Fighting Fatigue with Long-Term Goals

Earlier this week, Laurie at the Frugal Farmer wrote about the difficulty of sticking with a goal that takes a long time to pay off. You can check it out here: Fighting Boredom and Restlessness as You Work on Long-Term Goals.

From excitement to boredom

Laurie lays out her personal struggle really well, and I definitely suggest you read it. Some of my favorite quotes, which kind of lay out her mental progression, are:
-“At first, I was just plain excited.”
-“Enter month 5, and I’m kinda getting “bored with that”.”
-“It’s a piece of cake now”
-“This kind of lack of enthusiasm for your goal, whatever it is, can lead you to dump your plan by the wayside real quick-like”

This is a progression I am all too familiar with. Start something with a bang, put all of your energy into it, get really excited, and then some time passes and it starts to lose a little luster. It becomes old hat, or even worse, it gets a little difficult and that makes you lose your edge.

This is actually one of the biggest issues that people have with handling their finances. Good financial management, as well as good investing, is really not all that exciting. It all pretty much works the same way:
1. Make a plan.
2. Set the plan on auto-pilot
3. Check back in every now and then to make sure things are still working.
4. Um, wait, there’s really not any more to this? Shouldn’t I be tinkering with something? What am I supposed to do with all of this free time?

We’re taught from a young age that you can always be doing something to improve. With our finances, this is true to some extent, but once you get your debts paid off, you’ve got a lifestyle in line with your budget, and you’ve got your savings on auto-pilot, there’s really not a whole lot more you have to do. Sure, there’s more you can do, but some of that can actually be counter-productive and some of it just really isn’t necessary.

Still, Laurie’s 100% right that boredom can quickly lead to ditching a well-laid plan. So how do we fight it?

Staying the course

Laurie has some good suggestions in her post, and I won’t rehash them here. You should check them out yourself. But I will talk about some of my approaches.

Write out and re-visit your plan – This is similar to Laurie’s suggestion to “Remind Yourself Why”. If you have a long-term goal, it’s important to have a plan of attack. Write out the exact steps you plan to take, including plans for how to handle potential road-blocks. When you eventually start to waver in your resolve, re-visit this plan and remind yourself of what you committed to.

Don’t quit until you’ve mastered it – I’m stealing this one from Leo at Zen Habits. His opinion is that you shouldn’t quit something until you’ve mastered it and you enjoy it. Only at that point can you make a really objective decision about whether it’s worth your time. The low point of boredom/struggle is exactly the wrong time to quit, because you really haven’t seen the benefits through.

Celebrate milestones along the way – With something long-term like paying off debt or saving for retirement, it can be easy to simply look at the end goal and feel like it’s far away. If that’s a struggle, simply find milestones along the way that you can celebrate. Have you paid off your first $500? Great! Have you saved one month’s worth of income? Awesome! Neither of these are the end goal, but they are progress and you are allowed to celebrate. This can really help keep you motivated.

Find a new goal – Once you’ve got one goal on track, you can use your new-found free time to work on another goal. For me, starting this blog is a way to get my opinions out there, learn some new things, and hopefully make a little extra income. Find something new to get excited about that you can put your energy into. Just make sure it’s not at the expense of your original goal.

Enjoy where you’re at – This is something I’m trying to work on, but it’s hard. You don’t always have to improve. You don’t always have to find the next thing to conquer. There’s a beauty in just enjoying where you are and appreciating what you have. This concept runs in opposition to much of our culture, and it’s a hard one to really and truly practice. But I think it’s the key to really enjoying life.

Consistency pays off

However you handle it, it’s important to be aware that you will inevitably encounter some form of fatigue, struggle or doubt when attacking your long-term goals. Hopefully you’ll be able to handle it like Laurie, with a keen sense of self-awareness and a plan for sticking with it through the tough times.

Other posts I liked

Frugal Rules has some great inside information on what life is like as a stockbroker. It’s not pretty.

Debt Roundup reminds us to keep an eye on long-term goals when refinancing. Taking a shorter term loan can make a big financial difference.

Budget Blonde explains the complexities of banking from Grenada. Be thankful you don’t have to deal with it! (Though you can also be jealous that she’s living in Grenada).

Joe Taxpayer has a cool post showing how charts can lie. Don’t believe everything you see.

Oblivious Investor has some good tips on how to get positive changes for your 401(k).

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

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0 Comments... Be the first to comment
  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer May 3, 2013

    Matt, thanks so much for the mention! Thanks too, for adding in your two cents and for the other links within this post. More info to keep us on track with our goals, yea!!!

  • John S @ Frugal Rules May 3, 2013

    Thanks so much for the mention Matt, I really appreciate it! I enjoyed Laurie’s post as well. Having personally gone through my own bout with debt repayment I could relate to it on many levels. I did many of the things you described, but main among it was celebrating those milestones. I think that’s a big part of what helped me overcome my debt and stay out of it.

  • Matt Becker May 3, 2013

    Sure thing Laurie. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Matt Becker May 3, 2013

    Definitely. It really helps to feel like you’re achieving something along the way.

  • Holly Johnson May 3, 2013

    You’re right that it can get boring to focus on long-term goals. This is especially true when paying off a huge chunk of debt that takes forever- like a house or student loan debt, etc. I like to create small goals to keep myself motivated.

  • Matt Becker May 3, 2013

    Small goals are a big help.

  • I think it’s also okay to take a defined break from them every once in a while to rejuvenate. If you’ve been paying off debt for years, I think it’s not unrealistic to take a month where you just do the minimum (not go further into debt, but just make minimum payments) and treat yourself to something nice. A vacation or something. Sometimes that’s what you need to come back rejuvenated again.

  • Matt Becker May 4, 2013

    Great point. No shame in taking a little time to regroup. We’re not robots.

  • The Frugal Path May 4, 2013

    This is something that we’ve fought with constantly for the past few years. I’m glad that we’re sticking with it because our debt feels like a literal weight. But it’s not always easy sticking to a long-term goal.

  • Long term goals are so hard to work on, but that is why they are long term. I appreciate you mentioning the refinance post on my site.

  • Matt Becker May 4, 2013

    Definitely not always easy. But it’s almost always worth it.

  • Matt Becker May 4, 2013

    Sure, thanks for the great post!

  • Budget & the Beach May 9, 2013

    I try not to set too many long term goals for that very reason. I kind of lose track or forget about it. I set really short term goals which sort of move me towards what I want in the big picture. So far this method had helped me.

  • Matt @ momanddadmoney May 10, 2013

    That sounds like a great approach. Have you ever read any of Leo’s thoughts at He talks about living without goals, just picking what you’d like to focus on and enjoy in the moment. It’s a pretty radical idea but has some very appealing elements to it. If you’d like, you can check it out here:

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