What does it take for you to feel Successful?
I was asked this question last year – and it was really hard for me to answer initially.
Because my head can be prone to overthinking things, I rang Randall to ask him the same question.
His answer came fast and easily: “What do you mean? I don’t need to feel successful. I am successful.”
I was shocked: “really? You don’t want to think about that some more? You seem pretty certain.”
And his reply made me realise success goals can be really simple:
“I wake up every day and you are beside me. Our kids are asleep in their beds. I really like our home and I get to do work I enjoy that means I can pay the bills. I am successful.”
It was hard to argue with that answer.
And it really does reflect the whole way we have worked to define success for ourselves.
It can be much simpler to figure out what we need to feel successful in our lives if we take the time to define it for ourselves instead of letting the world decide what success should or shouldn’t be.
Creating Success Goals for Life
In September, Randall and I made a date to sit down and talk about what a picture of success, at its simplest and in many ways, its richest would look like over the next decade.
We didn’t start with making a plan or drawing up a list of resolutions. Instead, we started with getting a focus that gives us a clear picture in our minds of what we really want in life; our own quick and easy definition of success.
This wasn’t the first time we had decided on our own success.
We first started working out a plan for a successful life when our twins were very small, about 10 years back. This most recent conversation focused on writing our Success Goals to cover Randall’s 50’s.
At this point, maybe you are asking yourself the same question: what does a successful life look like for me?
Maybe your brain is hurting and you are not sure where to start.
This is how we do it.
- Randall and I find somewhere to sit and talk together, uninterrupted. We add in a good drink, something to eat and I have pen and paper at hand. We both talk but I am the one responsible for making sure the out loud stuff is captured on the page so we can turn it into a plan later.
- On the paper (just a blank sheet of A4 that I have normally grabbed from the printer), I draw something like this:
Those four areas – Family, Finances, Future and Fun – pretty much sum up the things that matter most to Randall and me.
Sure, we could break it down into a lot more headings but then it starts to get overwhelming.
We have found that keeping things simple works best and having just four headings really starts to focus our thinking.
With a drink in hand, we can begin a conversation about a future that reflects our Golden Rules. These Golden Rules have been the foundation for all of our future goals, always and challenge us to reach for goals we never would have been brave enough to dream about previously.
Deciding your Golden Rules
Some people seem like they are born with that clear drive: they know exactly what they want to achieve and then they set off after it with absolute focus.
I was like that when it came to being a barrister specialising in criminal prosecutions. I knew from the age of nine that I was going to study law and I knew that I was going to be a barrister, wearing a wig and the gown and standing up in court for justice.
I had watched enough of Lorraine Bailey playing a female barrister in the Australian television series from the early 1980s to know women could become barristers. And I had a teacher, Peter Richards, who told me that I could do it. He looked me in the eye when he said it and I knew he was telling me the truth. I adopted his confidence as my own and I set off with absolute determination. It is no great surprise then that I ended up a Crown Prosecutor in the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions, wearing the horsehair wig and the barrister’s robes.
Randall was the same when it came to policing. He made a choice at nine too to become a Police Officer. When he got accepted to the Police Academy, he spent each night that he studied wearing his police cap to remind him of his goal. From there, his goal was to become a Detective and once again, he chased down his goal with absolute determination.
With those career aspirations firmly in mind, we both found it easy to know the next right step to take in life when it came to our working lives.
On the family front, we were that couple who had decided on our honeymoon that we would have at least two children (a girl and a boy) and we chose their names then too, Elle and Declan.
We wanted the home in the suburbs and we were happy to pay that off over the next thirty years. Once a year, we wanted to take our little family to the Sunshine Coast for a fortnight and when the children (who had yet to arrive) came along we hoped to send them to a little local Catholic school.
Why planning for the things that matter – matters!
Our goals were simple and they made us happy. In fact, with our first child, Declan, having arrived, life really didn’t seem like it could get any better. We were both on the promotion pathway, we were in love, we had good friends, family close by and a simple home that made us both happy. Planning for our future seemed unnecessary – we were living our dream.
But within twelve months, life had taken an unexpected and difficult turn.
