When you’re impatient with your financial goals

impatient financial goalsI want to reach my goals…like yesterday. It’s hard to be patient. And it’s tough when I see other people pull ahead and get there faster.

Sometimes it seems like everyone else has it all figured out and I lag behind at a turtle’s pace.

But even when it seems like everyone else is winning the race in record time, it’s probably not true.

Sometimes we only see what we want to. And what we see isn’t necessarily the truth.

Sure, some people totally rock their goals and get there faster than the rest of us. But we don’t see the behind the scenes work those people have to do to reach their goals. We don’t see how they got started and the obstacles they’ve faced. We don’t see the blood, sweat and tears along the way.

Reaching goals is hard. They can seem to take for ever. And that’s super frustrating.

But it can be helpful to know that, at some point, even those who have already reached their goals have been right where you are.

No one has it all figured out

I entered the personal finance blogosphere long before I ever started my own blog. I religiously read personal finance blogs from the moment I discovered them – you know, the classics, like Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, Budgets are Sexy, and Free Money Finance, just to name a few.

I’ve been reading (and lurking) on these, and other, personal finance sites for a decade, taking their advice and following their journeys.

And then I started my own blog.

I posted a “success” story of how we paid off $100,000 in debt on one income. I write about our pursuit of financial independence. I flaunt my low grocery bill and other frugal habits.

But please don’t look at that and think I have it all figured out. Because I don’t.

I hope you don’t think it was quick and easy. I hope you realize there were ups and downs, I faltered, made heaps of mistakes and, at times, wanted to give up.

I hope you realize I’m still making mistakes and learning. I still get frustrated when I take one step forward and two steps back.

And sometimes, I still feel like everyone else has it all figured out.

I don’t have it all figured out. I never have. I never will. And, guess what? Neither will you. And that’s okay.

Water your own lawn

The grass is always greener on the other side.

There’s always going to be someone else who seems to have it all figured out. And maybe they are further ahead…where you wish you could be. But they had to start somewhere. The most important thing they did was start.

Rather than reading success stories and feeling like you’re doomed, use them as inspiration and motivation. Other’s perspectives, tactics, and life philosophies will help you learn, grow, and think differently. (And that’s why they share them!)

You could choose to believe, “they have it all figured out and I never will”. OR you can learn from those who have gone before you and use that information to push yourself forward. You can keep trying and learning and growing.

Measure YOUR Progress

When you feel lost and slow and frustrated, stop and think. Think about what your life will look like when you reach your goals. And then think about how you will take those first steps to reach them.

For example, at the start of 2017, I set a goal of a 10% improvement in blogging traffic/income each quarter. Instead of measuring my progress against others’, I am measuring my own progress. If one month is better than the last, that’s progress. If not, that’s okay. I’ll take steps to make progress the next month.

So, take a look at where you are today. Set a goal of making measurable progress one month from now (or 3 months, 6 months, 1 year).

The best way to measure your own progress? You know it – SMART goals.

S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – realistic
T – time-based

Specific and measurable gives you the means to look at your progress over time. Look at where you want to be one month from now, write it down, and make a plan to get there. What do you need to do each week to move you closer to the goal? And, then, what do you need to do each day?

The most important part of all? Take action. Every single day. 

You’ll never have it all figured out. But that’s okay. Don’t compare yourself to others, instead focus on what you can control. And start today.

As my friend, Ty, says, “Ready. Fire! Aim. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get started”.

Have you ever felt like everyone else has it all figured out? How do you view success stories? What helped you get started?

47 thoughts on “When you’re impatient with your financial goals

  1. I can relate. I’ve been struggling for a while in several areas and was feeling like I could only make progress in one area at a time while slipping back everywhere else. Maybe that’s okay, but I’m not sure I was prioritizing them correctly either. Now, I’m trying to rank my priorities so at least I’m putting my progress where I think it will make the biggest differences.

