Hope for your financial life and beyond

Time to Punt This Goal Away

In the game of American football, the offensive team has four downs to move the football ten yards. If they accomplish that feat, they keep their offensive drive alive by receiving four more downs. The process repeats itself over and over until the team kicks a field goal, scores a touchdown or commits a turnover.

NFL PunterOn most possessions, the team only uses three downs to get the requisite yardage. This is because the fourth down is a risky one, in that if the team doesn’t reach the first down marker, they turn the ball over to the opposition, even if they miss it by an inch. This happens no matter where you are at on the field.

So if a team reaches fourth down and they are backed up in their own end or have a long way to go to get the first down, they evaluate the situation and usually choose another option. That option is the punt. On this play, the center snaps the ball to the punter who is standing 10-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He holds the ball in front of him, plants his non-kicking foot and swings his kicking leg forward as the ball drops out of his hands. The ball is launched into the air and down the field to be received by the other team.

It is very much a strategic maneuver designed to minimize risk and gain field position against one’s opponent. It’s recognizing that the team failed on the current drive and is voluntarily giving the ball up. The team hasn’t lost sight of the goal, which is to score and win the game.  But by punting, they have just admitted they will have to wait for future opportunities to score.

The same can be said about goals and I have one I need to punt away.

If you have been tracking my goal progression for 2013, you know I’ve fallen behind on one of my big goals – paying off our mortgage by the end of the year. This happened due to expenses we incurred when completing some upgrades in one of our rental properties. We were in between tenants so it seemed like a great time to complete the upgrades.

We had been drawing funds from our rental business to pay extra each month on our mortgage. When those funds were needed for the property, they obviously couldn’t be used for the mortgage. When I listed that as one of our goals for 2013, I was not anticipating a tenant moving out and doing the upgrades.

It’s tough letting go of a goal that you are really passionate about finishing. My wife and I really want to be completely debt free and the sooner the better. I just don’t see a financial path where we can accomplish it by December. So upon further review, this goal has been spiked.

Have you ever given up on a goal before? Maybe the better question to ask is when do you evaluate the goals, recognize they can’t be reached and then create new ones? That is basically what I’m doing here. I still have the goal to pay off the mortgage. It just can’t happen by December.

Here are my thoughts on when to let go of a goal:

When it’s completely not feasible to complete. As in this case, I would need about 12 months of full rental income applied to our mortgage. There are only seven months left in 2013. Can’t happen.

When life plans or circumstances change and interrupt one’s progression. Again in my scenario, we had a tenant leave unexpectedly. This led us to push forward our repairs before a new tenant could occupy the house.

When you upgrade the goal to something bigger. Sometimes as we pursue a goal, our minds become open to bigger possibilities that we had not realized before. For example, a person may initially only want to write a blog for fun but later realize the potential for making money on a blog. That’s a loftier goal that would require a change in thinking and strategy.

When a delay would prove beneficial. Other times we need to slow down. Perhaps you need a mental break or physical break in order to rejuvenate. I slowed down on my running goal for May because I was dealing with some muscle pain in my left calf. I probably could have run through it but taking a week off and letting it recoup properly has helped me come back stronger.

When it gets too tough. Lets face it – sometimes our goals become too tough to complete. Feels a little dirty to say that – like I’m being weak and quitting. But maybe we underestimated the depth of commitment or resources it would take. Maybe the pursuit of the goal is beginning to impact other areas of our life (like our family relationships) in a negative manner. I’m all for pushing through adversity and being determined but not at the expense of all things that are dear to me.

When it doesn’t really matter. In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter if I pay my mortgage off in December or next July. I may lose some more money in interest payments to the bank but I’m still on track to do something incredible soon – be completely debt free. That’s why, when I evaluated this goal, I wasn’t too depressed to push it back another 6 – 8 months.

I believe it is important to regularly evaluate your goals and make adjustments. It’s OK to punt them away for the right reasons.

How often do you evaluate your goals? What’s the goal you had to give up that hurt the most?

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Next Post: Land of the Free Because of the Brave

Prior Post: Cashiers Gone Wild


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  1. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    That’s the thing about goals, Brian, is that things change. You guys are doing a terrific job on your goals, and you’ll get that mortgage gone soon enough, probably even sooner than you think. 🙂

    • That’s how I feel. Not too stressed about it, especially since the money we were using for our mortgage went to improvements on our rental house. Those improvements will prove financially beneficial in the future.

  2. It is tough call, but you made the right decision. As you said when you set the goal, you had a tenant and now you don’t. The upgrades you’re making might even mean you can charge more for rent, so ultimately you’ll come out ahead. And even though it may feel frustrating to push back your mortgage pay-off date – you’re still achieving a HUGE goal and that has to feel great! I’m a big believer in goal-setting, but also a believer in being flexible. Life happens and you have to adjust goals accordingly. Have a great holiday weekend!

    • I think you are right Shannon in that evaluation and flexibility on goals are essential to success. Life has a funny way of coming along and smacking us for a loop sometimes. And in those moments we have to be open to change. Rigidity will prove frustrating in the end I think. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    I think you made the right call Brian. I think many of these are good reasons to reconsider a goal and is much of the reason why I like to check in on them regularly. I tend to prefer shorter goals, of 12-18 months to help gain better traction.

    • Thanks John. I feel that way. I don’t regret making the goal and I don’t feel bad about changing it. I think shorter term goals are great and prove valuable as part of some longer term goals.

  4. It seems like you made the right call, though. And, most importantly, you’re honest with yourself about it.

    • I would have been kidding myself if I had moved forward and tried to complete this. Plus who knows what dumb financial decisions I could have talked myself into to try and make up the difference I am behind.

  5. I try to do short term goals for this very reason. I’ve never had much luck planning for things in the long term. I think one goal I had to let go of was getting a certification to be a life coach. I just didn’t want to go into huge amounts of debt to finish the courses. I regret not planning better because I had already spent a couple thousand on it. Sorry to hear about the mortgage,but you’ll get there!

    • I think that is a real good point about short term goals. I have some of those as well and like the fact they don’t take as long to accomplish. Feels good to knock off a quick goal in a month or two.

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