Every person has limited resources and it’s challenging to be intentional with how you distribute your time, treasure, and talent. There are plenty of distractions out there for your attention and your hard-earned dollars. My question for you, do you have a system to help you make better decisions on how to spend your time, treasure, and talent?
“SQUIRREL!” If you’ve seen the Pixar movie UP, you’ll remember the comedic gag where the dogs’ train-of-thoughts are constantly interrupted when they see a squirrel. This is also known as ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ where your attention is lured away by something exciting instead of remaining on your task at hand. It’s becoming harder and harder to stay focused with today’s technology because of notifications, ease of access, cat videos, and people’s dread to become bored.
The purpose of this article is to provide you a way to identify what you value, then nudge you to remain focused on what you value, and also challenge you to make some S.M.A.R.T. goals to put your money where your mouth is.
Free Worksheet: S.M.A.R.T. Values Planning
My wife and I have our own Financial Planner, Brian Thompson Financial, who helps us get on the same page with our money, identifies blind spots for us, and also provides insights in some of my weaker areas of Financial Planning. Taxes… gross!?!
At the beginning of our professional relationship, Brian assigned a Values Inventory exercise to help us identify our core values. This was a fun experience because it helped us better understand ourselves, our partner, and clued Brian on how to give us better financial guidance.
With Brian’s permission, I was inspired to take this exercise another direction by building on this Values Inventory exercise. To help you focus, we created a strategy which may assist you to identify your favorite current values, values which you want to adopt into your everyday life, and then to also put your money where your mouth is.
Get your free copy here: S.M.A.R.T. Values Planning
Now let’s go through the exercise together!
Your Values Inventory
Why identify your values? Well, if you know what you value, then you’ll know how to spend your limited resources better. If you know your values, you can ask yourself when faced with a decision, “does this reflect my core values?”
An example of how this worked recently was when my wife and I were planning our wedding. We came up with three core values for our wedding theme. The three values we identified were welcoming, personalized, and quaint.
When faced with decisions like which decorations shall we use, glamorous flower arrangements or simple ones using my grandmother’s vases, we reflected on our three core values. We chose the simple vases to reflect our personalized and quaint themes. Thus saving more money as well as better spending our mental energy on other tasks. It felt nice not to chase shiny objects and remain focused.
There’s a list of over 100 possible values for you to choose from at the end of your S.M.A.R.T. Values Planning worksheet. Here are simple directions to help to select your top ones:
- Reflect on the best version of yourself today and the person you hope to be in the future
- Go through the list of values and highlight the ones which immediately pop out at you
- At the same time, cross off ones which don’t jive
- Of the highlighted values, select the top 15 values which are most important to you
- With your top 15 values, think of which ones you currently adopt in your life
- Mark these as your Current Values
- With the remaining top values, think of which ones you want to adopt better in your life
- Mark these as your Aspirational Values
- Select your top four from each category (Current and Aspirational) which you’ll choose to focus on with this exercise and then list them on the relevant page of your worksheet
* If you’re having a tough time choosing your values, ask people close to you for feedback by asking them, “When you think of my personal values, what words come to your mind?”
Develop S.M.A.R.T. Goals
The next part of the exercise is to help you identify how to better live your Current and your Aspirational Values. Let’s discuss how you can set better goals.
Making a goal to lose weight doesn’t mean anything. This is where S.M.A.R.T. goals prove powerful. Here’s a brief video of me explaining S.M.A.R.T. goals with a Homer Simpson toy:
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for:
- S – Specific: you state the task you want to accomplish
- M – Measurable: your progress can be tracked
- A – Attainable: your goal can be realistically achieved with your resources and time
- R – Relevant: your goal excites you and is worthwhile
- T – Time-Oriented: you have a deadline for this goal
Instead of a goal stating, “I want to start saving more money,” an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal reads like, “I will save $500 in my savings account in one month.”
- S – Specific: you state that you want to save money
- M – Measurable: you can measure if you have $500 in your savings account
- A – Attainable: this goal isn’t too far out of reach like saving $10,000 in one month
- R – Relevant: this goal is motivating you because of your desire to save money
- T – Time-Oriented: you gave yourself a month deadline
Going back to the worksheet, make separate S.M.A.R.T. based goals for your each one of your Current Values and your Aspirational Values.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
This quote is credited to former Vice President Joe Biden. I hope you find this quote a good one no matter your political affiliation.
As a Financial Planner, it’s fun to challenge clients to ensure they’re spending their hard-earned money on what they value instead of habitually spending on unnecessary items. Living and spending with intention help align your personal values with your budget.
The final part of this exercise is to nudge you to challenge yourself. Find a way to position your money to better reflect your values. For example, if you listed “Fun” as a core value, then make a goal, “I will spend $75 a month on dance classes.”
As you finish the exercise, create a ritual to revisit this worksheet once a week. If you let the worksheet sit in a desk drawer, you’ll lose motivation. Establish routines so you can challenge yourself to better you Current Values and also adopt your Aspirational Values!
Design Your Life with Your Legacy in Mind
After seeing over ten friends die young, I try to intentionally craft my life to live my values just in case today’s my day.
Life’s too short to procrastinate living your intentional life. I fall victim to grumpy moods and stretches of mental darkness, yet I try to find ways to live my current and aspirational values each week.
For example, when we recently moved to Fort Collins, my core value of “Generosity” wasn’t being fulfilled since I left my local philanthropic efforts in Denver. This void led me to volunteer for Meals on Wheels after learning about this organization on one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Should Know (Episode: How Meals on Wheels Works).
When you’re gone, do you think people will describe the same values you listed earlier? With persistence over time, these values will become part of your identity and how people will remember you. It takes intentional effort and consistent repetition of living these core values. I hope that this exercise will help you focus on how to live your values.
Thanks for reading and if you want guidance on how to navigate your personal finances, please get in touch with me or learn more at Well-Rounded Success’ Services on the website.
About the Author
Dan Andrews is the Leader & CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ of Well-Rounded Success. Dan enjoys guiding and encouraging individuals through a variety of money subjects with a focus on behavioral finance. Dan’s vision is to impact communities by encouraging individuals to define their own paths, handle their responsibilities, and to give back while on their journeys.
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