    1. That’s a struggle I have as well, Emily. Trying to decide what needs the most attention is tough. I’ve found I can’t give 100% if I’m focusing on too many things at once. But, I still struggle with it daily. Prioritizing is definitely a necessity – I’m in the process of doing the same. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Oh my gosh, Amanda. I feel like this post was SO written for me right now!! I’ve been struggling with this lots lately. Thanks for making me feel better and remember where to keep my focus – on us!!!

    1. Glad you can relate, Laurie! This was written because it’s something I struggle with regularly – you’re definitely not alone! 🙂 I have to remind myself all the time to take a step back and refocus on the important.

  3. I hiked 11 miles on the Appalachian Trail this weekend with a friend who “thru-hiked” the entire trail (GA to Maine!) a few years ago.

    One of the keys to “making it” on the AT is to “Hike Your Own Hike”. It’s the same in personal finance.

    Thanks for the reminder! Good article, as always!

    1. Ooooh, Fritz! Hiking the AT is a dream of mine! You’re so right – in order to get through, you have to do in a way that works for you. As far as the AT goes, for me, it would be sloooow. 😉 Thanks for the comment – LOVE “Hike Your Own Hike”.

  4. Every once in awhile the green-eyed monster pops up out of nowhere, but it’s usually a result of me spending too much time on social media, or me not feeling good about something in my own life, which makes it worse. I think even the richest and most “successful” people feel insecure about something. I try to keep that perspective that we are all just trying to do our best. Run your own race! 🙂

    1. It happens to all of us from time to time, I think, no matter what stage we’re in or how successful we have been. Another good one – “run your own race”! Thanks, Tonya! 🙂

  5. Thanks for the reminder, Amanda. It can definitely get frustrating reading all of these personal finance blogs and seeing the success that seems to come easy to everyone. It’s good to step back every once and a while and realize that the folks that have already been successful were in your shoes at some point.

    1. Thanks, Matt! That’s the thing – you see success everywhere. Sometimes I think I just need to push more and work harder every day – but then I realize I’m forgetting to live life TODAY. It’s a fine balance, it takes time, and it’s only you against yourself.

  6. Comparisons are so hard for me to avoid. Measuring myself helps with this. If I’m always shooting for a personal best, then hopefully the only person I’m trying to compete with is myself.

    1. I love comparisons, but I think I have a different reaction to them than most.. If I feel like I’m less effective than the person I’m comparing myself to, it fuels me to dig deeper and sacrifice and get better. I love a little competition, especially when it comes to debt payoff, savings, frugality, etc., and everyone who competes wins!

    2. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on – measuring my ownprogress. It helps on many levels really. But, sometimes I still have to remind myself to stop the comparisons.

  7. I can remember spinning my wheels not making any progress and feeling like there’s no point in pushing harder because all my friends are already ahead of me. Choosing to stop comparing my own life with everyone around me has been the best thing I could ever do. It allowed me to start living my own life and taking steps every day to be in a better position tomorrow.

    You’ve gotta start somewhere, and the best place is right where you find yourself. Don’t wait to improve your life! Great post!


    1. Thanks, Ryan! Getting started is the biggest step forward. And then taking steps tomorrow and the next day and the next. Consistency and habits compound into success. Agree so much with “Don’t wait to improve your life”. Talking about it gets you nowhere – start “doing” it today!

  8. Being new to the path to taking control of my finances and blogging about it (both of which I feel I have a whole lot to learn) it is nice to hear I am not alone in the struggle.

    Thanks for the reminder of not reading success stories and thinking, “holy hell, I’m never going to reach that point.” But, actually learning from those who have followed this path before.

    Keep kicking ass, Amanda!

    1. Thanks, IH! 🙂 It’s so easy to feel like it’s going to take forever to get there. And I think we all struggle with that and the comparisons from time to time, no matter how hard we try not to. You’re definitely not alone!

  9. Of course, I love the “take action every single day.” It’s like my life mantra! =) Sometimes I wish I would have started blogging earlier in my journey, so it was more of a before/after story. It the 15 years before I started blogging that set the stage to get us where we are. I love where we have landed on our finances, but I wish I could have documented all the blood, sweat and tears because I think that can be encouraging as well.

