Ongoing Personal Goals for 2011

Goals. Source:

Resolutions are the big thing every new year, but I personally believe in having ongoing personal goals. There is a benefit in setting specific achievements for the year, though; it gives you something to measure against.

Here are my goals for 2011:

Learn Mandarin
2011 goal
Have a fairly fluent conversation with my girlfriend or her parents. This means that I can talk about various topics without pausing or searching for words too much.
I have already taken about a year of introductory courses in Mandarin at university. These courses were very good at introducing me to the basics of vocabulary, grammar, and learning how to write the language. What I learned isn’t enough for fluency and proficiency, however, so I need to continue learning via self-study if I am to improve here. Given my one-year sunk cost investment, continuing along this path is a no-brainer.
Save 50% of net income
2011 goal
I would like to save or invest 50% of my net income this year; this might be one of the toughest goals to achieve! We are moving into a new condo very soon, so we have notary fees to pay, a “welcome” tax, new furniture to buy, and so forth. My car is also coming up for purchase, and I am considering buying it out. Unless I get a very low interest rate, I am going to try to do this in cash. Then there are the usual mortgage payments, etc… and as I didn’t use much vacation time last year, I will have up to five weeks of vacation time to use this year. Company policy has changed so there is no more carrying forward… use ’em or lose ’em! It would be nice to use some of that to go somewhere.
In short: It will be difficult to hit 50%, but on the other hand, if I hit my New Year’s Blogging Resolutions, then this may be achievable.
By learning to live on 50% of my net income and investing/saving the rest, I am not only building up a big buffer between my expenses and my income, but I am also building up capital for the future. I might be aiming too high for this year, but keeping the goal in mind will encourage me to avoid spending too much money in other areas.
Get Healthier
2011 goals
There are a few aspects of getting healthier: 

  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise
  • Sleep

Eating better food has been an ongoing goal for a while, now. It’s already more than a year since I used to eat pizza pockets for breakfast and various frozen foods for dinner. I don’t eat perfectly, but the 80/20 rule applies: Getting much of the way there is already a big improvement. I don’t eat out very often anymore, and we cook meals at home most of the time. There are still things to work on, like weaknesses for sweets or using an empty fridge as an excuse to buy pizza instead of going grocery shopping. 😉

I’ve been a bit less successful with exercise, but I’ve recently found a strategy that works for me. I’ve ended my gym membership, as paying to work out next to big, stinky guys isn’t really effective for me. I don’t think I have the build or genetics to be big, myself, so maybe something else would be more effective.

In the spirit of Primal Blueprint Fitness, my exercise goal is to reach the following level of fitness in 2011:

  • 50 pushups x 2
  • 12 chinups x 2, 12 pullups x 2
  • 50 squats x 2
  • 12 shoulder press pushups x 2
  • Forearm/feet plank for 90 seconds, and side planks for 45 seconds each side. x 2

This is a decent level of fitness. I’m probably about 40% of the way there, so there is really no excuse to not hit this level this year.

Finally, Getting a good night’s sleep is the area I’ve been the least successful with, so this is where I can find the most improvement. Maybe a vampire bit me when I was young, because without constraints, I can find myself waking up in the afternoon and sleeping in the morning. Other times I wake up early enough since I need to get to work, but then I feel like a zombie with a “foggy head” the whole day; this might be because my sleeping and waking hours aren’t consistent enough. My 2011 goal is to start waking up around the time the sun rises or 6:30 am, whichever is more reasonable. This might be the toughest 2011 goal for me!

Healthy living is very important. Our bodies and minds are the only ones we have, and they are the most important asset in our lives. I am not old by any means, but nonetheless, as time goes on, my body needs more maintenance. A new car will still work for a good amount of time even if you don’t take care of it, but it will last much longer if you do.
Practice self-control
2011 goal
Don’t say things that I will come to regret later on. Don’t hit the wall or other things in frustration.
I sometimes have difficulty keeping my emotions in check, especially if I feel that a situation is unfair. I’m better with this than I was when I was younger, but I still need to work on this a bit more. Regardless of the situation, I should keep the high ground and choose the path that leads to the best results. I don’t think that emotions should always be bottled up, but they can be managed in an appropriate way.

So, reader, what are your ongoing personal goals, and what would you like to achieve in 2011?

