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SMART Goals for the New Year!

I called up my mom to say hello for the first time this year. We started talking about “resolutions”, and she brought up a good point that, “making a New Year’s resolution is just a promise that will be broken later in the year.” A little cynical I thought, but I agreed. While for some the New Year is symbolic, “out with the old and in with the new”, truth is it’s just a point in time no different than any other day.

One of my buddies and I joke every year about how January and February are so busy at the gym. Over the years this trend has been consistent and by April the crowd subsides. What’s left are mostly the same faces of the 7 o’clock regulars. That’s not to say that everyone ditches their New Year’s resolution, but all too often we do. I know I’m guilty, which is why I agreed with my mom that resolutions are often broken, right?SMART Goal image

Instead of a resolution let’s consider setting goals. Think about it, have you ever heard someone say “I achieved my resolution”, probably not! But setting a goal isn’t good enough, we need to be smart about the goals we set and have a plan to achieve them. What works for me is the SMART goal formula – a simple way to develop goals and chart a path to accomplishing them.

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

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. To expand on our fitness goal we can set out to “cycle for 30 minutes without stopping” or “complete 4 sets of 10 repetitions within 3 minutes”.

Actionable – goals should always be action oriented, think about what we need to do in order to achieve our goals. Only by taking action can we progress towards our goals. To increase endurance we can “run, climb, cycle, increase repetitions” and more.

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. Depending on our 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 our office without getting winded”.

Timely – arguably the most important component of any goal, when will we accomplish it? Without setting a timeline we are more likely to procrastinate. If we take goal setting a step further we can have multiple smaller goals in place to reach our ultimate goal. This way our timeline will have several milestones. I highly recommend this approach because it expands on our goal and makes us more accountable to complete the previous steps. In addition achieving these milestones is added motivation to propel us towards accomplishing the rest of our goals.

So there you have it, to be successful we want to achieve goals. For 2018, make it a goal to stop setting resolutions and instead plan goals with intention – the SMART way!

***Take action now and use this simple worksheet to begin your journey developing SMART goals in every aspect of your life. Click here to download our free SMART Goal Planning Worksheet.

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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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