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Achieving Goals in 2017 the SMART way

It just happened again, 2017 is here and just like last year it seems that time is passing by faster and faster. If you haven’t already, take a moment to reflect on where you were the beginning of last year. Not literally where you were, but how you were feeling about your current situation and the year ahead. Maybe you were starting a new job or moving to a new place; were you happy, excited, anxious? Now think about your New Year’s resolutions for 2016. How did you do?

Last year on New Year’s Day, I was on the phone with my mom and we talked about making New Year’s resolutions. She felt that making a resolution was just a promise that will be broken later in the year. I told her I thought that view was cynical, but agreed. For many the New Year is symbolic, it’s like pressing the reset button for a fresh start, out with the old and in with the new. But January 1st is just a point in time, no different than any other day, so succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be any different than setting out to achieve other goals.


My buddy and I joke about how the gym is busier than usual the first few months of the year. In fact, I went to the gym this morning and it was packed, the regulars were there along with many new faces. Each year this trend is consistent. By April the crowd subsides and who’s left are mostly the regulars. That’s not to say that everyone ditches their New Year’s resolutions, but all too often we do. I’m guilty, which is why I agreed with my mom that resolutions are often broken.


Take your New Year’s resolution to the next level, set goals. Think about it, have you ever heard someone say “I achieved my resolution”, probably not! But simply making up goals isn’t good enough, we need to be smart about the goals we set and have a plan to achieve them. What works well for me is the SMART goal formula – a simple way to help you develop goals and chart a path to accomplishing them. So, what is a SMART Goal? Besides being a smarter way to achieve your goals, SMART is an acronym for – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. Let’s dive into each step of the SMART goal formula and I’ll share one of my SMART fitness goals for 2017 to demonstrate.

Specific – when our goals are well defined we have a much better chance of achieving them. This is the “who” and the “what” component. Instead of saying “I want to get in better shape”, I’ll be more specific and say “I want to increase endurance to ride my bike more”.

Measurable – it’s important to establish criteria for measuring progress towards our goals, this helps us stay on track. Think in terms of how much or how many, and when possible use numbers. Instead of saying “ride my bike more” I’ll say that I want to “pedal 600 miles total” and “cycle 3 times per week”.

Actionable – goals should always be action oriented, think about what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. It takes action to make progress towards our goals. To increase endurance on my bike I can “mountain bike, cycle in the gym, and do more leg exercises”.

Realistic – this one can be tricky. We want to aim high when setting goals but being overly ambitious could lead to paralysis in getting started, or worse, demoralizing if we don’t achieve it. At the same time, we don’t want our goals to be too easy to achieve. Find a balance. For example, depending on your current level of fitness a realistic endurance goal could be to “complete the LA marathon” or maybe “walk up the 6 flights of stairs to the office without getting winded”. Since I already ride my mountain bike at least once per month and use the stationary bike at the gym quite often, pedaling 50 miles each month is realistic if I stay disciplined.

Timely – arguably the most important component of any goal, is when will we accomplish it? Without setting a timeline or due date we are more likely to procrastinate. If you take goal setting a step further you may find yourself creating several smaller goals to complete before you can accomplish your ultimate goal. In these cases our timeline should have several milestones (these mini-goals or steps along the way). I highly recommend this approach because it helps us expand on our goals and makes us more accountable to completing multiple steps required to succeed. In addition, achieving these milestones is added motivation to propel us towards accomplishing the rest of our goals. Ultimately, my goal is to complete the 600 miles of pedaling before the end of 2017.

So, there you have it, to be successful we want to achieve goals, make it more than just a resolution. I just created one of my SMART goals for 2017 – increase my endurance by cycling at least 3 times per week, totaling over 600 miles pedaled before the end of 2017.

Now it’s your turn, use this worksheet to help you develop SMART goals in every aspect of your life. Click here to download our free SMART Goal Planning Worksheet. Make it your goal to stop setting resolutions, instead plan goals with intention – the SMART way!


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About Stephen Rischall

Stephen is an award winning fiduciary financial advisor. He began learning to invest at the age of 13 and helped manage the University Corporation Student Investment Fund while studying finance in college. Stephen has been featured as the financial expert for millennials on live radio and in the news. He is an avid adventurer and is passionate about helping people make smarter financial decisions.
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