Creating goals is hard.
Add on top of this the stress that comes with your finances and you’re now less likely to succeed. But, don’t beat yourself up. After all, you’re reading articles on how to set better goals right?
So what’s the solution to bad goals?
Great goals. It may sound like an obvious answer but hear me out. Setting goals is an art.
You need to set goals that are specific and actionable. Otherwise, you’re doomed from the start. Great goals aren’t created in 5 minutes, they need more of your time and attention. But, even with great goals, you can still fail.
The good news is that you can learn how to set great goals and secure your odds at achieving them. Interested? If so, here’s your ultimate guide to creating goals that’ll inspire you into action.
I’m not a goal expert–if there’s such a thing.
But, I have experienced success after learning from my mistakes. Regardless of which goal you’re setting, the principles stay the same. I was clueless a few years back when I was thousands of dollars in debt.
My excuse for not creating a budget back then was that I was good at math. This was a huge mistake and a big reason why I was in constant debt. At the time I didn’t set goals.
But, everything changed when I’d admitted to myself that I was living paycheck to paycheck. I realized that if I’d lost my job I’d be in big trouble. My goal was to pay down $6000 in credit card debt.
I began reviewing my income and estimated how much extra money I’d have to pay down my credit cards. I committed myself to pay down my entire credit card balance in 18 months.
At the time I didn’t know what smart goals were, but for the first time, I’d set a clear goal. Since then I’ve set different goals and have seen more success. I’ve learned that without setting clear goals achieving anything is near impossible.
The problem with my previous goals was that they weren’t specific. But, this doesn’t have to be your fate. The principles you’re about to learn can also help you reach financial success.
Imagine becoming inspired after watching a documentary or reading an article.
You then set a goal that comes to mind at that moment. A few weeks later you give up and wonder why you’d failed. The problem was setting a goal that wasn’t meaningful to you.
Instead, take the time to set meaningful goals. Here’s why because great goals take time–a lot of time. And, if you’re going to invest a big part of your time on anything then it should be worthwhile.
Meaningful goals don’t have to be big. They only have to mean something to you. Here are some examples:
A benefit of setting meaningful goals is that you’ll be more committed. And, when the going gets tough you’ll be more likely to stick around.
Most likely you’ve already heard of S.M.A.R.T goals.
These are goals that specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. The bottom line, setting smart goals is the best way to achieve anything. Imagine being in a large city with no map and no destination. On top of this, you have no deadline.
In the scenario above you can expect to never reach a destination. That’s what it’s like to set goals with no deadlines, or specific outcomes. After choosing a meaningful goal the next step is to make it smart.
For example, let’s say you wanted to be debt free. This is a great goal but not attainable. Instead, make it smart by stating you’d want to pay off $6000 of your credit card debt in 18 months. Now you have a deadline, and a specific goal you’d like to achieve.
When in doubt breakdown the S.M.A.R.T acronym to ensure your goal meets the criteria for being attainable. It’ll take more work in the beginning, but eventually setting smart goals will be easier.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” –Henry Ford
The truth is that even with smart goals you can fail.
Have you ever made the decision to lose 10lbs or gain muscle within a short period of time, only to fail? This was due to many factors but mainly because you’d burned out.
It’s not enough to set great goals. Even with meaningful goals, you’ll hit roadblocks that motivation won’t get you out off. So what’s the solution?
Make small progress with micro-goals. Like regular goals, your micro goals will be smart. All your doing is breaking down your main goal into smaller chunks.
From my previous example of paying off $6000 in credit card debt, you’d break this goal down to paying $333 each month. Taking it a step further you can then break it down to paying $11 daily.
Smaller goals are more attainable and will have you feeling less overwhelmed. But, another benefit is not triggering your amygdala’s fight or flight response. Your amygdala as a small almond shaped piece in your brain that stores your emotions.
In the past, your fight or flight response protected you from predators. Today, it’s triggered by non-life-threatening events. By breaking down your goals you avoid triggering your stress and fear emotions–preventing you from taking action towards your goals.
How should you review your goals?
Do you type them on your computer and review them every few weeks? You can but it will be easy for you to lose track. Instead, write down your goals daily on a journal.
Why? Because writing down your goals will increase your odds at succeeding.
You may have heard of a Harvard study conducted a few decades ago. This study analyzed students from the class of 1979. The results proved that the 3% who’d written down clear goals earned ten times more than the remaining 97%.
The only problem is that this Harvard study is a myth. But fortunately for you and I, someone else conducted a similar study. The study didn’t reveal the odds at succeeding, but it proved that writing goals helped significantly.
A journal is a great tool to do this in because you can track your progress. I tend to review my tasks daily–noting which tasks I completed or wasn’t able to complete. Think of your journal as your roadmap to reaching your goals.
Break your main goal into weekly chunks and continue to do so until you have daily goals. Then, track your progress for which goals you’ve completed and need to complete next.
If you can’t tell by now, setting goals requires a lot of work.
But, don’t let this stop you from taking the time to prepare. Setting goals is a different process for everyone but all great goals are smart. Now that you know the basics of goals setting here are a few goals you can use to inspire you to take action.
Goal: Build a side hustle in 6 months that generates $100 in monthly income.
High-level action plan:
Goal: Review my monthly expenses and save $100 in 3 months.
High-level action plan:
Goal: In 12 months pay $1000 towards principle debt balances.
High-level action plan:
Some of the goals above will need more thought than others, but this is a great place to start.
It’s great to read articles that inspire you into setting great goals and taking action.
The problem is that most articles fail to tell the truth behind goal setting. What truth? That it’s not easy–especially if you’ve never practiced any of the methods mentioned above.
You’ll most likely fail, at least in the beginning. This isn’t to discourage but to let you know that it’s normal.
The first time I’d learned about goal setting I thought I could do anything. Fast forward a few months and I’d made dozens of mistakes. For example, I got into the habit of focusing too much on the daily tasks that I headed in the wrong direction.
Many times you’ll find it comforting to complete the same tasks each day since you’ll get used to them. But, I challenge to review your progress each week to make sure you’re on track to reaching your goal. More often than not you also don’t know a lot of things.
How can estimate how long it would take you to earn extra money each month? You can’t, you can only do your best to make an educated guess. One of the most important steps in goal setting is learning when to pivot.
Whether it’s day 1 or day 50, make sure you’re heading in the right direction. And if you’re not sure where to head next, make it your next step to find out. Above all, don’t rush the process.
Whether you want to earn more money or lose weight don’t become obsessed with the outcome. I was guilty of this. Although I was being productive with reaching my goals, I felt miserable.
What’s the point of reaching your goals if, in the end, you’ll be unhappy? Focus more on loving the journey instead. You’ll be more likely to succeed and be happy when you reach your goals.
“Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.” –Bo Jackson
Now that you know how challenging goal setting is don’t let it discourage. you.
I promise it gets easier. The truth is reaching your goals won’t be sexy. At times you’ll be doing tasks you don’t want to do but need to complete to reach your goal.
When you fail don’t view it as a negative thing. View your failure as a lesson in disguise, and use it to make better decisions in the future.
Imagine becoming debt free or saving thousands of dollars each year. This wouldn’t be because of luck but the result of the time you’d invested in setting clear goals. Amazing right?
You’ve now learned the basics for setting goals and how to increase your odds at success. Start by setting meaningful goals and then make them specific. Finally, write them down in your journal and track your progress daily.
Don’t let your finances or past failures stop you from reaching the goals you desire.
Now, what big goals will you set today?
Chris writes personal finance and productivity articles for software companies. He gets fresh ideas through continuously investing in himself and interviewing successful entrepreneurs.