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The Thomas Edison guide to achieving your life and financial goals

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Wednesday December 4, 2013 at 4:46pm

If the inventor of the electric light bulb, amongst other things, gives you advice on how to succeed in life it is probably worth taking notice. This is the man who took 10,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb before he succeeded. Although the approach he applied (in italics below) to setting and achieving goals is straight forward, many people miss opportunities because they don’t have help or guidance in tackling what are quite difficult questions.

  1. Be clear about what you want to achieve in your life. Knowing this is not so straightforward. It is often easier to know what you don’t want to happen rather than what you do. No one wants to run out of money, for example. Put better - we all want enough money to have real freedom to choose how to spend our time and do the things that we want to do. For many this is the essence of their life’s financial goal or plan.
  2. Determine how much this is going to cost you. There are good psychological reasons for being absolutely specific about cost rather than accepting an estimate. To work this out you need to know how much you spend living your life now and what significant changes are likely to affect you in the future.
  3. Understand exactly what you intend to give of yourself in order to achieve what you want in life. You have to give to get as they say, there are no free lunches. Investing in your future and knowing what you need to do to achieve your financial life goals is another area where most people need help. For example, many self-employed people see almost half of what they earn go in various taxes. It stands to reason that structuring your financial affairs tax efficiently can reduce the time it would otherwise take to achieve a specific financial goal.
  4. Give yourself a definite date when you will achieve this goal. Again it is important to be specific. Having a deadline to work to is psychologically important in getting things done. Indeed effective time management involves setting artificial deadlines in order to keep tasks on track.
  5. Create a plan for achieving your goal, do not delay, do it now even if you are not in a position to do anything about it. Again this is good advice from a psychological prospective. It is so easy to put this thinking off until you consider yourself in a position to be able to do something about it. The problem is that time will never come. The time to start is now.
  6. Write a clear concise statement with the amount of money you need to achieve your goal (such as becoming financially self-sufficient), the time limit, what you intend to give in return and describe clearly the plan you have to accumulate it.
  7. Read your statement every day and as you read, see, feel and believe yourself already in possession of the money. Again from a psychological perspective we are what we believe of ourselves. The only thing holding us back is our own self-belief and self-confidence. As Henry Ford said, whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, either way you will be right.

The above process articulated all those years ago by Thomas Edison, and more recently by Napoleon Hill, is still absolutely relevant today. Indeed it describes exactly the process we go through with clients when preparing a financial plan, this is financial planning in its purest and most perfect form.

Andy Parker
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner

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