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  • Timothy Iseler

Wishes and Goals – What Is The Difference?

Most people entertain ideas of what they will do someday when they have the time. The stack of books to read, the language learning app that you kind of forgot, maybe even build a brick pizza oven in the back yard. 

It is important to recognize which of these ’some day’ plans are wishes and which are goals.

To wish is to "feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable”. A goal is "the object of a person's ambition or effort”. The primary distinction between wish and goal is the effort relative to the desired outcome.

I once heard someone respond to an interviewer's question about goals by quoting HL Hunt:

"There are only three requirements for success. First, decide exactly what it is you want in life. Second, determine the price that you are going to have to pay to get the things you want. And third, and this is most important, resolve to pay that price."

The price might be time, energy, money, or missed opportunities while pursuing one goal over others. It might mean long hours and sacrificing personal relationships in pursuit of the goal. The price might involve giving up security and predictability. If one is unwilling to pay the cost, then one must accept the desired result as a wish and not a goal.

Here is an easy example: many people want to be more physically fit, though what that means varies from person to person. To one person it might mean losing a few extra pounds; to another it might mean being able to complete a marathon; for someone else maybe eating a diet focused on a certain result. In any case, something must be ‘paid’ to reach the goal – effort at the gym, money spent on higher quality groceries, time spent running when you could be sleeping in on a Saturday. Determine the price and pay it.

As a thought exercise, spend some time thinking about one or two goals which, when accomplished, would significantly change your quality of life. It does not matter how big or small – just one or two things that would undeniably benefit you in a meaningful way. For each goal, write down 1-3 requirements of that goal (the ‘payment’). Are you willing to do, spend, and sacrifice what is required in order to reach the result you want? If so, you now have a few ways to take the first step. Nothing to it but to do it.

Maybe, after a little research, you to decide that the cost of pursuing a goal is genuinely too high. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that and redirecting your effort elsewhere. Or maybe you follow through, put in the time and effort, and still come up short. Nothing wrong with that either – at least you honestly tried. The important part is to recognize the result you want, decide if the price is worth the benefit, and carpe that diem.

Timothy Iseler, CFP®

Founder & Lead Advisor

Iseler Financial, LLC | Durham NC | (919) 666-7604

Iseler Financial helps creative professionals remove stress while taking control of their financial futures. As both advisor and accountability partner, we help identify current strengths and weaknesses, clarify and refine your long-term goals, and prioritize understandable, manageable, and repeatable actions to bring long-term financial well-being. Reach out today to take the first step.

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