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  1. says

    Hi Kevin,
    I am curious if you consider the money you put into paying the principal on the condo as “saving”? The condo is technically an investment right?
    50% is pretty aggressive. Mrs. SPF and I are at about 33% but that doesn’t include my pension contributions or the fact we pay 40% more than we need to on our bi-weekly mortgage payments (we should pay the house off in 8 years flat). If we paid the min. on the mortgage we’d be closer to 50%.

    • says

      That’s a good point. The part of the payment that goes toward paying down the principal could be considered a form of savings, as it reduces the amount of debt that you owe. I didn’t think about that but you’re right, that is part of the contribution.

      I would also include the pension contributions as it’s still part of your net income going into that, no?

  2. says

    Kevin, I am so with you regarding getting emotional and saying things I shouldn’t, especially when it is an unfair situation. My 16 year old inherited this from me too.

    So your girlfriend’s family speaks Mandarin? If so, then it is great you are learning it. What a supportive guy!

    Regarding fitness, I have a hard time going to the gym and going on those sweaty weight machines after someone. I have found P90x to be the hardest workout ever, and I can do it in the privacy of my own home!

    Good luck with your goals. You have an exciting year ahead of you. Enjoy all those weeks off, and I can’t imagine how great it will feel to save 50 percent of your income. I won’t even come close to that until the kids are done with college.

    • says

      Yep, that will be one of the big benefits of learning Mandarin. The downside is that my girlfriend was born here so she prefers to speak English with me, but I can still practice and learn with her.

      I haven’t done P90x yet but it would probably kick my ass pretty good!

      I don’t know if I’ll be able to save as much money once kids come along, so my priority is to build up a capital nest egg now, while we’re young. As far as the vacations go, I only took a couple days last year, but the policy has changed: I have to use them this year or I lose them! I wouldn’t want to use them and spend all the time just sitting at home, so… I want to go somewhere, but not spend too much money doing so. Maybe a road trip or a backpacker’s vacation! May as well use them while I have them, as there are always layoffs and reorgs in the tech sector, and you never know.

      • says

        Well I think it is great that you are learning your girlfriend’s language! If you have kids, you can speak it as a family, which would be pretty cool.

        P90X is a definite killer. It makes any other workout absolutely pale in comparison.

        We kind of did things in reverse order of what you were speaking. We got married at 23, I was pregnant at 25, and had 3 kids by the age of 30. So, we started out without much money, and a lot of our savings will really build once the kids are older. House will be paid off by the time I am 50, and major cash accumulation will occur at that point. (hopefully!)

        Regarding vacation, you can always take some time to fix up the condo or whatever. You can always find projects if you look for them!

  3. says

    Maybe you can kill 3 birds with one stone and go on vacation to China. There’s nothing better for language skills than complete immersion.

    I did not take care of myself at all in 2010, physically so I’m with you there. I’d also like to save 1/2 my income, but I count mortgage paydown as part of my savings as every $1 I put towards it is a little less interest paid and a little closer to pursuing some alternative career path that doesn’t require being away from my kids as much.

    • says

      I think the China trip will happen next year for sure! Two friends of ours are getting married, and I might be expected to do a small speech… in Mandarin, so… gotta keep the focus on!

      I think I agree about paying down debt being considered part of savings. It has a similar impact on net worth and it also reduces risk from leverage.

  4. says

    Learning to live on 50% income is a very good idea. My husband and I do the same thing, and it was tough at first, but well worth the effort. The main reason we did this was so that, in the case one of us lost a job, couldn’t work, or decided not to work (ehem…aka: pregnant), we wouldn’t have such a shock factor. Right now, we just put that 50% towards retirement and our (to-be) children’s funds.

    • says

      That’s another great benefit. If we have a kid, it would be great for her to stay home a few years instead of sending the kid off to daycare. Over here the daycare workers are brattier than the kids they work with and they’re always going on strike! 50% also really means more than that since you’ll recover a significant amount of taxes in high-tax areas like Canada.

  5. says

    Kevin, I have to say that those goals are similar in spirt to mine – except for the Mandarin part.

    Saving that percentage of income is fantastic, and I think it’s commendable that you’re going against the grain of conventional wisdom of putting away a small percentage and hoping for the best. As my philosophy gets continually refined, I’m seeing the need for ignoring “normal” behavior with savings and saving more instead – much more.

