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Keys to Effectively Setting and Reaching Goals

Have you heard the saying, “you can do anything if you set your mind to it”?  Well, there is a lot of truth to that statement.  The real question is, how do we “set our mind to it” effectively?  The answer is in effective goal setting.  This short article will outline an efficient process for setting and reaching virtually any goal.  The key is to be S.M.A.R.T. about it.  Which is to say that goals should be specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and on a timetable.

Specific:

It is not enough to say, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to retire someday”.  Your goals should be specific, with included details on what is required to reach them.  Be sure to write down your goals.  Take the words “want”, “wish”, and “desire” out of your goal setting.  State them as a matter of fact; they WILL be done.  For instance:

  • I will lose 15 pounds, wear a specific size and work towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • I will retire with 80% of my after-tax income being earned today. I will travel at least twice per year and have a predictable income of $8,000 per month, after taxes, without running the risk of depleting my assets during my lifetime.

Measurable:

Once you have specifically identified your goals, you need to determine how best to measure your progress.  If it is a weight goal, the measurement can be pounds, clothing size, blood pressure/cholesterol level, etc.  It is not enough to say, “I want to feel better”.  When a goal cannot be objectively measured, it is much more difficult to track progress, therefore more difficult to accomplish.

Accountable:

If there is no accountability during the process of reaching your goal, it is very easy to slide off track.  Accountability can be through another person, a set of benchmarks or checkpoints you set for yourself, or a support network of individuals with common goals.

Break down your goal into smaller pieces and hold yourself accountable for each step.  Remember to celebrate the small victories along the way.  When you reach a checkpoint successfully, treat yourself.  This will help relieve the stress associated with your hard work.

Realistic:

Be sure you are setting goals that are physically within your reach.  Retiring on $8,000 per month is probably not realistic if you are earning $4,000 per month during your working years.  Losing 15 pounds in two weeks is probably not realistic given the constraints of the human body and health issues associated with such rapid weight loss.  Enlist a professional to help you refine your goals, and to ensure your expectations are realistic.

Timetable:

Be specific about the timing of your goal, down to the day.

  • To retire December 31, 2035, I will give notice June 1, 2035 and begin the transition process.
  • Once I lose 15 pounds by June 4th, I will purchase new clothes for the July 4th picnic.

Be sure to set your smaller checkpoints on a specific timetable as well.  Incremental accomplishment with deadlines is key to reaching your goal.

Using these key metrics, you can do anything you set your mind to…as long as you are S.M.A.R.T. about it!

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