Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

February 12, 2013

We all dream of what we’d like to do in life, and it often involves money. Whether it’s going on a dream vacation, paying off current debts, or saving enough money to go to college, you can often achieve these dreams with a little planning. By turning your dream into a SMART goal, you’re more likely to achieve it and you may realize it’s not as impossible as you might think it is. Let’s imagine, for example, you have a student loan that plagues you. You want to be free of debt, and that loan is the only thing standing in your way. Here’s an example of a SMART goal you can set.

Specific. The more specific your goal, the better. “I’d like to be debt-free”, for example, is not a specific goal. “Starting 1 March 2013, I will pay $300 each month on my student loan so I can be debt free by 1 March 2014″, on the other hand, is a specific goal. See the difference?

Measurable. You will need a concrete and objective way of measuring your progress, which will also allow you to confidently determine whether you have achieved your goal. In the example above, you can track how much you have paid towards your student loan each month to determine whether you’re behind on achieving your goal, ahead, or right on track. By 1 March 2014, you will know if you are debt-free by whether your loan is paid back in full or not.

Attainable. Your goal should challenge you, but should not be so difficult it is nearly impossible for you to achieve. If you cannot pay $300 each month towards your student loan, for example, determine a smaller amount that will challenge you to save while still being attainable. Remember to extend the amount of time you have to achieve your goal to ensure it is still realistic.

Rewarding. There should be a sense of reward once you achieve your goal–imagine the immense relief you’ll feel once you’re out of debt, and how wonderful it is to have that extra amount of money each month to allocate elsewhere once your debt is paid. You can also set a reward for yourself once you achieve your goal to celebrate–maybe a day at the spa or tickets to a football game with your buddies will be a treat for you.

Timely. Remember to set a pace for achieving your goal, and a date for when you want your goal achieved by. In our example, we’ve established a starting date (1 March 2013), ending date (1 March 2014) and intervals (paying $300 every month) to make our goal timely.

Once you set your goal, share it with your friends and family so they can help keep you on track and motivated. Remember that a goal can be short term (if it’s attainable in less than 12 months), mid-term (attainable in 1-3 years) or long term (attainable in more than 3 years). You can always set more than one goal at a time–just be careful not to overwhelm yourself.

Special Note: Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday–if he was still alive, he would be turning 204 years old! One of his famous quotes was “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”.

So, what goals will you set that will make the life in your years count?

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