want to feel financially secure and worry-free”
    • Why do you want to feel that way?
      • “Because I didn’t like worrying about money at 35 and I don’t want to worry about money at 70.”


Go through that for each of the six areas and drill down as deeply as you can. 


What you need to do in order to feel that way and what actions you can start taking today


Now that you’ve thought about how your 70-year-old self would like to feel and why they’d like to feel that way, it’s time to figure out the right goals to make it happen. I’ll provide an example in each area and actions which are to be taken immediately. 


Family. I need to have a deeper relationship with my family. At least once a week, I will have a one-on-one conversation with each member of my immediate family where I give them my full and undivided attention. 


Community. I need to become a stakeholder in my community. I will take on a leadership role in my local alumni association.


Career/money. I need to become financially independent. I will begin contributing to my 401(k).


Wellbeing. I need to be physically stronger. I will start exercising at least three times a week.


Personal development. I want to become better informed. I will begin reading at least 10 pages a day.


Peace of mind. I want a deeper connection with nature. I will start spending at least 3 hours a week outside. 


To give your future self the life they want doesn’t require massive change, so long as you give yourself enough time. 


As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The next best time is today. 


Making it real


I hope you found value in this brief exercise. Moreso, I hope it inspires you to take positive action to ensure your future-self gets everything they want and more. 


I always encourage people to schedule a day and time when they’re going to sit down and revisit what we’ve just gone over. So, I encourage you to take out your phone and to schedule an hour, sometime within the next week, where you can go back through this uninterrupted and put your plans in motion.


Your future-self will thank you!

If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course. 


We’ve got three free courses as well: Our Goals Course, Values Course, and our Get Out of Debt course. 


Connect with one of our Certified Partners to get any question answered. 


If you’d like help getting on the same page with your partner, check out our Same $ Page Course. 


If you’d like to help your kids get good with money, check out our Teaching Kids about Money course. 


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