Creating My Life

Paint By Numbers Living

Setting numerical goals can be both a prison and a liberation. Having numbers to aim for, such as pounds to loose, miles to run, dollars to earn, books to read, fruit to eat, phone calls to make or words to write, can either turn into a “should”, leading to resentment and often giving up, or can help to motivate us or help us to adjust our course, as we work towards achieving them.

What makes the difference is our attitude and how conscious we are of our choices.

Here’s an example. Yesterday, I found an old exercise in one of my journals. I’d listed the things I wanted to create in my life. Then I allocated an amount of money to each of them, so I could see how much I needed to earn, on a daily basis, in order to have them.

I’ve done this type of exercise on a number of different occasions but it has never been that useful to me. That’s because I know that much of the lifestyle I desired couldn’t simply be bought. So, despite my best intentions, I’ve always ended up feeling the exercise was a bit pointless.

Today, I decided to experiment with a different approach. Instead of just writing off this process as useless, I asked myself how this exercise might help me rather than if it would.

I know from past experience that setting a numerical goal in a numerical context can be a great motivator. For example, when I wanted to pay off my credit card debt I drew up a graph with 3 different coloured lines. Two represented the amount I owed on two different credit cards and the third represented the total debt. The lines went from the left hand side of the graph showing the amount I currently owed to zero at the point in the future by which I wanted it paid off. Every month, after receiving my credit card statements, I plotted the actual amount that I still owed.

Having a visual numerical representation of my progress inspired me to keep going and to beat the goals I’d set. The second month, which was one with a lot of family birthdays, was the only one  when I didn’t meet or surpass my targets.

So, in this situation, where my goals were easily quantifiable, making them measurable was hugely successful.

However, not all goals are quantifiable and even when they are, the way in which they are achieved is critical as to whether they feel like a prison or a liberation.

Creating a desired future lifestyle is never going to keep you motivated if the journey to it’s creation is filled with stress, striving or struggle. So it’s important to remember that the numbers are a tool – something to aim for – but they are not the destination.

The destination is the process. It’s about the journey itself.

So, bearing that in mind – how might the exercise of monetising a lifestyle be helpful?

1.  It gives me something concrete that I can measure my progress against.

2.  It gives me something concrete that I can measure my results against, so I can adjust my course if I’m no longer on target.

And . . .

3. When I have the experience of working towards the results I can see if I enjoy the journey enough to make their pursuit worthwhile.


  • George

    Gillian, I LOVE this entry!

    You’re so not alone in struggling with numerical goals. This really helps me so I’m doing a list today and I have a renewed motivation to tackle my goals from this perspective!