Randall had become a different man, a disconnected stranger who spoke little and laughed less. His eyes showed no light and whilst it was clear that he dearly loved our son, Declan, his ability to express any connection to our lives was fading each day.
I was at a loss. He was never hostile towards us in his words or actions, but Randall was not a good person to be around. He was cynical, angry and there was an underlying ugliness in how he viewed the world.
I remember standing on the footpath of our home saying goodbye to my parents who had popped over for a visit. The truth was that I thought our marriage had to come to an end to ensure a healthy future for Declan. I was embarrassed as I explained to my parents I didn’t know who Randall was or how I had got it so wrong. Lifting my eyes to theirs, I explained that I had made a huge mistake in marrying him and I couldn’t see any hope for us.
As they drove away that day and I walked back into our home, the future seemed very dim.
My goals faded and my focus fell onto our son.
Truth be told, when in the weeks after this Randall came home to tell me that the doctor had diagnosed him with severe depression and what was ultimately found to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) I was relieved.
It wasn’t Randall’s fault – this was an illness and an illness we could do something about, surely.
We both realised very quickly that his policing career was over. And we had no idea what the future would hold but it seemed important to find a future to look towards, a goal.
We created our Golden Rules for our life together when Randall was at his sickest
Our Golden Rules
- Randall would be happy and healthy (again). We would be happy and healthy, as individuals, together and as a family.
- We could reach for anything in life when we are brave enough to believe in ourselves and we give it our very best.
- We would give generously with whatever we had, and in a way that made us stretch beyond what was comfortable, to help other people as other’s had helped us.
- We would share Randall’s story and our story of contending with mental illness openly.
These have been the fundamental rules that have impacted our family for the better ever since. Every goal we have devised since then has been focused on creating a life that reflects our Golden Rules.
Getting Ideas for our Goals
When it comes time to dreaming up new goals, it is a whole lot easier when we have these Golden Rules giving us scope for imagination.
What would make us happy and healthy? What makes our family happy and healthy?
What could we reach for, even if it seems too big or bold or something no-one else in our family has done?
What could we do that gives to others?
Over the last 13 years since we started setting goals for ourselves, we have taken lots of inspiration from other people, from things we have seen, listened to and read.
As we walk you through some of our actual goals that are sitting in our current goals book, we’ll share with you some of the inspiration we have taken with us.
What makes us happiest when it comes to our family? What do we want for our kids now and when they are adults?
Growing up, I was lucky enough to belong to a strong community with some extended families that oozed love and laughter. Those examples really inspired me to create a family that really enjoyed being together.
As our children are growing, it is clear that time is a scarce commodity.
Our eldest child, Declan, is in Year 12 and we are keenly aware that our family life is heading for a big change when he finishes school.
We asked ourselves: what kind of family do we want to be now and in 10 years’ time – and how can we be the type of family that stays connected when they are all adults, living their own lives?
How can we create experiences that lock in memories and connections that will last the test of time?
Here are some examples of a few goals we have for our family now.
- I want to pick up my kids from school each day. I spent years feeling like I was missing their lives because I was working too much. I can’t get that time back but I can make the future look different for our family. This means designing my working life to be out the door by 2:30 pm each day.
- Our youngest son, Will, has dyslexia and for us, success looks like providing him with tutor support to ease the school experience for him.
- We have also planned for annual holidays with the kids – banking those memories is a success for us and we hope connects our family when they are all adults and raising families of their own. We have even gone so far as to write down our holiday ideas for the next few years.
- We plan to have dinner around the table almost every night and as our 17-year-old is getting his own social life, we aim for one committed dinner together once a week. It is a simple goal but one of our most important goals. You see, we plan to teach our kids that as we all are adults, from time to time, we are going to have arguments and get on each other’s nerves – and we will still need to return to the family dinner table together, forgiving each other and moving on.
- Randall and I decided that rather than wait to travel when we retired, we would choose to retire a little bit every year and share our “early retirement” with our children. Too often we have known people who have passed away in the prime of their life. Their dreams for retirement were never realised and as we mourned each in turn, we were reminded that no-one is guaranteed tomorrow. So, in 2012, we entered early retirement with a visit to Fiji. Every year since we take the children and go overseas together for a few weeks on our early retirement. Sure, we won’t pay off our mortgage sooner but never once have we regretted the experience of sharing our early retirement with our children. We are banking memories and connections in our family that are achieving our goal of being happy and healthy together. We have included the children in setting the goals for the next instalment of our early retirement adventures. For example, in the next few years, we have a goal to hike in Colorado together on one retirement session and visit Ancient Greece during another.
