They were doing a great job. They were paying off a tremendous amount of debt and had a plan for what they were going to do when that was done. It looked like that was about 18-24 months away. While that’s a long time, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was there. When Tragedy Strikes . . . Then a tragedy struck the family. A parent was diagnosed with very advanced cancer, and, in not a lot of time, that loved one was gone. Obviously, it shook this family. An event like that always changes us as people in some fundamental way. We look at life differently, and we seem to make sure our priorities are in order. Sometimes, however, it also has a way of knocking us off our positive momentum. In the case of the family I was describing, they began to talk differently. They began to talk about how their loved one had worked their entire life and died . . . so what did being out of debt matter? What was the point of just paying off the bank for months on end when we could die (or become seriously sick) at any time? Today, about two years removed from that event, they are at times on the path and at times off of it. They make some progress, and then they just go ahead and purchase yet another thing. How to Balance Planning with Perspective The question we need to ask is, “Where is the balance?” Nobody wants to be so focused on a financial goal that it controls our entire lives. On the other hand, we want to stay on track to meet some goals that we feel will be positive. To help, here are 5 steps to take on a regular basis to help you develop your planning with a proper perspective. 1. Write down your goals. This is the biggest key. If you are married, you and your spouse need to discuss your goals for life – and you need to write them down. Make them realistic, but don’t be afraid to dream big. For example, one of our goals is to pay off our mortgage early before our children start college. We have 11+ years left, but 26 years on our mortgage. That will be a challenge, but it is not unrealistic. Also, if we don’t reach it, we are still making great progress. But writing these goals down is the key. There is a psychological accountability that comes with that step. 2. Have mini-goals. If you have a huge goal, break it down into smaller parts. Sometimes, we lose focus on a goal simply because it is huge, or because it will take years (or even decades) to accomplish. So, what can you do this year, or in the next 6 months, that will move you toward that goal? What book can you read that will help you learn about it? What small item can you “phase out” of your budget to help? As the old saying goes, “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” 3. Realize that “life” will happen. You do not know what tomorrow will hold. Surprises, really, are not surprising! When something knocks you off your path, realize that this is normal. You are not the only one to face hard times. Leave some margin in your life, because life will happen. This is the beauty of an emergency fund , but, for the bigger picture, it is how to have clear thinking in difficult times. 4. Take time to celebrate. When you reach a goal, breathe! If you have a goal that is any longer than a year, you need to step back every 6 or 12 months and celebrate hitting a mini-goal. For example, if you want to pay off your house in 15 years, why not celebrate with a vacation when you reach the half-way point? It is amazing how these times to breathe actually help in the long run. 5. Think long term. This may sound redundant with having goals, but you must keep your eye on the goal, and you need to be able to look later into life. Yes, you may get a disease or you may lose your life (or a loved one). But you also need to keep looking forward to the end line. Since you do not know if/when difficulties will come, keep an eye on the finish line. These steps are easy to take when things are going well, so that’s the time to make sure your perspective is right. Bad things do happen, but having a long-term perspective will help when those tragedies come. How do you gain perspective when difficult times come? Leave a comment below! Related Articles: How To Set Strong Long Term Financial Goals How to Fight Against Your Own Worst Enemy How To Be Financially Happy True Perspective from Two Phone Calls Adam Faughn is a minister in Nashville, Tennessee. He is married to Leah and they have 2 children. You can check out his personal blog or follow him on Twitter .