If you’ve spent any time at all reading about finance, especially in the past week or so, you know what SMART goals are. They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. In other words, goals that meet those criteria are easier to reach because you’ve figured out most of the hard stuff already. If you create random goals like “win a million dollars” or “do more stuff,” you aren’t likely to get very far. Makes sense, right?
I have to be honest: I’m sick of reading about SMART goals. First of all, everyone in the universe got together and decided that a new year must include talk of goals, which makes me want to rebel. (Yet I’m writing a post about goals, the irony of which doesn’t escape me.) Second, I was forced to create SMART goals for myself in every job I ever had, and finding 900 ways to say “Don’t come to work drunk” just got old. I have a lot of respect for my fellow bloggers, most of whom are way smarter than I am, but I just can’t follow the herd on this one.
So I decided to make up my own definition of SMART goals to liven things up a little.
How to Create SMART Goals, Andrea-Style
Simple – Goals can’t be too complicated or I won’t even try. “Visit Grandma three times a quarter on the first Tuesday of the month at 3pm,” while very specific, is just too much for everyday life (unless you’re Martha Stewart). My goals are usually easier to keep up with, like “Pay $50 extra toward my car payment every month.”
Memorable – If you don’t care enough about something to remember it, you probably don’t need to make it a goal. So spend some time examining your values and choose things that matter to you. This is why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Working out and quitting smoking are great goals, but since I couldn’t be bothered to do it any other time, I’m probably not going to do it beyond the first few weeks of January. Instead, I prefer to focus on the things that do matter to me – earning and saving money, paying all my bills on time, and spending more time with my family.
Affordable – Whether or not you’re in debt, make sure your goals are actually possible from a financial standpoint. I’d love to go to Hawaii, for instance, but is it likely to happen this year? I doubt it. So instead of having this lofty goal to save enough money to go to Hawaii, I might instead save X amount toward a trip to Hawaii in a year or two. Yeah, it sucks to delay gratification, but you have to be realistic about your financial situation.
Radical – Push yourself beyond the mundane and accomplish something awesome. Sure, you could set little piddly goals like “Don’t die while sleeping” or “Refrain from eating human flesh.” You could even throw a little celebration at the end of the year when you meet all those goals with little effort. But what did you actually accomplish? Goals shouldn’t be the things you know you’re going to do anyway. That’s cheating! Push yourself to go a little further. If you always save $25 from every paycheck, shoot for $50 this time. If you have game night with your kids once a week, try twice a week.
Trackable. Make sure you can look back at your behavior and tell whether your goals were met. When I was still working as a therapist, my clients were horrible at this. “I want to be happier.” Okay, how will we know you’re happier? “Um, I’ll say I feel happier.” Yes, but what will you do differently when you’re happier? How will other people know you’re happier? “Because I’ll tell them I’m happy?” (deep breaths, count to 10, remember that assaulting people is not the answer…) Determining a way to keep up with your progress is just as important, if not more, than meeting the goals.
Are My SMART Goals Better?
Actually, the acronym I created isn’t that different from the original SMART goals. Just a slightly different way of saying the same thing. But just like people who have spending plans instead of budgets, I benefit from changing things up every now and then.
It doesn’t matter which version of SMART goals you use – just find a way to make goals that you’ll actually try to reach. If you’re not sure what your goals should be, ask your family and friends. I’m sure they’ll tell you all kinds of things you could work on!
Have you created goals for 2012? Do you use SMART goals? What system helps you stay on track and accomplish things?