    1. Yes! Every single day. 🙂 Same here on starting the blog earlier. To have documented our cycle of debt, digging ourselves out, and the changes in our mindset would have been great. But we are still on a journey – and there is still so much to learn and share along the way.

  10. I can definitely relate to this. Once I started reading about early retirement blogs, I feel like I’m behind and beat myself up about it. You really have to stop comparing yourself with others and just make sure you’re making progress and like you said…Take Action every day!

    1. Yes! Since we didn’t start our path to debt freedom and financial security until our 30s, it was sometimes frustrating to read about those that reached FI by 30! But we can only learn from those people and move forward. Each day takes you one step closer.

  11. “Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly.” – Unknown

    I agree with you, Amanda. Life is better when we measure against our own progress and not others. Comparing would only make us depressed and feel down because we aren’t “as fast” as others. The most important thing is that we’re still trying and willing to take action to move a little at a time.

    1. Love that quote! Yes – taking action is the key. As long as you get started and continue to do something to move forward each day, you will make progress. Maybe not as quickly as you’d like, but it will happen.

  12. Yes! Thank you for writing and sharing this, Amanda.

    This: “I want to reach my goals…like yesterday.” I have greatly been feeling this way lately and had to take a step back and remember that just six months ago our family was going backwards. Now we have awesome habits and lots to show for them. Do I wish I was living on 25% of my income and preparing for FIRE? I wouldn’t complain, but I agree with you that it is important to measure against ourselves.

    1. I’m glad to share, Melanie and I hope it helped. I still get impatient. But like you said, taking a step back and looking at how far you’ve come already is a great way to stay the path. It takes time to make multiple changes, so developing those awesome habits is the key to continued progress. Congrats on a great 6 months! 🙂

  13. As humans our natural tendency is to want to judge ourself by others. The problem is its the road to ruin. Theres always someone better, either by knowing more or just by being at it longer. It’s good to use competition as a driver of course, but if you look closer one of the biggest divers of unhappiness is comparing oneself to others. Studies have even shown that correlations indicate comparing yourself financially increases the likelihood of suicide.

    1. Thanks, FTF. That’s the thing – though the competition and comparing can drive us to do more and more – an attempt to catch up or keep up is not the healthiest way to go about it. Thanks for the comment!

  14. Couldn’t agree more. It’s good to have set measurable goals for ourselves, but trying to compare ourselves with others can just lead to dissatisfaction. There will always be someone who is richer and more successful. But instead of concentrating on them, we need to keep an eye on ourselves and track our own progress 🙂

    Great read!

    1. Thanks, Mr. CK! It’s that dissatisfaction that is one of the biggest threats to our happiness. Focusing on ourselves, where we’re at, where we want to be, and then taking action to get there – that is satisfying! And we don’t want to forget to enjoy the journey as we go. 🙂

  15. It is always so important to hear this. Especially from people whose writing you respect and admire. We live in a world where everyone is laying it all out there… we have little peepholes into everyone’s lives and finances and it is easy to get discouraged when you feel like you don’t stack up. We need reminders that we can never see anyone’s whole picture, except our own. That’s the one we need to focus on anyway…

    1. Thank you so much, Linda! 🙂 Our lives definitely “out there” today with technology and social media playing such a big role. You’re right, we don’t see the whole picture and we don’t need to because we shouldn’t be focused on them.

  16. Patience is even harder when we have instant gratification at our fingertips for so many different avenues of life & it’s a virtue we all lack to some extent. We can stream movies & tv on demand, go to Wal-Mart 24/7 (except Thanskgiving day & Christmas eve night), fly anywhere in the world by charging a plane ticket to our credit card the day before takeoff…

    I like the suggestion to water our own grass. Too often we sit idly instead of doing something about it & not being part of the solution.

    1. We definitely live in a world of instant gratification. But delayed gratification is a virtue that pays off in the long run in many respects. Definitely easier said than done, though.

      It’s taking the action that makes a difference. Waiting for the “right” time or convincing ourselves the cards are stacked against us is futile. There are solutions, we just have to find them – and then act on them.

