My bucket list doesnʼt include anything wild like sky diving—but it gets my pulse racing all the

same.

 

“Follow your dreams!” is one of those motivational mottos that can infuriate as much as it inspires. Apart from being a cliché, it doesnʼt really give you anything concrete to work with. My dreams are constantly shifting, like colors in a kaleidoscope. Following them would be like a dog chasing its own tail. Which is why I prefer to pursue practical, definable goals.

 

The first step to making your goals a reality is defining them in words—ideally with your partner or a close family member. My husband and I sit down every year after Tax Day to thrash out our financial objectives for the year ahead. We come away from those chore-like talks with a renewed sense of purpose. It doesnʼt matter how arbitrary our goals are—say earmarking $5,000 for a summer vacation—the very act of creating them gives us something tangible to work towards.

 

On a more macro level, I have my “bucket list” of things I want to achieve at some point in my life.

 

Here are my big three:

 

1) Build my dream home (which I already accomplished!). When planning our home, we scoped the area I grew up in for a vacant lot, with an eye on the school district and natural surroundings. Because we purchased the lot four years before laying the first foundation, we had time to plan a financial strategy. If we had known then what we know now, we would have spent less on that dream project and had more money left over for goal number 2 (below). But you canʼt always predict what your priorities will be five years down the line. Yet building that dream home got the momentum going, showing us what was achievable when we set our minds to it.

 

2) Be my own boss (yet to be accomplished). For the last few years, my annual budgeting goals nailed down on Tax Day have been subservient to this particular Life Goal—being able to purchase a big chunk of my husbandʼs business, by buying out a retiring partner of his. It was always a vague dream of ours to be our own bosses, to have our own family business, and now the possibility of that actually happening is tantalizing.

 

One thing I need to be clear about: Although I find that my smaller goals get subsumed by this greater one, there are some things that are sacred to us, like contributing the maximum annual limit to our IRAs and employer plans come hell or high water.

 

By the way, being your own boss is achievable in virtually any profession. W2W expert Kerry Hannon talks here about how she achieved it.

 

3) Realize my professional potential (a work in progress). Our business-owning ambitions mean we will have to remain a dual income family for the near term; weʼll need to make sacrifices, and continue working at our day jobs to support our long-term endeavor. But as someone who loves what she does, itʼs hardly a sacrifice. And it affords me the opportunity to flourish professionally in new and exciting ways.

 

Climb any mountain

We learned the hard way that building a dream home can exact a toll of blood, sweat and tears. Owning our own business is a lofty ambition atop some mist-shrouded summit, but at least this time weʼre under no illusions about how grueling the climb will be. Thatʼs why, in some ways, the first big struggle in determining major Life Goals is deciding which mountain to climb in the first place. It might be the toughest, most lofty goal you ever pursue, but at least youʼll also learn from it. Which is why, in a way, it doesnʼt really matter what mountain you choose—as long as you make a choice. Tap into your deepest desires, however crazy they may seem. You can figure out the fine details later—thatʼs what we did. Once youʼve imagined your best self, or your best life, you can nail down specific goals that are actually achievable and start pursuing them.

 

What are your life goals? Iʼd love to hear from the community.

 

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