January 2020 Newsletter
Goal setting is a fantastic skill to develop, and helps you to design your own future. A life best lived is a life by design, not by accident; and not by just walking through the day careening from wall to wall and managing to survive. If you can start giving your life dimensions and design and color and objectives and purpose, the results can be absolutely staggering.
Goal setting gives you the chance to experience the power of your imagination. Think about it. Imagination builds cities. Imagination conquers disease. Imagination develops careers. Imagination sets up relationships. Imagination is where all tangible values and intangible values begin. So what you’ve got to learn to do is use this powerful resource.
Tapping this resource of imagination for goal setting involves thinking about your future, thinking about tomorrow or the rest of the day, thinking about the rest of the year or five years or 10. You can use your imagination to start prospecting for the future for what could be possible for you.
Five Things that Affect You, Your Life and Your Goals
But before you can figure out what’s possible for you, you need to know the five primary things that affect all of us:
1. The Environment
It doesn’t hurt to make a simple contribution to the environment; a little contribution costs nothing. Pick up a piece of trash and throw it in the receptacle. If everybody did that, what a better world it would be. If everybody contributed, what a difference it would make!
Think of any big event of local, national or global significance. There are small events and daily events and family events and community events, too. Events affect all of us-some small, some big, some personal, some national, some global.
Here’s a good phrase to jot down: Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is tragedy. Ignorance is devastation. Ignorance creates lack. Ignorance creates disease. Ignorance will shorten your life. Ignorance will empty your life and leave you with the husks, nothing to account for. No, ignorance is not bliss. Here’s another note to make: What you don’t know will hurt you. What you don’t know will tragically affect your life. What you don’t know will leave your life empty. What you don’t know will leave you without a relationship. We’re affected by whatever we know or don’t know.
Whether it’s business or personal, we’re all affected by results. Disciplines undone in the future give us poor results. Disciplines managed well give us good results.
5. Our Dreams
We’re affected by our dreams-our vision of the future.
The Pull of the Future
Some people live in the past. They let their life be continually pulled and influenced by it. Although we must remember and review the past to make it useful to invest in the future, here’s the key: Make sure that the greatest pull on your life is the pull of the future.
If you’re skimpy on your dreams, or your objectives and purposes aren’t very well planned, then that doesn’t pull very hard. You might have more of a tendency to be pulled apart by events or circumstances. So in order to save yourself from being pulled apart by distractions or pulled back to the past, you need to start designing the future.
Goals are like a magnet-they pull. And the stronger they are, the more purposeful they are, the bigger they are, the more unique they are, the stronger they pull.
High dreams pull you through all kinds of down days and down seasons. They pull you through a winter of discontent. They pull you through distraction on every side. A bad day can almost overwhelm you if you don’t have something really purposeful to go for on the other side of that day.
If you’ve got excellent goals, though, they’ll pull you through all these things and very little of it will attach itself to you. You’ll be able to get through some of the most difficult times if you have this spectacular vision ahead of you of where you’re going and what you’re going to accomplish.
Learning to Set Goals
Learning to set goals can transform your life forever. There is power in reaching out into the future, designing something to the best of your ability, refining it as you go, tearing it up periodically if you want to, setting a whole new list. It’s your life. It’s your future.
Three Components of Powerful Goals
The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes you do to accomplish it. This will always be a far greater value than what you get. That is why goals are so powerful. They are part of the fabric that makes up our lives.
Goal setting is powerful because it provides focus, it shapes our dreams, and gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to take in order to get everything in life we desire. Goals cause us to stretch and grow in ways we never have before. In order to reach our goals, we must become better-we must change and grow.
Powerful goals have three components:
– They must be inspiring.
– They must be believable.
– They must be goals you can act on.
Life is designed in such a way that we look long-term and live short-term. We dream for the future and live in the present. Unfortunately, the present can produce many difficult obstacles. Fortunately, the more powerful our goals (because they are inspiring and believable), the more we will be able to act on them in the short term and guarantee that they will actually come to pass.
Four Tips for Setting Powerful Goals
So, what are the key aspects to learn and remember when studying and writing your goals? Here’s a closer look at goal setting and how you can make it forceful and practical:
1. Evaluation and Reflection
The only way we can reasonably decide what we want in the future and how we will get there is to first know where we are right now and what our current level of satisfaction is. With our focus on goal setting, the first order of business is for each of us to set aside some serious time for evaluation and reflection.
