Ratcheting vs. backsliding goals

Some goals ratchet while others backslide.

Let me explain.

A ratchet is a mechanism that ensures that the work being done always contributes toward forward movement. It makes it physically impossible to move backward.

When making progress toward some goal, it’s important to think about whether the work you’re putting in could ever stop counting. For instance, if you’re trying to lose weight, the progress you’ve made is not guaranteed to you. If you disrupt your routine of daily exercise, you will gain the weight again. You will backslide.

On the other hand, something like an IRA account1 is a ratcheting goal. You are prevented from removing the funds in your IRA, so it’s impossible to stop making progress even if you stop contributing to it.

This framework allows you to understand the consistency and volume of effort you’ll need to put into achieving a goal.