We all want a successful future and have some sort of vision of how it will look. If you don’t have a vision, I challenge you to think about what you want your life to look like in 5-10 years. Now that you’ve got a rough idea of what you want, how do you get there? If this is something you genuinely wish to achieve, you must set goals. Think of your goals are the roadmap to your future. Would you want to go a road trip with no map and no plan? I wouldn’t.
How do you create successful goals?
Setting goals allows you to create a framework to measure your success. Often goals fail for one reason or another. The main struggles people have with creating goals is the dream or inspiration but rather the wording and execution. The primary culprits for poor goal-setting are: being too broad, lack of measurability, being too big, being unrealistic, and lacking a ‘due’ date. The way you form your goal is the first step to achieving your goal.
The most effective approach I have found is to create Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely goals (SMART goals).
This is where you lay out exactly what you want to achieve. Who is involved? What do you want to do? Where (if applicable)? Why do you want to do this? Do you have any other special pieces you want to include?
How will you know when you’ve achieved this goal? What will you use to check your progress along the way? Use this section to create a way to measure your progress along the way and figure our exactly where you want to end up.
This is where you explore the motivation for the goal. You have to want to change something for this piece to be effective. Ask yourself “Why do I want to work towards this goal?”
Make sure this goal is something you can reach. Setting unrealistic goals basically kills the motivation to make any changes because in the back of your mind you know it’s impossible. If you make $40,000 a year, you cannot save $50,000 in a year. 100% not possible, especially if you are in debt.
Have a due date to keep yourself motivated towards achieving the goal. Having this time frame increases your intrinsic motivation to work towards the goal. When scheduling your time frame, keep in mind the purpose of goals is to improve your life in some way. If it will create an unhealthy impact on your life, it will be better to adjust the time frame than to give you an ulcer.
Let’s look at the tried-and-true New Year’s Resolution to “get in shape.” The way its set up now, you have idea what to look for. Does getting into shape involve a change in diet, increased exercise, or a combination of both? Is the purpose of this goal to lose weight, tone your body, or increase strength? When you do want to be in shape by? Are you expecting washboard abs and huge biceps or the ability to run a 5k? Basically, get in shape is somewhat meaningless.
Let’s say you want to lose weight through exercise. You can re-write this goal to be lose 10 pounds by May 1st, exercising twice a week for 20 minutes. That sounds much SMART-er.
You can use this approach to create goals for many different aspects of your life. Using SMART goals has helped me tremendously with short, mid, and long-term goals. I classify goals ending within a year as short-term, mid-term as ending in 1-5 years, and long-term as ending in 5+ years. I’ve already shared a list of my short-term goals for 2016, but I’d like to share my mid-term goals. I realize they aren’t written in SMART format here because that would be long and super boring (particularly that first one).
- Become a licensed MFT
- Become free of debt
- Begin saving for my custom dream home
I love, love, LOVE using SMART goals for my financial goal planning. Having financial goals keeps me motivated as I chug along and reminds me to check-in on them. For my second goal listed (debt-free), I have a pay-off date of February, 2020. I use this form to keep track of my end date and progress because it helps keep me on track, shows me how I’m doing, and allows me to see any changes in the end date by increased payments.
What are your goals?