A goal is a dream with a deadline. We all have ambitions in life that we want to achieve, but too often they stay as a nagging feeling at the back of our minds that ‘one day I would like to…’ or ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ instead of being front and centre and part of every decision we make. Surely there must be a more intelligent way to turn dreams into actions?
Enter SMART goals:
What exactly is it that you want to achieve? Do you want to pay off debt, build a buffer of emergency cash, start a small business? Do you want to climb Mount Everest, take an around the world trip or ride Richard Branson’s spaceship? The more specific you can be with your goal the easier it is to focus on achieving that outcome.
‘To save more’ is an admirable goal, but what is more? Is it a dollar more than last year, a hundred, a thousand? If the goal is not measurable then how can you know if you are on target? Make sure your goal is quantifiable! Sometimes this can be as simple as a yes/no ‘did I achieve it?’ or it could be measured in dollars, or hours.
The best goals should stretch you, force you to think outside the box and even cause a bit of discomfort in pursuit of getting where you want to go, but they should also be realistically achievable. If you earn $50,000 per year and your goal is to save $100,000 for a house deposit in a year then you are setting yourself up for failure, giving up and not making progress. A more modest goal that is actually achievable will build good habits, gain momentum and help you on your way to achieving bigger and better goals in the future.
It almost goes without saying, but the goal has to be relevant to what you actually want to achieve. The inevitable tough times that will come along on the journey towards a goal will be much easier to handle if the end result is something that you are truly passionate about. So make sure your goal is YOUR goal, not your parents, or your friends or your boss’s idea of what your goal should be.
Put a deadline on it. Even better, put multiple deadlines on the steps you need to take to get there. If you want to save $12,000 for a holiday by the end of the year then save $1,000 by the end of January, $2,000 by the end of February and so on
Theres one more element that I would add that doesn’t fit nicely into the mnemonic – accountability. If you share your goal with someone that will hold you accountable you are much more likely to achieve it. The fear of having to front up to someone and tell them you have failed is often the extra kick along we need to keep us focused on the goal.
So setting a goal such as “I will save $12,000 (measurable) in my high interest savings account (specific) by 31 December 2013 (timely) by depositing $1,000 per month (achievable) as funding to start a small business I am passionate about (relevant)” and having someone hold you accountable is much more likely to succeed than making a resolution to ‘improve my finances’
What goals would you like to achieve, and how can you fit them into a SMART framework?