One. Million. Dollars. It's more than just a one followed by six zeroes. It's a symbol of financial success and prosperity.

For many, becoming a millionaire seems to be an unattainable dream, something possible only for lottery winners. For others, making $1 million is a lifelong goal, a struggle to invest, save money, and control spending in pursuit of financial security. And for those who've already reached millionaire status, their money lets them do what they want -- but it also comes with responsibilities and concerns that the less affluent don't have to worry about.

Here at the Fool, we've dubbed January Millionaire Month. Every day, we'll look at the steps that ordinary people like you have taken on their path to becoming millionaires. We'll show you some of the traps that can hold you back and tell you how to avoid them. You'll discover that although some people do get lucky in reaching the million-dollar mark with relative ease, plenty of others get there on the slow and steady path, through perseverance, hard work, and discipline.

But don't worry -- this won't be like those boring lectures you had to sit through in school. There'll be plenty of fun ways you can participate. We'll have polls about millionaires and about making millions, so you can see what your fellow Fools think. And one lucky participant will win $5,000 and a one-year membership to our most exclusive investment service! That prize would give you a nice head start on your financial goals, wouldn't it?

Once you've made your $1 million, we won't leave you hanging. Throughout the month, we're also going to look at the millionaire lifestyle and the ways people's lives change once they have $1 million in the bank. You'll learn about estate planning and other strategies millionaires use to preserve their wealth and pass it on to their families.

Picking your goals
Of course, just because you become a millionaire doesn't mean you lose all of your aspirations to reach even higher. After all, a million bucks ain't what it used to be, and for billionaire investors such as Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM) Irwin Jacobs, Progressive's (NYSE: PGR) Peter Lewis, or Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Paul Allen, $1 million is a mere drop in the bucket.

But you have to start somewhere. The first step is to figure out where you are. If you're deep in debt, paying off what you owe is a major milestone. And as you continue to save and invest, each zero you add -- whether it's $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000 -- represents the culmination of months or years of effort. On the other hand, if you're already well on your way to $1 million or beyond, then a different perspective is in order.

Once you know where you are, the next step is figuring out where you want to be. A million dollars is a reasonable goal for some. Others can make do with less. And if you get to $1 million and still want more, there's nothing stopping you from whatever aspirations you have beyond it.

If you've done those two things -- knowing where you stand and deciding on your goal -- you've gotten all the prep work out of the way. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the New Year with more daily Millionaire Month articles throughout January. We hope you'll enjoy them -- and that they'll help you in your own quest to become a millionaire!

January is Millionaire Month at The Motley Fool! Join us each day throughout the month for content tailored to helping you make, save, or spend your $1 million!

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has been chasing $1 million for a long, long time. He doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy is worth $1 million.