  17. “I posted a “success” story of how we paid off $100,000 in debt on one income.” Hey! No quotation marks needed there! That isn’t a “success” – it’s a SUCCESS. Which points to another discouragement many of us tend to impose upon ourselves . . . We minimize our victories. “Well, I guess it wasn’t that big a deal.” Your debt repayment remains a life-changer, Amanda. Savor that victory as you move forward : )

    1. Thanks, Ruth! It was a success. And it did change our lives! You’re so right, we do tend to minimize our victories. I don’t celebrate the wins nearly as much as I should. My tendency is to keep on keeping on and move on to the next goal. And I hadn’t really given it much thought until now. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!

  18. I am definitely guilty of this, whether it’s financial progress or blogging progress! I find it frustrating when I see other new bloggers doing really well, which sounds awful – I am of course happy for their success, but I am just frustrated because I have such little time to spend on my blog.
    I definitely agree that it’s best to measure your progress against yourself!

    1. It’s totally normal to feel that way, Francesca! We all feel that way from time to time. I try to guard against it by measuring my own progress, but I still get frustrated. I try to reign it in, and bring myself back when it happens, though it’s not always an easy task! 🙂

  19. Yes, this is so true! I definitely get impatient and also compare myself with others’ stories, though I think it helps to remember that people are sharing their stories to motivate and encourage others about what’s possible. It’s usually not to brag, show off, or encourage comparison. I think it’s just human nature to compare! I love the response you suggest–focusing on where you want to be and how to get there, rather than on where someone is.

    1. Totally agree, Kalie! Those sharing their stories want to show that it can be done – it’s meant for inspiration and motivation. And, yes, it’s really human nature to compare, so it’s hard to keep it from creeping in now and then. But focusing on our own progress really helps.

  20. I love this! I get so frustrated at times seeing how other people are paying off their houses, or saving half their income, and we literally just paid off our car! Why would I waste my time being unhappy because someone else is celebrating something different? We humans are crazy, irrational things, and it’s good to have reminders like this every once in a while to smack us around a little bit and get our heads screwed back on straight.

    1. Thanks, Kyle! It’s easy to get frustrated – it happens to all of us from time to time! Even though I track my own progress, it sometimes feels painfully slow. Looking back and seeing how far I’ve come really helps though. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  21. Thank you, Amanda. It never hurts to be reminded that no one has it all figured out. And your advice to the discouraged is spot on. Don’t beat yourself up for past failures, start “watering your lawn,” and keep your future mistakes small. Do those three things and you will soon find yourself in a better place.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Groovy! I love how you summed it all up so nicely. 🙂

  22. I do a fair amount of running and it’s tempting to try to compare and compete against other runners in a race. Although it can be helpful to learn from faster runners and use them as a target, in the end I’m just trying to do better than MY last race.

    It’s been similar in the FIRE space. Some folks seem to have the end in sight (or are already there) and we still have years to go. Other blogs seem to be generating much more traffic and comments than ours. As long as we are making steady progress toward OUR goals, then I’m happy 🙂

    1. Yes! I love the running example, Mr. Need2save. I learned this in Tae Kwon Do relatively quickly. There are always going to be those that are faster and stronger (and younger) than me, so I focus on doing better on each test than I did on the last. If I didn’t do this, I would have given up and quit a long time ago.

      And, YES, it’s totally the same with FIRE and blogging. I like to use others’ stories as inspiration and motivation, but measure my own progress. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  23. Yes I have definitely felt this way! It’s actually why I’ve intentionally limited my social media use. Instead of spending time viewing social media, I can use that time to work towards more productive things. It’s worked out well for me the past month (I just started being proactive about it). I also think I have some big goals and dreams of entrepreneurship, but I’m not there yet, so I can sometimes get down about that – especially when I compare myself to others who are further on their journey.

    1. I limited my personal social media use several years ago and haven’t looked back! I think we all get down about not getting to our goals faster. The key is to recognize it and keep moving forward.

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