How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

by Tom Tousignant

in Blog, Budgeting, Wealth Building

Setting Goals is a key to succeeding in any area – whether you are talking finances, fitness, or career. You can research all you want, but it is very rare to find a successful person anywhere who isn’t a goal setter.

Don’t confuse goals with hopes.  “Hopes” are vague, without deadlines, and often unrealistic.  Goals are just the opposite.

Here are 5 keys to setting great goals that you can achieve:

S = Specific

Goals should always be as specific as possible. For example, assume you set a goal that says, “I want to make (or save) as much money as possible this year.” This is a terrible goal because it’s vague; that is, there’s no definition of what “as much money as possible” is. 

Psychologically, vague goals tend to make you procrastinate or get lazy because there’s no definite number to hang on to. 

So, a better way to write a specific goal is this: “By Dec. 31 of this year, I will have made $100,000.”Or, “I will have cut spending by $10,000 by Dec. 31.” Now, your unconscious has a concrete number to grab on to! 

(Note: your sub-conscience loves concrete items. If you want to make a goal real in your mind, describe it as much as possible in terms of the five senses; that is, touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight).

M = Measurable

Every goal should have a standard by which you measure it. In the example above, you can measure your progress toward that $100,000 income (or the $10,000 savings) very easily on a monthly basis.  You need to know that at the end of the time you set for yourself if the goal was achieved or not. 

“Get in Shape” is not a goal – it’s a hope.  “Lose 10 pounds by June 1st” is measurable.

A = Attainable

Be sure your goal can be reached. For example, if you haven’t gone jogging in 10 years, don’t set a goal of competing in the Hawaii Iron-man Triathlon this year!  

A more attainable goal might be to run a half marathon that is scheduled 6 months from now. 

The same goes for spending: set an attainable goal. You may have, say, $12,000 in credit card debt. It may not be attainable to eliminate it in one year; however, you may be able to reduce it by $6,000 by next December 31. 

R = Realistic

A goal must not only be attainable; it must be realistic as well. What’s the difference? Well, let’s assume that you’re new to the field as a real estate agent. 

Setting a goal of, say, $500,000 income for your first year is, in most cases, wildly unrealistic. You have to learn your trade…find leads…make contacts…etc. 

In this case, you need to set a more realistic goal, one geared to your abilities, experience, and market. 

T = Timely

By timely, I mean that you should set a deadline for every goal! This is vital. Psychologically, we all respond to deadlines. They impart a sense of urgency and make us want to achieve those goals within that specific time period. 

Did you notice in the examples above that I set a definite deadline – “by Dec. 31?” You can do this for goals large and small; for example:  

    • I will save $1,000 by March 31st.
    • I will contact my mortgage planner and my insurance agent to review my mortgage and insurance coverage by this Friday.
    • I will schedule my annual physical by January 31st etc. 

One final important note: Always put your S.M.A.R.T. goals in writing! This is another concrete action that will ensure your goals get accomplished. If you simply carry those ideas around in your head, believe me you’ll forget them!


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