2. Dreams and Goals
What are your dreams and goals? Not related to the past or what you think you can get, but what you want. Have you ever really sat down, thought through your life values and decided what you really want? This isn’t what someone else says you should have or what culture tells us that successful people do or have. These are the dreams and goals born out of your own heart and mind, goals unique to you and that come from who you were created to be and gifted to become.
3. SMART Goals
SMART means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. Specific: Don’t be vague. Exactly what do you want? Measurable: Quantify your goal. How will you know if you’ve achieved it or not? Attainable: Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish at this point in your life while taking into consideration your current responsibilities. Realistic: It’s got to be doable, real and practical. Time: Associate a time frame with each goal. When should you complete the goal?
The word accountable means to give an account. When someone knows what your goals are, they help hold you accountable. Whether it is someone else trying to reach the same goal with you or just someone you can give the basic idea to, having an accountability partner will give you another added boost to accomplishing your goals.
So, evaluate and reflect. Decide what you want. Be SMART. Have accountability. When you put these four key pieces together, you put yourself in a position of power to catapult toward achieving your goals and the kind of life you desire.
Evaluation and Reflection
The basis for knowing where we want to go is knowing where we came from and where we are. It is also knowing how well we have done achieving things we have previously set our eyes on. This is the essence of evaluation and reflection. We need to understand how to look at what we have done and then use that as a platform for what we want to do next. The process of evaluation is relatively simple but can be varied a bit. The important point is having a process. Here is the basic process for evaluation and reflection:
1. Find a quiet place.
Reflection is best done away from distraction. It gives your mind space to think.
2. Take regular time.
Whether it is once a week, every other week, once a month or quarter, be sure to set aside a regular time at regular intervals to evaluate and reflect.
3. Look back.
Look at what you have accomplished and where you are. Be specific. Be truthful. Be ruthlessly honest.
4. Write it down.
Keep a record. This gives you the chance at the next stage of evaluation to see exactly where you were last time and keeps it as objective as possible.
5. Look forward.
Set your next goal. Stretch yourself according to what works for you.
The purpose of evaluation is twofold. First, it gives you an objective way to look at your accomplishments and your pursuit of the vision you have for your life. Second, it shows you where you are so you can determine where you need to go. Evaluation gives you a baseline from which to work.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” To evaluate and reflect brings us face to face with who we are. More importantly, it allows us the time to dream and create a vision for what we want to become. Only when we take time out of our busy schedules can we get into the state of mind and quietness of heart we need in order to find that inner place.
Those who never take time to evaluate and reflect will blow to and fro through this life, living by the forces of culture, circumstances, societal pressures and, unfortunately, personal weaknesses.
In contrast, those who take the time to evaluate will find they are like an oak tree in a storm: They have a firm foundation, they know where they are going, they know how to get there, and, ultimately, they will get there no matter what comes their way.
Take a couple of hours this week to evaluate and reflect. See where you are and note it in your journal so that as the months progress, and you continue a regular time of evaluation and reflection, you will see just how much ground you’re gaining-and that will be exciting!
Finances – Tax Prep Checklist: What to Gather Before Filing
Its approaching us once again, the time of year that can be both good and bad for an individual. Regardless, both alike should be ready to take the necessary precautions for setting themselves up for success, which means getting nice and organized by gathering what you need before filing those taxes. Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you’ll need certain information and documentation to file your tax return. Here’s a tax prep checklist most taxpayers might need to complete the job.
Let’s start with the obvious items on any tax prep checklist.
– Last year’s taxes, both your federal and – if applicable – state return. These aren’t strictly necessary, but they’re a good refresher of what you filed last year and the documents you used.
– Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse and all dependents. Remember, in addition to children, dependents can include elderly parents and others.
Gather all the documents that confirm the money you received during the previous year.
– W-2 forms. Employers must issue these by Jan. 31, so keep an eye on your mailboxes, both physical and electronic.
– 1099 forms. Each of these ends with a different suffix, depending on the type of payment you received. For example, form 1099-MISC is for contract work. If you’re paid via a third party such as PayPal or Amazon, you’ll likely get a 1099-K. Investment earnings show up on 1099-INT for interest, 1099-DIV for dividends and 1099-B for broker-handled transactions.
Deductions help reduce your taxable income, which generally means a lower tax bill. The key to claiming deductions is documentation – not only can it protect you if you’re ever audited, it can cut your tax bill by helping you remember what to claim. Gathering those records may take time, but it can pay off.
