How to Run Your Own Race

“Stay in your own lane.” I repeat this quote to myself often these days, as a reminder to keep my proverbial head down and focus on my own life, rather than rubbernecking somebody else’s. While a lot has changed in the two years since I first published this post, the veracity of living your own life remains the same. 

“To be beautiful means to be yourself.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

About three years ago, I was talking to a friend about training for a half marathon. “I would really love to finally run a sub-two (13.1 miles in under 2 hours),” I told him, “like [our other running friends.] But I’m just so slow!” “You have to run your own race,” he told me.

Those words have stuck with me, probably because I struggle mightily with comparisons. I know, intellectually, that comparing yourself to others is the root of poor self-esteem. We all start at different places in life, and that if we compare one part of our life with someone else’s, we should compare every part of our life.
I know this. And yet… Continue reading “How to Run Your Own Race”

Setting Better Goals for 2019

Each year, I write out a set of goals for the coming year. I’m usually finished by mid-December.

This year, however, after reading a lot on how goal-setting can be counter-productive, I’m writing my 2019 goals a little differently (and it’s taken a little longer, too!).

Our Focus This Year

“Unfortunately, goals can focus attention so narrowly that people overlook other important features of a task,” say the authors of a Harvard Business School working paper on the unintended consequences of goal-setting.

For the past several years in New Hampshire, we were laser-focused on financial goals, perhaps to the detriment of other parts of our lives, like friendship.

Especially after we set our goal to become location independent and double our net worth, most of my yearly goals related to saving and investing more.

After all, we were just a few years out from starting our financial journey by paying off our debt, building up our net worth, paying off our debt again, and doubling our net worth.

The authors contend that goal-setting makes it difficult to deal with randomness and change, something we definitely noticed last year. After all, a mid-year move to North Carolina wasn’t on our yearly goal sheet! We realized that said move was way more important than words on a piece of paper and adjusted accordingly.

Continue reading “Setting Better Goals for 2019”

How Other People Can Help You Reach Your Goals

We all need a little help in life. When it comes to staying on track with our goals, friends and partners can make a huge difference in your success rate.

Sometimes you need a bit of outside help to keep you on track for those big financial goals. Here's a list of the people who can help! @lauriethreeyear #financialgoals #frugalfriends #pfadvice

Running Partners

For example, I’m currently training for a half marathon. A college friend reached out to me to see if I wanted to sign up with her. We live about 40 minutes apart, so we can’t train together, but we text each other our stats.

On Saturday, I needed to run 8 miles. I’d arranged with another neighborhood friend to run early Saturday morning. The night before, Friday night, a friend had a get-together. If I had to run those eight miles by myself, with no one to support me or keep me on track, I’m sure I would have stayed way too late at the get-together and would have found a reason not to get up the next morning. 

Continue reading “How Other People Can Help You Reach Your Goals”

End of the Year Goals Update 2018

This is the end, my only friend… (cue The Doors music). We have reached the last few days of the year. You know why I love this time of year? Let me be honest:

  1. presents. I love getting them, and I love giving them.
  2. year-end bonus. Mr. ThreeYear gets his bonus in December so we have this whole chunk of extra money burning a hole in our pockets (okay, not really-it usually goes to worthy financial goals. But we still splurge a little with it).
  3. Christmas music. It’s cozy and it reminds me of happy Christmases of yore (another totally holiday-appropriate word, yore is).
  4. Family. I get to hang out with my extended family during the holidays.
  5. New beginnings! The end of the year is the time when I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals, which gives me a happy, productive feeling, and then I have the excitement of creating a new goal sheet for the coming year.

While I gave you an update midyear , let’s see how I ended the year with these goals.

Continue reading “End of the Year Goals Update 2018”

How to Set Great Goals for 2019

Last year, I published a guide for setting great goals in 2018. I thought it was worth revising for 2019. I’m excitedly setting goals for the coming year, and I have some great ideas brewing. This is the first year I’m goal setting for the blog, too! Enjoy your weekend, and if the mood strikes, put some goals to paper for 2019.

One thing is clear to me as we ride out the end of this year: if you set great goals for 2019, it will make a huge difference in what you’re able to accomplish next year. The world we live in today is practically designed to distract us from keeping our eyes on our most important goals and work (for example, as I’m typing this, I’m trying to ignore the loud cartoon my kids are watching across the room). So focus is key. And great goals help you keep your focus, all year long.

But how do you figure out the best goals to set for the upcoming year? Maybe you have fifteen burning desires that you’d love to achieve, but you don’t know how to prioritize them. Or maybe life is motoring along just fine, and you know you’d probably like to improve something, but you’re not sure what.

I found myself asking those exact same questions several years ago, and here’s what I’ve figured out really works when it’s time to goal set for the upcoming year.

1. Get Crystal Clear on your Values

It’s hard to prioritize your goals if you haven’t defined your values. What are your values, though? Values are what you judge to be the most important things in your life–the things that deep down, you care about the most. Given that definition, it seems like it would be easy to figure out your values. But it’s not always.

