Do you ever see people talking about setting goals or working towards savings targets, but struggle to connect because you’re not sure what you even want?

Particularly since lockdown, it seems that a lot of us are struggling with goal setting because we just don’t even really know what’s possible anymore, let alone what we really want. Previously we might anchor a savings goal to a holiday, or to buying a property, or to having a certain buffer before changing jobs or industries. But with so much uncertainty and so little in our calendars to work towards, how do we set goals with meaning and substance?

One word: lifestyle goals.

What are lifestyle goals?

Instead of thinking about what you want to buy, where you want to go or what you want to have, think about who you want to be.

Usually I say specificity is key for goal setting, but with lifestyle goals, it’s all about the bigger picture. It can help you set an overarching guide of the direction you want your life to go in.

Whether that’s in 6 months or 6 years, think about the type of life you’d like to lead – and try to keep it within the realistic boundaries of what’s possible for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream big. But if you’re picturing a barefoot life on a desert island but you hate flying and love your job in the city, it’s probably not quite the vision I’m talking about.

What I mean is, think about the type of lifestyle you’d like. Maybe that involves being able to take mini breaks every couple of months to reconnect with your partner. While you’re not saving for a specific trip to a specific place, it’ll still help you commit to a savings strategy, because having cash in the bank will help you be able to lead that life.

Maybe you want to live a life that involves being able to invest in your mental and physical health. While you’re not saving up for a specific item right now, stashing some savings each week will eventually help you be able to see a therapist regularly, or get regular massages or facials, or join a fancy gym or get a personal trainer. While it’s not happening right now, saving for a lifestyle where that’s your reality is something you can focus on.

Or maybe go even more granular than that. Maybe you just want to be the type of person who buys fresh herbs. Or the premium quality soy milk. Or organic meat. You can start with those small things, and just connect your savings attitude to the fact that every dollar is moving you closer to being that person who does those things.

What if I don’t know what life I want to lead?

If thinking about what lifestyle you want to lead is still making you draw a blank, start with the lifestyle you don’t want. Sometimes that’s easier. Maybe lockdown has taught you things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Maybe you don’t like working in your industry or maybe you’ve realised that you actually don’t like the city that much, or that you don’t like commuting for so long and missing out on time with your kids/partner/family. 

Focusing on what you don’t want out of life can help you save in the same way. When you’re making a purchase decision, consider whether it moves you towards those things you don’t want, or away from them. If you’re struggling to connect to your savings efforts, think about those things you said you didn’t want from life, and make the link in your mind that saving moves you further away from those things, and closer to something else. 

The lack of control we have over our near future frees up mental capacity to think longer term – and that can be great for your savings goals. We’ve ditched instant gratification in terms of clothing for nights out or imminent travel. Instead, we can focus our efforts on the lifestyle we want, and stash our cash with the mindset of moving towards what we truly desire for ourselves.


How to set goals when you don't know what you want