In athletics, goals are a big deal. Usually, the simple team goal is to win. Individually, for a sport like track or cross country, there are PRs (personal records). When I ran and also when I coached, I always knew my own PRs and I always knew the PRs for my athletes as well. Oftentimes after a race, I would tell them they ran well, and I would quiz them what their PR was and many of them would respond that they didn’t know. I would wonder, how can you not know what your best time was?

When coaching basketball, I really was not as concerned about what the other team was trying to do. I just knew if we did our job, we would be OK. For shooting practice with my own kids, we always ended the shooting session that they had to make three 3-point shots in a row and then swish two free throws. When I say “swish,” I mean no rim, no exceptions, two in a row had to be perfect. At first that seemed like a lofty goal, but in a short period of time, they knew exactly what they were aiming for, and it was amazing how quickly they would swish two in a row.

On the farm, it’s kind of interesting because if I ask someone, “what are you aiming for?” I would likely hear some general goals like, “keep the farm in the family, keep the kids happy, and have a good retirement income.” That sounds good, but if you’re going to hit that target, your aim might have to be defined and strategized a little bit more. What are some defined goals you might be aiming for?

  • Retirement income of $150,000 by age 70.
  • Own 1,000 acres by age 60.
  • No debt by age 68.
  • Retire at age 70.
  • Never retire and die with my boots on.
  • Transfer the farm and the next generation has land costs of less than $320/acre.
  • Each non-farming child gets $800,000 for their inheritance.
  • Implement strategies that minimize attorney fees now and later.
  • Minimize income taxes when I retire.
  • Give $100,000 to charity.
  • Have three family gatherings each year.

If you don’t define and document goals, how will you know if you accomplish your goals? Maybe you are just wishing and hoping. Sometimes I would ask an athlete what their goal was for the day on the track, and they would say, “I hope to run fast.” I would ask, “Did you have a time in mind?” They would respond “No, I just hope to run fast.” When they got done running, I would ask, “How did it go?” They would say, “pretty good.” I would say, “How did you know?” They would say, “I felt good.” News flash: feeling good can sometimes mean you didn’t run fast enough. Running fast might hurt a little!

Newsletter signup for email alerts

You know, if you aim for nothing, you’re sure to hit exactly that. Nothing. For myself, I’m not a big New Year’s resolution person, but I do have goals that motivate me. What are some goals that you have for your farm, your family, or yourself? Write a few of them down with some realistic details and set a time you hope to accomplish them. Maybe share some of those goals with your spouse or children, or someone who will keep you accountable. Don’t get distracted by all the things you can’t control in life. Set your sights on the things you can control.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or friesen@farmestate.com.