A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

Why I'm Addicted To Goal Setting (And 2018 Goals In Review)

I've recently realized that I am addicted to goal setting. 

In my life, there's a goal for everything:

I set daily goals, monthly goals, and yearly goals. 

I set personal goals and professional goals. 

I set goals related to finances, hobbies, travel, blogging, and family. 

Heck, I even set goals for my vacations:

I crave challenges, and goal setting allows me to create personal challenges for every aspect of my life. It's stimulating. It makes even the most boring daily grind feel like a playful experiment.

Another benefit of goal setting: it helps me distinguish between what I actually want and what I only think I want. I can't tell you how many times I've drifted completely off course while going after something I felt obligated to pursue or that I thought I might enjoy doing because it looked cool on paper (remind me to tell you about the time I signed up for boat-building school...) As a result, I'm now plagued by indecision and uncertainty: do I want to work for a company or work for myself? Do I want to stay in my current career or make a big change? Do I want to prioritize saving or paying off student loans? Do I want to lose a couple of pounds or enjoy my wine, chocolate, and bagels? 

Feeling directionless and muddling through myriad possibilities seemed okay (even good!) when I was younger, but now that I'm 40, I'm more inclined to cut to the chase. More than ever, I desire clarity.

To this end, specific and manageable goals help. If I care about my goals, I'll make them happen. If I don't, I'll quickly lose interest - a sure sign that I'm moving in the wrong direction. It's a great way for me to shuck off the dead weight of pursuits that don't mean that much to me and focus my energy on the things that do.

So What Did I Learn From Our 2018 Goals?

In 2018, I collected lots and lots (and lots) of goals:
Here's how some of them panned out and what I/we learned from them:

Goal 1: Pay off our credit cards by May 2018.

Did we do it?: Sort of! We didn't meet our May deadline, but we did pay them off at the beginning of July. Considering that we landed a hefty hospital bill earlier in the spring, I'm counting it as a major win.

What did we learn? As we worked to bring our credit card balances to zero, we realized that paying off our debts is one of our biggest priorities. Reaching that goal made us even more determined to knock out our student loan debt.

Goal 2: Become homeowners!

Did we do it?: Oh my sweet summer child (I'm talking to end-of-2017 me here). Not even close.

What did we learn? Realistically, buying a house was always more of a pie-in-the-sky dream than a true goal because houses here are expensive and we had/have little money for a down payment. We are in no position to take on the financial responsibility of owning and maintaining our own home. We know it now, and we knew it then. But when I wrote this goal at the end of 2017, we were in a horrible, noisy, smoky-smelling rental situation and I was looking for a way out.

Luckily, we managed to find a new rental in February. We paid thousands of dollars to break our former lease, but we love our place and have no regrets whatsoever. Not a night goes by that I don't bask in the glory of the silence that surrounds me. I'd live here forever if we had rent control.

Goal 3: Find a new job that better aligns with my education, experience, and interests.

Did I do it? Yes! I was offered a new, higher-paying position almost exactly a year ago.

What did I learn? My old job was terrible and I stayed much longer than I should have. So when I landed my current job, I was over the moon... for about two months. Then I realized that I'd jumped out of a frying pan and straight into a fire. Pro tip: do not leave a job in a field you've grown to despise for another job in the same field. Now I'm in the process of trying to change careers. We'll see how it turns out.

Goal 4: Refinance our student loan payments.

Did we do it: Nope. 

What did we learn?: One, it's possible that we're a little lazy. Two, we're okay with our current monthly payments. Three, although our interest rates are somewhat high (at 7% and 7.25%), federal student loans come with some nice perks, including the ability to defer payments if needed. I'm not completely convinced that refinancing with a private lender is worth giving up that wiggle room, but we will look into it in the coming year after I pay off my loan. 

Goal 5: Volunteer with a local running group.

Did I do it? Yes! I volunteered with a Couch-to-5K program that prepares new runners for their first race. 

What did I learn?: I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would. I'm not good at making small talk with people I don't know that well. Nevertheless, I'm glad I did it and would consider doing it again because it's a good way to be involved in my community.

Goal 6: Run a 50K.

Did I do it? No. 

What did I learn?: I learned that running for long periods of time can actually exacerbate my depression. I ramped up my running mileage throughout the summer and into the early fall with the intention of completing my first 50K in November. But as September wore on, I started to dread being out on the trails by myself for hours at a time. It wasn't fun. It felt like punishment. It made my seasonal depression even more painful.

As a compromise to myself and a nod to the hard work I'd already put in, I ran a 20-mile relay with a bunch of other women in September but backed out of the ultra. Then I shifted gears and began weight training. I'm not sure I'll set a running goal in 2019. I'll have to see how I feel in the spring.

Goal 7: Open my own Etsy store.

Did I do it? Yes, and I made several sales.

What did I learn? This is a classic example of me realizing that I don't want what I thought I did. I quickly lost interest in maintaining and advertising the store. I just didn't feel passionate enough about it and didn't have the time or motivation to improve my product. Now I know!

Goal 8: Do a dry June.

Did I do it? No again.

What did I learn? For a goal that involves habit change, you have to really want it. I was on the right track: I started my dry spell at the end of May and made it through the first week of June without touching any alcohol. Then Anthony Bourdain died. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did. My partner and I had a few beers to celebrate his life and that was that. I could have picked up where I left off, but I didn't, because I didn't want it that badly.

The Tally

Four out of eight. Not the greatest outcome, if you're looking at it from a pure numbers perspective. But for me, it's not about success or failure. It's about staying motivated and learning more about myself. As I make my goals for 2019 (stay tuned!), I'll keep these lessons in mind and focus my efforts accordingly.

What about you? What goals did you set for 2018? Which ones did you reach, and which ones didn't work out?


  1. Well I definitely didn't reach my financial goals. lol! ugh! I believe in goals too. I know there is some talk about how people fail at them and they are bad, yada yada, but I, like you, need a sense of direction of where I'm going, even if I fall short sometimes. Looking forward to seeing what you have planned for next year! BTW this is Tonya from Budget and the Beach. For some reason I can't leave a comment under that name.

    1. It's because Blogger is weird!

      I crave direction. I NEED goals in my life... even if I meet only a few of them. :-D

  2. I'm a goal setter too. I reached some of my financial goals for 2018 - retirement savings, paying off the credit card & redraw but I didn't reach my mortgage goal or my weight loss goal- fortunately there is always next year!

    1. Retirement savings and paying off the credit cards are huge wins! Nicely done, and congratulations!

  3. I appreciate your desire for clarity at 40--me, too :)

    1. I have to admit that 40 is throwing me for a loop. I just have this need to get it together and figure things out.

  4. The comment on long runs is really fascinating to me. I’ve never run more than 14 miles in one go, so I’m not certain if this would be me or not. The “long” runs I do in comparison certainly help with my anxiety, but I have no idea if there’s a point where it would reverse itself.

    1. It's not what I had expected, that's for sure. I've trained for long runs before, and it was fun. This time, the long runs made me hate training. I still don't have a huge desire to run more than a few miles right now.

  5. You and I are the same with goal setting. As I looked forward to 2019, I really had to make sure I paired down my goals to what I thought was achievable in a year. (At one point, I tried to set like 20... Thank God my husband was like, yo, that's crazy). Congrats on making some of your goals! And learning about yourself on the way. I thought that your perspective on long runs was rather insightful. I've never ran more than about 10 miles, and want to run an ultra, but I hadn't considered that it might at some point not help.

    1. It wasn't what I was expecting, that's for sure! I've always loved running... so it threw me off when I started to despise the long runs. Kind of bummed about it but we'll see what happens this year.