Transform Dreams into Doable Goals in 5 Easy Steps Using SMART Goals
“A Goal without a plan is a dream” Elbert Hubbard
I don’t know why, but I’ve always imaged goals as little, glinty gold bars in my head. Dainty, lovely little sparkly specimens that sit on a cute little corner shelf in your brain. The idea seems lovely, but if you think about these useless gold bars collecting dust, you also start to realize that those “goals” you passively hold will be equally useless without a plan. Once in awhile you may glance at the shelf, sigh, and think “yeah…wouldn’t that be nice. Someday.”
Girlfriend, that someday needs to start to-day! You might be a daydreamer, but you are also a result-oriented go getter! So here’s how we turn those daydreamin’ sighs into yes-I-did-It high fives.
[enter SMART GOALS].
S.M.A.R.T. goals is an acronym that originated from a 1981 paper published by a George T. Doran, a consultant and business director. While this was the first time the acronym was created and used, the sentiment of focusing your energies and creating an actionable plan to achieve goals has been around for ages. American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard noted that “Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.”
In short, S.M.A.R.T goals are awesome because they are simple, concise, and force you to think about tangible outcomes. So, without further ado, let’s do this.
S – Specific
You’re not allowed to just say “I want a lot of money” or “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be debt-free,” because those aren’t goals. Those are just wishes. Ask yourself, how can you turn those wish statements into something more specific? Try these out instead:
- “I want $100,000 in my bank account.”
- “I want to lose 15 lbs to be healthy.”
- “I want to pay of $43,643 to be debt-free.”
Figure out exactly what it is you want, that tangible thing that equals success and make it a specific statement. That last one for me is actually real. I do want to be debt-free. To get specific, I figured out what we owed down to the cent.
M – Measurable
How will you measure progress? When you check in with yourself or accountability partner, it isn’t enough to say “yep, we’re doin’ good.” What exactly are you “doin’ good?” How can you tell?
How are you tangibly going to measure your progress? Dollars, inches, free time, etc…? For our debt-free goal, we have specific dollar amounts that mark progress. As smaller debts get paid off, the overall number decreases and I can track progress.
What will it take to achieve this goal? Who can you count on to keep you in check?
Paying off +$40k in debt, for us, means consistency in budgeting, a commitment to the goal, a mutual understanding of shared sacrifice, and accountability with my partner.
What does accountability mean for you?
R – Realistic
Winning the lotto to pay off your debt is not a realistic goal, mkay? So, don’t sabotage yourself with an unrealistic goal. Losing 50 lbs in two weeks is not very realistic (or healthy…don’t do that, please).
Paying off $40k in debt within one year with a family and one income might sound like a great headline, but realistically speaking it is also not attainable. But five years? Now we’re talking.
T – Time-based
This one works hand-in-hand with the “measurable” portion since the easiest way to measure progress is to set an end point. A deadline. When do you want this goal completed? How far will you set your goal? Is this a short-term (3-6 months) goal? Is this a long-term goal (1 – 5 years or more)? Will you measure in weeks, months, or quarters? Be very detailed with the time you are setting. Something like “deadline of June 30th, 2021” is more helpful and detailed than just stating “3 to 5 years.”
TIP: Don’t sabotage yourself with an unrealistic, anxiety-inducing date that’s too close for comfort. Growth takes time. In the same breath, challenge yourself. Set a deadline that motivates you. Light a fire under that booty!
Putting It to Use
Give yourself the grace to make adjustments, too. Our timeline is 3-5 years. We have a tight, straight-laced payoff table that makes us debt-free in three years. It also comes with tons of sacrifice, no fun, and zero allowance for deviation. The five-year timetable is still doable, still requires diligence, but it will also allow us to live more comfortably and make fun memories with our kids while they are so little.
Making adjustments goes for everything involving your SMART goals, though. Check back in a month and evaluate your progress. How are you doing? Is this still what you want? It is always okay to change your goals. Maybe you’ll end up becoming even more specific. Or maybe you’ll change directions. I’ve found the beauty in actively chasing goals is that either way, you will find growth within yourself and be all the better for it.
“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer to your goal.” -Elbert Hubbard