You don’t have to itemize to benefit from some deductions. These are listed directly on Form 1040. More deductions are available if you itemize expenses on Schedule A.
Here’s a rundown of some popular tax deductions. Make sure you have documentation for each before you file:
– Retirement account contributions. You can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA or self-employed retirement account. Just be sure to stay within contribution limits.
– Educational expenses. Students can claim a deduction for tuition and fees they paid, as well as for interest paid on a student loan. The IRS won’t accept your deduction claim without Form 1098-T, which shows your education transactions. Form 1098-E has details on your student loan.
– Medical bills. Medical costs could provide tax savings, but only if they total more than 10% of adjusted gross income for most taxpayers.
– Property taxes and mortgage interest. If your mortgage payment includes an amount escrowed for property taxes, that will be included on the Form 1098 your lender sends you. That document will also show how much home loan interest you can claim on Schedule A.
– Charitable donations. To ensure your generosity pays off at tax time, keep your receipts for charitable donations. The IRS could disallow your claim if you don’t have verification.
– Classroom expenses. If you’re a school teacher or other eligible educator, you can deduct up to $250 spent on classroom supplies.
– State and local taxes. You can deduct various other taxes, including either state and local income or sales taxes (up to $10,000, including property taxes). You don’t need receipts for the sales tax; the IRS provides tables with average amounts you can claim. The tax on a major purchase, however, can be added to the table amount, so keep those receipts.
Note that state income taxes paid should be on your W-2, but remember to add any state estimated taxes you paid during the year.
Next on the tax prep checklist are credits, which are deductions’ more valuable cousins: They provide dollar-for-dollar cuts in any tax you owe. But as with deductions, you need documentation to claim them. Here are some popular tax credits:
– American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits. These education-related credits can save you quite a bit of money. As with the tuition and fees deduction, Form 1098-T is required to claim either.
– Child Tax Credit. The standard Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per child dependent. If you added to your family through adoption, you might be eligible for additional tax credits.
– Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (also known as the Saver’s Credit). Contributions to a 401(k), similar employer-sponsored plan or an IRA might allow you to claim this credit.
Most of us have income taxes withheld from our paychecks to cover our tax liabilities; that amount is on our W-2 forms. But if you made federal estimated tax payments during the year, have this amount handy, too.
This tax prep checklist covers preparation issues common to most filers, but taxes are different for each of us. Be prepared to tailor the tax prep checklist to your situation.
This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.
Personal Interest – Relaxation Techniques
Regardless of the time of day, or activity, some of us may find ourselves dealing with high stress levels and anxiety. Stress is the unwritten consequence of living life. However, there are many ways to lessen those levels, and overcome them with a sense of balance, and to make it so you have a clear mind. We have found ways that you can integrate into your daily lives to reach that equilibrium in your life, and help you get through your struggles to feel more at ease.
Deep breathing: With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as aromatherapy and music. All you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.
The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible into your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. With regular practice, it gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension-as well as complete relaxation-feels like in different parts of the body. This can help you to react to the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. And as your body relaxes, so will your mind.
Progressive muscle relaxation can be combined with deep breathing for additional stress relief.
Mindfulness meditation: Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness meditation switches the focus to what’s happening right now, enabling you to be fully engaged in the present moment.
Meditations that cultivate mindfulness have long been used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. Some of these meditations bring you into the present by focusing your attention on a single repetitive action, such as your breathing, a few repeated words, or the flickering light of a candle. Other forms of mindfulness meditation encourage you to follow and then release internal thoughts or sensations. Mindfulness can also be applied to activities such as walking, exercising, or eating.
Body scan meditation: This is a type of meditation that focuses your attention on various parts of your body. Like progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. But instead of tensing and relaxing muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels, without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad.”
Visualization: Visualization, or guided imagery, is a variation on traditional meditation that involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety. Choose whatever setting is most calming to you, whether it’s a tropical beach, a favorite childhood spot, or a quiet wooded glen.
You can practice visualization on your own or with a therapist (or an audio recording of a therapist) guiding you through the imagery. You can also choose to do your visualization in silence or use listening aids, such as soothing music or a sound machine or recording that matches your chosen setting-the sound of ocean waves if you’ve chosen a beach, for example.
Don’t forget Important Dates:
January 20 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Words to live by Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity. – Paul Goodman
Thank you and have a great month!