How To Set and Achieve Your Goals
What does it take to achieve your goals? Often, we have big dreams, a list of things we want to accomplish or changes we want to make and even though we have the
best of intentions, life gets in the way and we don't make the progress we'd like, so we put our goals off.
Being S.M.A.R.T about your goals is a practical way to take that important step from thinking to doing. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for
Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timely. S.M.A.R.T. goals first appeared in an issue of Management Review (vol. 70, issue 11, November 1981) in an article
titled, "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives," by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham. Individuals and companies have
since adopted this process to help identify goals and the necessary steps needed to accomplish those goals. You can put them to work in not only your personal
finances, but other areas of your life as well.
A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal, you must answer
the six "W" questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Where: Identify a location.
- When: Establish a time frame.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
For example, a general goal would be, "I want to save money." But a specific goal would say, "I will save $500 in 6 months."
Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track helping you to
reach your target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continue the effort required to reach your goal.
To determine the measurability of a goal, ask questions such as: What can I afford? What is my time frame? What kind of cash flow do I want year 1, year 5....
Then take action such as creating a budget.
Are you prepared to make the commitment to make the goals you've identified happen? If you believe they are attainable, you will begin to figure out ways you can
make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to
bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.
You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely. Establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have
seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.
To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only
one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A high goal is frequently easier to reach than a
low one because a low goal exerts low motivational force.
It's also important to set milestones within the goals that help you see that a big goal is realistic. For example, if you are trying to reduce debt you might set
a couple of different milestones: 1) Create and stick to a budget 2) Reduce discretionary spending 3) Start paying extra on a credit card or loan, and so on.
A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it, there's no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose
it by? "Someday" won't work. But if you anchor it within a time frame, "by May 1st," then you've set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the
goal. It's also okay to adjust your time frame as you learn more about the process of your goal. For example, you set a time frame to start a retirement fund in
15 days, but find out more information is needed and it's going to take 30 days.
Goals are attainable when you have a plan that guides you
through the steps and motivates you to action. With each small accomplishment you will see yourself becoming
ever closer to the final goal you set out to achieve.