Whether you’re chasing financial freedom, or striving to become the best damn crochet sock maker this side of the Mississippi, SMART goals are going to be your ticket to success.
Goal setting in the personal finance community is as common as blue host affiliate links in the blogging world, but why are goals important? How do you write them?
I believe that without a solid S.M.A.R.T goal, your path to financial success will be littered with frustration and failure.
What exactly is a S.M.A.R.T goal? Well, I’m glad you asked… It’s broken down like this:
A SMART goal should be simple to understand, and also extremely specific. What exactly do you want to do, why are you doing it, and how are you going to get it done.
Stating that you want to get out of debt sounds great, but is it a goal? Well… kinda. Getting out of debt is in fact a goal, but it’s not a SMART goal and the difference is important.
A better example would be; I want to pay-off $20,000 of consumer debt by December 2019 by utilizing the debt snowball and monthly budgeting to free up an additional $1,500 a month to apply toward my consumer debt.
That goal is extremely specific. It clearly states the what, why and how.
A measureable goal allows for tangible evaluation. In our example above, we have a few methods of measurement: 1.) Our goal of paying off $20,000 in consumer debt and also 2.) Making additional debt payments each month to the tune of $1,500.
Having a form of measurement will keep you on track and motivated. Each month you are celebrating little victories, and this will inevitably help you crush that $20,000 debt.
In my opinion, creating a goal that isn’t achievable will do more harm than good. I understand that setting the bar high is important, but is too high a bad idea?
I believe so. Failing typically doesn’t breed enthusiasm or persistence. This is why I don’t agree with the whole 10x movement.
Would I love to increase my blog traffic by 10x? Absolutely. It sounds like an amazing goal, but what happens when I inevitably fail? Most likely, I’ll feel like shit and have to waste time rebuilding my desire to grow my blog.
Suppose I increased my traffic by 2x… you could argue that I’ve found a level of success, but I didn’t achieve my 10x goal. Why not just make the goal achievable and get the emotional win, use that positive emotion to target another SMART goal?
Failure is ok. We all fail, but you shouldn’t intentionally set yourself up for disappointment.
I loathe jogging. Creating a goal to run 20 miles per week sounds absolutely terrible. I guarantee if I created that goal, I would fail because I don’t give a shit about running…it’s not relevant in my life.
I utilize this a lot at work. When my department has the ability to goal set, I ask my team to create a relevant goal. Their success is dramatically higher when they feel the goal is personally relevant.
We humans are funny creatures…we chase shiny things, but we don’t follow through if the shiny object isn’t important.
If the goal is relevant to you, you’re paving a path to success.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for completion. In other words, if you want to pay off $20,000 in consumer debt but don’t place a time specific deadline on the task, it will feel insurmountable.
Deadlines should be specific, but also realistic. Allowing for too much time will draw out your goal and plant the seed for procrastination. Creating an unrealistic deadline can negatively impact your emotions and your motivation to continue.
When Goals Backfire
Creating goals is an exhilarating task. The sense of motivation is never higher than the day you come up with a goal.
Overflowing with enthusiasm, you simply must tell someone about your goal. “Look how great I’m going to be!!” If you tell someone about your big plans, you feel like you’re adding in a layer of accountability. That accountability will help keep you on track, right? Eh… not so fast there, buckaroo.
Simply stating your goal out loud has been proven to kick your motivation right in the junk.
Peter Gollwitzer completed a study on 49 German University psychology students. The students were questioned on their commitment to become a psychologist, and their top 2 study related goals for the week.
One group of students publically announced their study related goals, and the other group did not. When the two groups were later questioned, they found that the group who made their study related goals public had a lower success rate than those who did not.
In other words, simply making you goals public knowledge can negatively impact your chances of success. When you talk about your goals, it produces a sense of completion, and that sense of completion could kill your motivation.
Goals and Debt Freedom
The same can be said for personal finance. Getting out of debt isn’t easy. We live in a world where public encouragement of financial responsibility is as rare as Sasquatch and unicorn sightings…
Whoa… Word made me capitalize Sasquatch, but not unicorns? If anyone knows why that is, please let me know. This is the sort of shit that keeps me up at night…
Anyway… back on track…
Much like my inability to resist that delicious doughy goodness, targeted consumer ad campaigns bombard our brains, convincing us that we “need” to finance that Kubota at 0% for 84 months. I mean who doesn’t need to pay on a tractor for 7 years?
Having the intestinal fortitude to get out of debt is hard enough, and I’d venture to say that debt-freedom is impossible without a solid, well written SMART goal.
Your financial SMART goals are the blue print to success.