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Motivation begins by listing ABCs

Q. It’s hard to find the motivation to set financial goals. How can I get inspired?

A. Living life on purpose requires that you understand three things: where you are now, where you want to go, and the person you want to become. Whether you are the president of a successful corporation or barely scraping by to provide for your family, there is great value in digging deep and reflecting on what is most important in life to you.

Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, once said, “When your values are clear, your decisions are easy.” The small decisions we make each day are like brushstrokes that paint the canvas of our lives. So how does one get inspired to set goals and make smart choices? I’m not talking about the emotional high you get from a pep-rally or motivational speaker; I mean true, lasting inspiration.

I believe the key is personal introspection. Consider finding a quiet, relaxing place where you are sure not to be interrupted for an hour or two. Have a notepad and a pen handy, and begin by reflecting on your ABCs.

A is for accomplishments

First, make a list of everything you have accomplished over the past year or several years. How did you spend your time? What are your victories, both in business and life? What problems did you solve? What relationships did you mend? What bad habit did you kick? Focus on the positive and be honest with yourself. The list can be long or short. What are your accomplishments?

B is for blessings

Next, reflect on all of the blessings you have experienced over that time. What are you thankful for in life where you simply cannot take the credit? What opportunities materialized? What new relationship or friendship came into your life? How about family and spiritual growth? Health? What are your blessings?

C is for challenges

List the challenges you encountered in the past year, both professionally and personally. How did you grow as a person? What did you learn from these experiences? Looking to the future, what hurdles do you face in the year ahead? Again, be honest and confront the brutal truth.

S is for steps

After you have gained perspective on your accomplishments, blessings and challenges, consider what steps you can take to make this year better than the last. What can you do differently each day to move closer to the direction you want to be? Powerful goals will pull you into the future.

To complete the exercise, take a 3-by-5 card and write down the five things in life that are most important to you. This will take some more deep thought. Think in terms of priorities. On the other side of the card, write down your steps from the ABCs exercise. Carry that card with you. Look at it every day. And share it with your trusted adviser to weave your values into your financial planning decisions and create accountability. In the end, you will be motivated by what you value most.

Loran Graham is a certified financial planner and member of the local Financial Planning Association chapter. Submit questions on financial planning to askaplanner@