Sometimes, you want to value something that you actually don’t care about that much. For example, when I was in my 20s, I lived in Santiago, and Mr. ThreeYear and I were figuring out where we should go next. I was offered the opportunity to become part of an MBA program where I’d complete half in Chile and half at a great school in Texas. But I declined, ostensibly because I wanted to get into a top-10 MBA school, like Wharton. In the end, though, we moved back to the US and I didn’t go to an MBA school at all. To the shock of almost everyone in my family, I became a stay-at-home mom for seven-and-a-half years. It turns out that what I thought were my values–getting an MBA and climbing the corporate ladder–weren’t really my values at all. I really valued family, which was the real reason I didn’t stay in Chile to start an MBA, because I missed my family back in the US and wanted to go home. And I really valued motherhood, and making sure my children had a secure start in life.

Boys firetruck crying www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Ahh, motherhood.

One of the best ways I’ve found to figure out your real values is the “What do I want?” exercise. It’s fairly simple. You take out a sheet of paper, and at the top, write, “What do I want?” Now, all you do is list the things you want. They can be as small and insignificant, or as large and pie-in-the-sky as you want. Anything that comes to mind goes on the list.

When you start this exercise, your first few wants will probably be fairly trivial and perhaps materialistic.

Continue reading “How to Set Great Goals for 2019”

Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House

Hi there! It’s Wednesday and time for another installment of Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years. 

Today’s post is from Claudia from Two Cup House. Claudia is a personal finance blogger, SEO consultant, and trainer who moved into a tiny house with her husband Garrett in order to get closer to financial independence. 

Claudia and her husband paid off six figures in debt in just a few years by downsizing to a tiny house and starting their own business. Now, they’re pursuing FI, but not RE (that’s financial independence, but not retiring early). Read on to find out:

  • how they were able to pay off $200,000 in a short time
  • how they’ll balance building their business with travel
  • the one place in their budget they’re not frugal

If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.

What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?

We grew up in different parts of Pennsylvania and have spent most of our lives here.  Unsurprisingly, we’re Penn State grads.

My husband, Garrett, and I live in a 500 sq ft house in Lancaster County, PA.  We don’t have kids (and don’t plan to have kids).

Today, we’re self-employed.  We run our own marketing consulting and training business.  

How did you come to the realization that something needed to change in your life?

At the end of 2014, we heard a radio program about personal finance.  People were talking about getting out of debt, which was unusual to us.  After hearing enough episodes, we sat down to take a look at our own debt and found we had more than $200,000 in debt (including a mortgage), which made us both feel quite uneasy.

What will that change look like?

Deciding to downsize and sell our home was the first big step.  I found a full-time job.  And, we started a side hustle.  All of this happened within the first four months of 2015.  Once we put a plan in place, we wanted to make all the big changes as fast as possible.

Now, we’re pursuing some level of financial independence.  We seek to invest enough to have dividends to cover our basic expenses, so we invest half of our income toward the goal.

Two Cup House Interview www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Claudia and Garrett sold their 1,500 square foot house and downsized to a 500 square foot house to pay off their debt and reduce their living expenses. They now live mortgage-free.

How are you employing a three-year experiment to make it happen (i.e., what’s your three-year plan)?

Since we’re doing well with our finances, we decided we don’t have to rush to the finish line.  Balancing work and life is the focus this year.

The first year of our three-year plan will be 2019.  We will begin traveling the US and invest half of our income.  And, we’re launching a new project that will help us grow our business.

The second year of our three-year plan is to bring in a partner of sorts to help us grow your new project (and subsequently our business).  Scaling this new project requires more help than we have today, a necessary step to maintaining work-life balance.  We’re planning to travel more of the US and then also take a trip to Europe for a few months.

The third year of our three-year plan is to improve our second-year efforts by looking at the data, figuring out what works so we can continue doing more of that, and eliminating what doesn’t work to make us more efficient.  We’ll be traveling around our favorite parts of the US and abroad to find a small plot of land we can call “home” in the future.

What have been some challenges you’ve run into?

With respect to our personal finances, we have a tendency to push the “easy” button when it comes to dinner, so we’re not always the most frugal.

What have you found easier than expected?

Living in a small house makes life a lot easier.  We don’t spend as much time cleaning or maintaining a home as we used to.  We find we’re happier than we were in the big house.

Two Cup House Cats www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The Penningtons share their 500 square feet with their cats, too.

Do you think you’ll reach your goals in three years? Longer? Shorter?

I think it’s going to take us more time than we expect to grow our business, but since we’re on the slow road to financial independence, we’re not all that concerned if it takes another year to get there.

However, I think we’ll find our next patch of grass sooner rather than later.  We’ve wanted to relocate for several years and have already identified a few places we like.

What are you looking forward to once you’ve reached your goal(s)?

Having the ability to take our business on the road with us is the goal, so I’m looking forward to the start of our travels 2019.  Achieving financial independence will just be the icing on the cake.

Continue reading “Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House”

Your Three Year Experiment: Trevor

Hi there! Today is the second in my new series, Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years. 

