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SMART - Set goals that actually work

The mission of Journey Financial Coaches, the reason that we exist, is to help you gain control over your money, and therefore, control over your life. This is a process that could take months for some, and years for others. Regardless of your current situation, you will have to make temporary lifestyle changes in order to thrive. You may have to pass on a couple of vacations, drive that old car for a couple more years, and cook at home and take lunch to work with you for a while. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it will be easy, but the end result is definitely worth it. It is awfully hard to make sacrifices like this without a clearly defined purpose. It’s hard to tell your co-workers that you will not be joining them for lunch, and instead you will be eating a tuna sandwich that you brought from home. It's a little easier when you can see exactly how this decision plays a part is meeting a goal that is very important to you. For this reason, we are going to set clearly defined SMART goals for our big goals that we would like to accomplish.

Before I learned about SMART goals I used to only set goals in my head. I would rarely write them down, and I would almost never share them with anyone. The problem with this is that I had no accountability and no way of measuring my success or progress. If I succeeded or failed, I wouldn’t really know because I hadn’t clearly defined the goal or what success looks like. What ended up happening is that my goals were almost always abandoned, and at best, ended up on a sliding track that always was pushed further and further out. I learned a new way to set goals which actually works. Creating SMART goals has changed my ability to prosper. It gives me the focus that I needed, and the accountability to measure when I fall off track.

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time” - Zig Ziglar

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific - In detail, write out exactly what you would like to accomplish. What does success look like?

  • Measurable - How will you measure your progress and success?

  • Achievable - Do I have (or can I obtain) the resources (time, money, connections, skill, etc…) necessary? Must be realistic given your circumstances

  • Relevant - How does this goal fit into my larger objective?

  • Time-Bound - What is the desired completion date? When am I going to work on this goal?

SMART goals are best used for setting goals from a bird’s eye view, the big picture. You will define what you want to accomplish, and what success looks like. However, the minute details are better left to a daily To-do list. In the Example below, you wouldn’t list exactly which days that you will take your lunch to work. Details such as this may work better on a ground level to-do list. You will then be able to measure your daily decisions and actions against your SMART goal. This will give assurance that your actions are inline with your goals.

SMART goal example: I will payoff all debt (except for the mortgage) using the snowball method within 36 months (March 2022), so that I may have full use of my income to payoff my house early. I will do so without acquiring any new or additional debt.

This is a SMART goal for the following reasons:

  • Specific: Specifies the desired result, and defines what success looks like.

  • Measurable: Progress and success can be measured by looking at the amount of debt that has been paid off since the start date, and time remaining until the finish date.

  • Achievable: Specifies a plan to follow which provides structure

  • Relevant: Falls inline with the larger objective of paying off the house early.

  • Time-Bound - A completion date is given

Non-SMART goal example: I will get out of debt.

This is not a SMART goal for the following reasons:

  • Not Specific: Vaguely states the desired outcome. What does “out of debt” mean? Bankruptcy?

  • Not Measurable: What is “more”? More that what? No way to track if you are making progress.

  • May not be Achievable: This goal isn’t specific enough to determine if you have (or can make) the time or resources to complete it.

  • Relevant: Meeting this goal may contribute to your larger objective

  • Not Time-Bound: No end date or time mentioned. If it takes 35 years, was it still a success?

Take Action:

Don’t put this off, start practicing this now! Download our SMART Goals Worksheet and create a SMART goal for a small task that you wish to complete this month. Incorporate all 5 elements track your progress. Drop me a note in the comments section and let me know how it went.

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