Plus we have some couple goals under the Family heading because we figure that if Randall and I can look at each other and think, “I really quite like her/him still” we are going to be okay in the long term.
In 2020, we will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary by hiking The Dolomites together, happy and healthy.
And we designed our working life to spend every Wednesday working from home together. We run Churchill together and juggle this with the pressures of raising four children and corralling five dogs.
Mostly we do this well. But sometimes, we get all business focused in our partnership and we forget to look at each other in a way that makes our hearts lift. So in 2018, we set a goal: by 1 July 2019, we would work together at home once a week.
Once a week, we would remember that we are in this together. That we were a We before we became a Company. We share laughs, thoughts about what we could do better, dreams for our future. We beat out work on our laptops and have water cooler chats without needing the water cooler. It is a goal that takes some work to achieve but is absolutely worth it.
Let’s face it, we all need the dollars to add up to make life that much easier. Randall and I talk a lot about the finances that we need for our goals.
We broke our financial goals into something that we could live with on an everyday basis by using the model Scott Pape shared in his book The Barefoot Investor. This meant figuring out what financial success looks like for us in terms of everyday money, money for goals that make us smile (like holidays), an emergency fund and then long term-retirement style money stashed away.
For us, financial success means this across these buckets:
- That we can pay the day to day bills that put food on the table, educate the kids at a modest private school and pay the mortgage down. This is the Everyday Expenses that Scott Pape talks about.
- Putting money each month into our early retirement/holiday fund – these are accounts that have no cards attached to them so we can’t tap into it on a whim. Scott Pape calls this a Smile Account and he’s right – it always makes us smile when we think of the memories we have made with this account.
- Putting part of our income and any extra income that comes our way (like refunds) towards a Nest Egg account. This is our emergency stash or as Scott calls it, the Fire Extinguisher account.
- Getting our Superannuation in order so that we know there will be some padding when retirement hits. We have rolled accounts into one account and talked a lot about what retirement would look like for us.
Fun looks different for everyone. When we think of fun, we think of the things that make us smile – together and as individuals. Under our fun goals, we think more short term focusing on the next few years at most.
For example, I have this tradition of a weekend away with a few girlfriends once a year. I would like to continue that goal of being in a position to run away with friends for chatting, shopping, lots of cheese and some wine. For me, that means looking after my friendships which takes some time and prioritising.
Some of our fun goals include:
- As a family, we want to have an annual beach holiday at Scotts Head, a sleepy little beach town in New South Wales. We have a few families we meet there in December each year and it is a great time of sand, sea, laughs and relaxing. It is a definite goal for our family to clear the time for it and keep money in the budget to pay for it.
- In 2020, Randall has signed on to complete the 50-kilometre Ultra-Trail Australia in the Blue Mountains and I am registered for the 22kms Ultra Trail. We are both looking at completing an Ultra Trail even in New Zealand in 2021. I know, I know: I am questioning if this is fun too.
- Our youngest son, Will, set a goal that has got the whole family on board. He is a mad Harry Potter fan and really wanted to see the final instalment of the story as a play in Melbourne. He has saved his pocket money and gift money for ages to pay for his ticket. As a family, we are all looking forward to heading down for the children’s first visit to Melbourne and the show.
- We love to have a couple of good parties a year – one that brings friends together and another that brings the family together. I’m a fan of bringing together people we care about and having a celebration of life. Our kids love it too and look forward to what theme I choose and of course, great food!
- We always wanted to share what we can with others. For us, that has meant finding ways to make generosity fun – because who wants to receive a gift from someone who resents giving it in the first place. So, we have a goal to give scholarship programs to community groups and we have been doing this ever since we began Churchill Education back in 2006. Our goal is to continue gifting leadership development programs for school teachers and scholarship programs for injured and recovering defence personnel. We have locked in programs for 2020 to deliver on this goal again.
