Kilimanjaro and bucket lists

As I sit down to write this, I should be half-way up Kilimanjaro on day 4 of the Lemosho Route heading towards the Barranco wall (below).

Instead, I’m sat with a fresh cup of coffee, in my home office after spending a lot of today juggling between phone and video calls.  The year is looking very different than I had imagined.

Whereas I’m not alone in feeling this, this week has made me think about life and bucket lists.

In the last year I now have the following terms in my vocabulary which were either not there, or barely used before:

  • Zoom call
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Meets
  • Furlough
  • Coronavirus
  • Covid19
  • Home-schooling
  • Bounce-back loans
  • Etc, etc.

Similarly, 14 years ago the term “bucket list” didn’t exist either, but we are all aware of it now.

The term was coined by screenwriter Justin Zackham in his screenplay for the 2007 film “The Bucket List” by combing “kick the bucket” (i.e. to die) & list.

Hence a “list of things / experiences / achievements to accomplish during your lifetime”.

About a year ago I came across a “bucket list” I wrote on my iPhone on 2nd September 2014.  At the time I wrote a list of 21 things I wanted to do.  Almost immediately I had forgotten all about it!

When I saw it last year I had realised I have now experienced a number of these things.

One of the items on the list was to climb Kilimanjaro.  I found this shortly after we had booked the trip!

My plans & 2020

“The best-laid plans of mice and men…”

 Enter 2020.

The New Year’s resolution was strong.  Every Sunday morning at sunrise (sometimes before) a group of us were out getting miles under our boots, preparing us for the challenge that awaited.  By March we realised it wasn’t going to happen as the world entered lock-down.

When we booked it the logic was simple – if we don’t do it now, will we ever do it?

We intend to rebook it, but if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that there are things beyond our control.

And the one thing we certainly can’t control is time.

My grandfather use to say: “Tempus fugit et mors appropinquate”.

If your Latin is a little rusty: “times flies and death approaches”.

Although there have been some huge benefits of lockdown such as the additional time I have spent my family, 2020 feels like I’ve been robbed of a year and I want to ensure I never have that feeling again.

The Benefit of Goal Setting

The one thing that has struck me is the mere fact of writing a goal massively increases the chances of it becoming a reality.  Just like a number of my bucket list items written in 2014.

Apparently, in 1979 a group of researchers at Harvard Business School conducted a study on the MBA graduating class to assess the impact of written and planned-for goals and if this helped with attainment.

The graduating class was asked:

“Have you set written goals and created a plan for their attainment?”

Before graduation, it was determined that:

  • 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all;
  • 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans;
  • 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans

The researchers followed up with the graduates 10 years later.  The results:

  • the 13% of the class that had set written goals but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.
  • However, the 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan, were making ten times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class.

There is some debate as to whether or not this study actually happened but it does help to highlight something very important: to achieve your goals, they need to be written out and planned for.

This makes me wonder if I would have ticked off some of the things on my bucket list if I hadn’t written them down?!

Also, if I had created a plan for the remaining items would I achieved more of them already?

How to set goals

  1. Be clear.

The more specific you can be on the goal the easier it will be to see the steps required to achieve it.

This also helps you to mentally picture the attainment of your goal.

  1. When do you want to achieve this by?

I have always found a ‘deadline focussed the mind’.

  1. What resources do you need to achieve this goal?

My climb required not only a monetary cost, in terms of cost of the trip and equipment needed, but also a huge time cost in relation to the hours of training required over the preceding months to ensure I was physically and mentally able for the challenge.

Turning it into reality

“A goal without a plan is just a wish!”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 I encourage you to think about what you want to achieve in life.

What is important to you and your family?

If money was no option, what would you spend your time doing?

It doesn’t need to be an experience like climbing Kilimanjaro.  It might be much closer to home, such as the education of your children, or being able to work less and spend more time with your nearest and dearest.

Once you have a strong-enough reason for the goal, the steps to achieve it become more manageable.

Security, family and freedom are some good examples.  However, you need to dig deeper to turn these one-word reasons into definable actions. There will likely be multiple goals over different time horizons.

As a financial planner, this is the most rewarding part of my job.  Being able to sit down with a client to map out their goals, and the steps, including the money, needed to achieve them.  This allows informed decision to take to turn the goals into reality.

Going back to 2020!  The plan is merely that.  A plan.  The plan must be reviewed regularly, tracked and changes made to amend the steps as “life happens” and we’re thrown the odd curve ball!

By creating the plan you are already starting your journey to achieving them.