Today’s post is from Trevor, a freelance writer who writes on behalf on Porsche Atlanta Perimeter. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, spending time with his family, jamming on his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable. In this interview, he’ll share:

  • the surprising tipping point to him finally getting sober
  • his three-year plan to create a massive savings fund for himself
  • how’s he able to make a living as a freelancer

If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.

What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?

I was the “good kid” in high school and even maintained that in my early days of community college. This was before addiction took hold. In my early 20s, I started partying hard. It felt like I became the “cool kid” I always wanted to be. I’d never say no to a night of drinking, and everyone knew it. They’d all call me whenever they wanted to go out, and I wasn’t one to disappoint. I’d close out any bar on any night of the week.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I needed to drink. I dropped out of college to help my parents with bills, and things got progressively worse from there.   Continue reading “Your Three Year Experiment: Trevor”

Setting Short Term vs. Long Term Goals

One of the weird things about reaching a big life goal is the feeling of, “what now?”

Since our family achieved our goal of becoming location independent earlier this summer, we only have, oh, I don’t know, the rest of our lives to live. What do we focus on now?

As we all know, the effects of achieving goals on your short term happiness are pretty high, but long term, you tend to go back to feeling like the same-old person you were before you achieved the goal, albeit with more self-confidence or belief in yourself that “you are a person who accomplishes the goals you set for yourself.”

We’re enjoying the benefits of our move–more time with our family members, impromptu get togethers, good schools, more support, warmer weather, a more vibrant community. I’ll often still get a thrill when I’m riding through our town or feeling the (still very warm) sun on my face when I step outside. Those feelings remind me to be grateful for where we live and for the ability to craft the life we so deeply desired.

We’re also living through the day-to-day: getting up and going to work each morning (with an admittedly shorter commute), getting homework done, making decisions about after-school activities, helping kids navigate the turbulent emotions of childhood. These day-to-day struggles remind me that wherever I go, there I’ll be. That the more things change, the more they stay the same. They remind me that much of my achievements will have to be small, daily practices that don’t necessarily get me closer to giant goals, but help me better muddle through the everyday messiness of life.  Continue reading “Setting Short Term vs. Long Term Goals”

On the Other Side of a Goal

Just after July 10, 2016 (i.e. my 37-th birthday), Mr. ThreeYear and I set a goal. Well, I set a goal and he went along with another crazy-will-this-actually-work idea of mine. A goal to double our net worth and become location independent in three years.

The seed was planted that summer, in a graduate class I was taking, when my professor mentioned an option for ESL teachers with Masters degrees to teach overseas as part of a program with the State Department.

It was planted fifteen years earlier, when I’d met a flight attendant in my ESL training program in Quebec who divided her time between Ecuador and Montreal.

It was planted three years before that, when I’d met a guy in college who grew up the first half of his life in South America and the second in Asia.

The seed was planted when I read about Tsh Oxenreider, founder of the Art of Simple website, who traveled around the world with her family and chronicled their journey in her book.

It was planted when I started to meet more and more people who worked from home, or worked remotely. Continue reading “On the Other Side of a Goal”

Is All Our Goal Setting Messing with Our Happiness?

I live in a land of achievers. Our nation of immigrants has come scratching and clawing their way to a better life, risking everything to work hard so the next generation has more.

Or at least that’s the narrative. I grew up hearing stories of my immigrant great-grandfather, a Russian Jew who entered Ellis Island alone at nine years old to escape the Czar’s army. He somehow managed to survive living in NYC’s garment district and selling newspapers, relying at least once on the kindness of a stranger’s $5 tip to live through the winter.

As a young man, he moved to South Carolina, married a Gentile, had four kids, the youngest of whom was my paternal grandfather, and opened a successful clothing store. Like many second generation Jewish children, my grandfather, and in turn, my father, went into medicine.

I grew up in a Type A, achievement-oriented house. I was never overtly taught to set goals. It’s just embedded in both my DNA and my conditioning.

In this blog, I regularly share both my process for setting goals and my progress, updating you on how I’m doing with these arbitrary measures I’ve set for gauging my life’s work.  There are plenty of times in life where I haven’t set goals, namely when I was living in Chile as a 20-something and right after I had kids, when the biggest goal I could muster was to survive the day. Even then, I started working with a MLM company shortly after and set goals out the wazoo.

The times when I didn’t have goals feel, in hindsight, like wandering, anchorless times. At the end of my stay in Chile, I became incredibly disillusioned because I was so ready to move back to the US and get on with life.  Never mind that I was busy living it in Santiago.

While goal-setting has helped me put some parameters around a mind that’s particularly good at planning for the future (which is what Martin Seligman says distinguishes us from other primates), has it increased my happiness, as I like to think, or has it promulgated a restlessness, a longing for more, that has undercut my ability to appreciate the here-and-now?

When school starts in two weeks, my boys will go back to school and I’ll be officially not working (because playing cruise director with two kids and a puppy is decidedly NOT not working).

And I’ll be left with time to fill. My first inclination will be to put some parameters around this time, to give myself some goals so that I don’t waste even a half hour of my time.  But is that wise? Continue reading “Is All Our Goal Setting Messing with Our Happiness?”