I always like to have things to look forward to and grow for … hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) in 2019 is a classic example of how I set a future goal. I first spoke to Randall about the idea of trekking TMB in mid-2017. It took two years to realise that goal and a complete turn around in my health and fitness but I made it!
When Randall and I sat down to talk about future goals, a few features became clear.
These are the goals that focus on imagining experiences we want to have, more than things we would like to own.
To be honest, we have reached the stage in our lives that things matter less than experiences – which is probably reflective of our age and stage of working.
If you had met us in our early 30s we had different future goals. Our future goals in our early 30s were much more focused on the material. We wanted to put a pool into our home at Aspley (which we did) and we saw ourselves living in the Samford region as a future goal (which we now do). Now in our late 40s and early 50s, we have realised those future goals from our younger years and feel like we don’t need more. The things we didn’t do back then, like travelling, are now the experiences we dream of for our future goals.
Our future goals that are going to need time, planning and commitment to achieve.
When we sat down in September and worked out the next Future Goals, we came up with a range of goals covering us as a couple and our business. Here’s some we set:
- Randall and I want to have a Gap Year once we have got our youngest kids settled into their next step after they finish school. Whether it is heading to studying at Uni or a vocational qualification, getting an apprenticeship or a job, we will settle them in and then head off for 6 months or so. We even know what we want to do and when this will happen – 2027 is Gap Year and we will be hiking the Camino Trail; just a pair of 50-somethings with backpacks and strong legs.
- For the business, we set a goal to never have the Churchill team exceed 20 people. We have grown Churchill to 100 people in years gone by and found we didn’t enjoy having such a large business. For a happy future, we wanted balance and to work with good people we knew and enjoyed. For us, 20 colleagues is the magic number.
- For our working future, Randall would like to work part-time from 60 years old. We have 10 years to make that a reality.
- And in the future with grown up children and hopefully, we have a big goal of being able to pay for the whole family to rent a beach cabin or two for a week once a year together. Years ago, we saw an interview with Lindsay Fox and Andrew Denton on that show “Enough Rope”. Lindsay Fox talked about losing his son to suicide and how it changed his idea of what was important in terms of family connection. His family gathered a couple of times a year for family holidays. Now we don’t have the financial resources that Lindsay Fox has to hand but we figure we could have a goal of a simple beach cabin holiday with the whole family once a year – this is really is our idea of family and financial success.
Those are just some of our goals.
As you can see, it doesn’t need to be a big list. It doesn’t need to be the type of goal that impresses anyone else – just the goals that matter to us.
We never have written a bucket list. Bucket lists seem to be where dreams go to die. Instead, we prefer goals because we can set a few clear things and go after them. Once they are achieved, we just write a fresh set of goals.
There is one more step before we start moving to the Planning stage.
Your Health, Your Home and You’re Hired!
Remember our first Golden Rule: to be healthy and happy.
With the goals for Family, Finance, Future and Fun down on paper, we take a little time to ask ourselves a few hard questions.
You see, it is hard to have the energy to chase down some goals if things aren’t ticking along well in these three key areas so we throw them smack in the middle of our goals: your health, your home and you’re hired (job).
Our experience with Randall’s health over the last 15 years has taught us that if you don’t have your health, your chances of enjoying the rest of your life are pretty slim.
We have made it a priority to have some goals to keep our health in the best shape we can.
Without a roof over your head that makes you feel safe every night is a priority too so we have goals about having a home that gives our family a safe space.
And finally, it matters where you are hired.
Jobs have the capacity to add to your life or take away from your life. Workplace stress can be a silent thief of your goals. You may have bigger financial goals in mind and you want to look at where you are hired to boost your incomes. You may have goals to challenge yourself through promotion or to transition careers. So, we always stop to ask ourselves: are we happy in our jobs? If not, what do we need to do to change that?
We spend some time reflecting on our health, our home and what we do for a living in setting our goals.
And at the end of this process, we have a set of goals that define success for us.
From there, we are ready to start building a plan to turn these goals into reality.
If you are interested in understanding how we do that planning, we’ll share more about that in Part 2: Turning Your Success Goals into a Life Plan