A new year is almost upon us once again, and many of us are of a mind to achieve a thing or two in 2019. Some estimates claim that nearly 40% of Americans make a resolution for the new year, but about only 8% of us actually achieve those goals. Indeed, it seems that most of us abandon our resolutions before the second month of the year begins.
Maybe you’re one of those people who has kept resolutions in the past and saw them through to completion. If so, excellent work! I bet that if you did carry them out, there were certain characteristics about your goals that helped to ensure you would achieve them.
Many of us set goals for a new year, but they’re not really goals per se; they’re more like abstract ideas. We might say “I want to lose weight,” which is one of the most popular ones; or “I want to eat healthier.” But many people seem to fall off the track easily and are right back where they started, perhaps even worse.
Is there some way to help us achieve our goals? There certainly is, and it starts with what those goals are in the first place.
Dave Ramsey’s team teaches their clients and listeners about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. What does that acronym mean? It means that your goals are:
These five criteria set up a solid framework that a person can use to carry out their goals. The framework, foundation, skeleton, whatever you want to call it, is what gives fortitude to what you want to accomplish. Let’s briefly consider how each of these components helps you carry out your goals to completion.
A SMART goal needs to be specific, it must be well-defined so that it is not vague, ambiguous, or nebulous. If you have no idea what you’re aiming for, how can it be reasonable to expect to hit that goal?
Consider a marksman aiming their rifle downrange. Does the marksman haphazardly lift his rifle up and depress the trigger without acquiring a target? Absolutely not! When he/she is in a match or just plinking, there is always a specific target they’ve set up to hit. There’s an old saying in the shooting world: “Aim small, miss small.”
When one’s focus is laser tight, on one little spot, it enables a person to hit a target with more accuracy than if they simply aimed at a larger silhouette or broad side of a barn. Specificity sets a trajectory upon which a person can see it through to completion.
A SMART goal must also be measurable. If you’re one of those people who just want to lose weight, any weight, you probably won’t. Why? Because there’s been no goalpost set up, no markers to track progress. If you want to lose 10 pounds, that’s measurable; you can track how you’re coming along, and because you can do that, it helps you psychologically to know that you’re actually getting somewhere.
SMART goals must be achievable. Let’s face it; if a person in their mid-40s and has never played basketball in his entire life, odds are he’s not going to be a professional NBA player. When setting up a goal, it must be something that the person can actually accomplish.
Let’s say you’re in that same age category, but want to pay off your mortgage balance by the time you turn 55. That’s something that is realistic; a person can tighten up their budget and increase their household income to ensure that in the next 7-10 years they do not have a house payment. One can intentionally act to make that sort of goal happen.
SMART goals must also be relevant to you personally. We cannot achieve other people’s goals. For example, I cannot force my clients to start budgeting and work their way out of debt, I simply cannot. I can only show them how to do so, and help them to believe that they can. If someone comes to me and says they want to pay off debt, I will help them work through the numbers and offer a potential timeframe in which they could achieve that goal, but it is ultimately up to that person to set it in stone and to make it happen.
Lastly, SMART goals must be time-sensitive. By putting a deadline on your goal, it forces you to intentionally work towards it on a regular basis. If your goal (to continue the analogy) is to pay off your debt, but there is no time frame for doing so, it’s more difficult than if you set a specific timeline for the process. Most people who follow the Baby Steps program can pay off their non-mortgage debt in about two years.
Time-sensitivity adds in a certain layer of accountability. It’s why assignments in school and projects at work have deadlines; otherwise, they may not get done. By building in that accountability mechanism for yourself, it provides another structure that protects the goal from crumbling.
And lastly, whatever your goals are, for the new year or just in general, write them down! There’s something powerful about putting words and ideas into written form. It adds a certain depth that mental and verbal goal just don’t often seem to have. By writing them down, and placing them in a conspicuous location, you’ll see your goals, constantly be reminded of what you set out to do.
There may be days where you don’t want to do what is necessary to see those goals to completion, but having written words placed in a place where they will be seen is one way of reminding you of the “why.”
If you want 2019 to be the year you achieve those resolutions, the SMART goals process offers an effective way to do so. Many people have monetary goals for the new year, like paying off their debt or buying a house or retiring. If you need help achieving those financial goals, I can help to guide you along a path that will take you there.
God bless and have a happy new year!