    I get the health aspect and keeping in control part too. With health, I’m trying to cut bad carbs and fatty, high cholesterol foods. After one week of going back on the no-caffeine route, I can tell the difference already. A big thing for me is trying to get regular, ample amounts of sleep. This is an underrated aspect of personal health management, and getting the proper sleep can make one feel so much better.

    In terms of keeping emotions in check, I might be likely to be nice and keep opinions to myself until I can’t take it and then let things come out. I’m trying to be more direct and blunt, actually, so I’m conveying things consistently to people without bottling things in. It’s another way to keep emotions in line and to nicely but directly say things – rather than explode and say things you regret:) As you said, emotions need to be properly managed – and to me, it means being fair not only to myself but to others as well, and as equally as possible. By the way, I’m with you in that when I perceive a situation to be unfair, it’s when I get annoyed. Here’s to managing that successfully in 2011!

    • says

      Thanks, Squirrelers, and best of luck with your goals as well. I didn’t think this way even a couple of years ago, but I am really growing into it, like you. It just makes a lot more sense to me to keep savings high, especially early on for me when it’s still easy to work and when we don’t yet have kids to take care of. Why not? I can always pamper myself a bit later, out of savings instead of debt.

      I kind of think we’re doing it to ourselves, especially over the past few decades. Politicians sell us sweet lies, and we fall for it and vote for entitlements that hurt us in the end. There’s no need to save because pensions, medicare, etc… will all take care of us, right? The govt. can’t ever go bankrupt because it can just print more money or borrow it, right? I don’t need to care as much about my health cause the govt. will pay for my drugs, right? Maybe not.

      I’m discovering a new philosophy that realizes that the true path to independence lies in having more control over one’s assets, life, and income, and that means being less tied to corporate and government benefits and following a more self-directed path. It takes more sacrifice, as you need to save more money, but the robustness of having your eggs in multiple baskets are worth it IMO. If the government manages to keep all of its promises, then all the better! :)

      I think I like your approach of being firm, direct, yet polite. It doesn’t work out to explode, but it doesn’t work out either to bottle it up. The lighter things should probably just be passed over (when people do really dumb things to me on the road, I ignore my first reaction which is to drive right into them. I find that after a few minutes I often forget about what made me mad in the first place), and the more serious things can always be managed in a +EV way.

  6. says

    Very nice goal Kevin. I like your Mandarin goal, really nice. We’ll enroll our kid in a Mandarin course right away and maybe try to get into an immersion program at the public school (lottery.)
    Saving 50% of your income is just fantastic. Hope you will make it happen one way or another.

    Your fitness goal is really good too. I think out of that list, the pull up + chin up will be the most difficult. I can do 8×3 chin/pull up on my best day and can’t really do more than that.

    • says

      If your kid is young, give ’em some kids movies and things like that to watch, in Mandarin! Young kids are experts at learning language naturally, so now’s the best time! You should be able to find a Chinese school for low cost; all the ABCs and CBCs usually attend those.

    • says

      Btw 8×3 = 24, 8 at a time? That’s pretty good! Right now I’m weakest in the chinup/pullup as I don’t practice them as much as the other exercises. Hopefully the new place has a chinup bar handy.

  7. says

    Earn $1,000/month from online income
    Lose 20 pounds by August
    Eliminate credit card debt
    Start investing in my Roth IRA
    Re-establish savings account
    We have some similar goals; hope we can keep each other accountable!

    • says

      “Mark’s Daily Apple” has a lot of interesting tips about nutrition, diet, and fitness.

      Good luck on the $1k goal and paying down the debt; this month I’m off to a light start, so I hope things pick up a bit soon. December was pretty good!

  8. Mark says

    Nice list. You can definitely hit those savings and fitness goals. You will probably be up to a couple hundred pushups by the end of the year.

  9. says

    Having a Mandarin speaking GF should definitely help and keep you motivated!

    50% savings is actually much easier than people think. Just save one paycheck and spend the other!

    • says

      Agreed, it probably also helps if I don’t think “oh, the money is there, let’s spend it!”. It’s easier to not spend money you don’t have; it’s a bit harder when the temptation is there. Beating back lifestyle inflation will be key!

