Getting your head around financing your goals
Updated: Jan 28
How to challenge financial limitations – both practically and mentally.
Got a goal? Yep. Will it cost money? Aha. Have you got the money? Hmm…not yet!
All too often in life we have goals that excite us, but the cost of achieving those goals hangs over our heads. Even worse, sometimes we might not even get started because of finances, which is a real shame.
If someone had said to me, "For you to achieve your Olympic dream, it's going to cost a quarter of a million dollars," I would have said, "Well, I don't have that, so it’s never going to happen”. But over eight years – through breaking down each step, having a sensible, realistic plan and being more resourceful – I enabled myself to navigate each financial challenge until I was standing in the start gate at the Olympic Games. There was no way I was going to let money be the only reason I didn’t realise my goal.
Being realistic but optimistic
Having and working towards goals is a core aspect to flourishing in life, so we need to be careful not to let finances stop us in our tracks or overshadow the excitement and opportunity in pursuing our goals. Of course, we all experience money-related stress at some point in our lives, but I’m not talking about covering the day-to-day necessities here. I’m talking about financing the bigger things that we really ‘want’. Those things that make our lives richer, more meaningful and worth living, whether it’s saving for your first car or starting your own business, buying your first house or putting money aside for your children’s education. These things are possible, and by adopting certain strategies you can reduce the stress and feel more in control along the way.
When I learned to ski at 19 years of age, someone said to me, “Nothing worth having in life comes easy.” Of course, I thought they were talking about the skiing or perhaps my eight-year plan to get to the Olympics as an Aerial Skier. As it turns out, the finances were probably the biggest struggle I had to overcome on my way to the Olympic Games. Fortunately the next person I spoke to told me, “You can’t eat an elephant in one go, you need to nibble away one bite at a time.” And that’s exactly how I made it happen.
All too often, people think in boom or bust terms. But what about backing yourself in and taking things one step at a time? Giving it a red hot go but playing the long game? Aiming for the stars and perhaps just landing on the moon? It's not always a matter of if it can happen or not – it may just be a case of it can't happen yet, or you need to try a different approach.
Now I’m not saying there weren’t a few tears along the way – wishing I was born with more money, that money grew on trees and that life was easier. But without a doubt, my journey of getting to Salt Lake City in 2002 taught me not to limit my future self based on my current finances.
Think about your resources
When I started planning my campaign to get to the Olympics, I was probably a little naive to the costs. I started out by seeking expert input to the process, but I still underestimated the funds I’d need at different points along the way. When I found myself feeling overwhelmed and stretched too thin, it was helpful to stop and ask myself, “What is my greatest priority right now? What challenge can I overcome first? What resources do I need and who might be able to help me?”
I also looked at different options to boost my income, considering how I could best use my time and energy outside of training. It meant sacrificing some time with friends and family, and not spending money going out every week; but I also knew that was the level of sacrifice that would be required to achieve my dream.
During the week, I worked full-time for IBM while coaching junior gymnastics three nights a week. The two other nights of the week I delivered pizza well past midnight; on weekends, I would clean people's houses. I also looked to my local community to be more resourceful in saving money – I used second-hand skis, borrowed my ex-boyfriend's ski suit, and built rapport within the ski team in order to car pool and share accommodation costs.
It can be too easy to look at the dollar signs and just give up, when there are actually quite a lot of resources around to help people achieve in life. For example, the Salvation Army and some financial institutions provide free financial counselling. Depending on your goal, you can find scholarships and grants, loans or philanthropic assistance. You just need to look. Even your broader personal networks, like sporting groups or a mothers’ club friend, might be an invaluable source of information and advice. Sometimes we give up too easily or don’t have the courage to seek out help to take that next step forward. Even just breaking things down further or slowing up the pace can make things more manageable.
Have a Plan B
I thought my financial struggles were finally over when I signed my first sponsor 12 months before the Olympics. At the time, my sport psychologist asked me to outline what I would have done if I hadn’t signed them. Then, six months later my sponsor actually went broke and they never paid up. Fortunately, I’d been forced to think about other options and I had a Plan B.
In the early days, I found the cost of going away for international training camps over Christmas was higher than I was able to save. But I also knew that my IBM work bonuses were paid at the beginning of the next year, so based on my business performance, I would apply for short-term loans with my sporting club and then pay them back at the end of the season when my bonus hit my account. By working through this process every year, I was reaffirming my commitment to my goal and showing others how determined I was to succeed. This only made it easier for people to find ways to support me more.
Taking the time to look ahead and doing some scenario planning can broaden your options and set you up for greater success. And knowing you do have options is a big relief mentally and emotionally. To create a Plan B, sit down with someone you trust who might be good with finances and see what ideas they can add to your planning. Different people bring different ideas and resources, and frankly there is really only an upside in trying.
Managing your stress through incremental steps
Managing stress around finances was really big for me. I knew I couldn't perform at my best and achieve the results I needed to if I was constantly stressed and burdened by the financial side of my goal.
Certainly, putting time and effort into understanding and bringing my Plan B to life (when my Plan A fell through) was very comforting and increased my sense of control. Compartmentalisation was also key. I needed to deal with the finances and then put them aside, metaphorically taking the “financial backpack” off, so I could actually participate freely in other parts of my life. If I’d let the money worries weigh me down and stress me out constantly, I’d never have achieved my full potential as an athlete and I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the journey as much.
Taking the pressure off yourself is an action we can all invoke. Ask yourself, “Have I done everything I can? Do I have control over this? What's the cost of focusing on this now? Am I trying to look for a perfect – and perhaps unrealistic – outcome or is this just good enough for now?" Stepping back from the enormity of the financial stress and actually breaking it down is really, really important.
The trick for me was having an effective and realistic plan, keeping my challenges in perspective, and being practical. I think many people want instant gratification, but often that’s not possible. It's important that we're courageous, but at the same time pragmatic when we're financing our goals. So build your support structure, be willing to work hard and remember to take it one bite at a time.
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on May 29, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.