    • says

      I started sleeping and waking earlier over the past couple of days, and so far, so good! I just have to stay consistent and continue… somehow, I feel that you guys are holding me accountable! 😛

    • says

      It’s going to be tough, but it just may be doable! I calculated how much I’m already socking away and how much more I’ll need to sock away to hit my goal, and I think I’m going to setup an automatic transfer, so the money’s not even there to spend…

  10. says

    Great list of goals Kevin. I especially liked the one about exercising self control. This is so important and more of us should have listed this on our lists for 2011. Self control impacts every aspect of our life. The better we tune that skill the better off we are financially, health wise, and relationship wise. I too have a more emotional and reactive personality and it has gotten me into situations that I now regret. I have been working on it for the last 5 years or so and I have improved a lot but I still catch myself slipping up. Wishing you the best this year.

    • says

      I didn’t write too much under the self-control but I believe there is more I could put there. You’re right, it’s very important to practice that well as it affects so many other areas of our lives. My success there will directly impact my other personal and blogging goals. Mind over matter… is it possible? I hope so!

  11. says

    Kevin, those are some awesome goals, and I’m gobsmacked impressed. For one, I can’t wrap my head around Mandarin, no matter how hard I try, so I’ve basically given up. I seem to be stuck in the Romance languages. Secondly, living on 50% of your income is fantastic, that will get you to true freedom quicker that most of us.
    For the fitness part, I’ve gone back to recording my daily activity into a spreadsheet (very anal, I know) and trying to maintain monthly averages. So far, I’m keeping on track with the chin ups and push ups. I’ve just tried to switch from chinups to pullups, and I can feel the difference.

    • says

      Well Mandarin is more difficult in some ways, but in others it’s easier. The Romance languages are quite tough in their own way, I think, what with rolling your Rs, and remembering a dozen different ways to conjugate a verb. Mandarin does not conjugate verbs and while the pronunciation can be tricky with the four different tones, no rolling of Rs involved. The writing, on the other hand, is much more difficult than latin-based languages.

      Let you guys know where I am re: the fitness in a few months’ time. 😉

  12. Mike says

    Thanks for sharing your goals, Kevin. Those are some lofty but surely achievable goals. Mandarin seems the most challenging, although you have a foundation. And, there are reasons down the road it will come in handy.

    Saving 50% of net income is impressive. I think you’ll find that some months you accomplish it. Then, there will be those where you’ll have those expenses you mention. But if you can hit perhaps 8 out of 12 months or what ever you believe is a goal, I think its a success.

    My favorite goal on your list is practicing self control. I always try to tell myself to never react or respond when emotionally charged. (Don’t we all) The thing is we all often say things we later regret. However, once said, its hard to take back. It’s definitely something I am working on.

    Good Luck with your goals!


    • says

      I will have to remind myself of these goals fairly often to ensure that I’m on track. I’ll keep you guys posted to hold myself accountable!

  13. says


    Your 50% goal is not realistic for 2011 given that you have so much “one time” expenses coming up this year. I would say this will be more achievable next year.

    On the other hand, it’s good to place the bar high since you will maximize your effort and do your best to hit that target. Good luck!

    • says

      The writing’s not on the wall, yet! It really depends, for example if I buy the car or if I don’t. That one item alone will make a huge impact.

  14. says

    Change is difficult, therefore make small changes. For example, I already exercise 2 times a week. I decided for my 2011 goals to add one more time. I started small and will build on that. It is like checking off an item on list. You feel more accomplished checking lots of things off.

    • says

      That makes sense; sometimes change has to be gradual in order for it to succeed. Once you’ve experienced a bit of success you can continue.

      2-3 years ago I wasn’t saving much, though I was in school so it was understandable. Since graduating I actually haven’t been hit with too much lifestyle inflation; 5-6 years ago I was paying $400 rent and more than that for the overall expenses of driving a new car. Not the best idea to do that when a student, but because I got myself in over my head then, I know what it feels like, and thus my spending hasn’t expanded much although my income has. With each increase in income I feel freedom, so I try to save it instead of spending it right away.

  15. says

    Kevin, I really enjoyed reading your goals. I admit, I have no idea how you find the time to work, study Chinese, write and promote your blog. On the other hand, it’s understandable that you are lacking in sleep! Gook luck with all of them.

    • says

      Thanks, Barb! Re: finding the time: I forgot to add that I’m also reviewing for the GMAT. 😉 Sometimes something has to give! A week will go by where I won’t practice my Chinese, or I’ll fall a few days behind in replying to commentators! I’m slowly becoming more efficient with my time, but there really is so much of it in a day!


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