Ashley has taught college business courses and has a master's degree in management.
Why Set Goals?
Are you going through life aiming at nothing? What are you getting? If you haven't set goals, you are most likely not where you would like to be. Perhaps you should take a different approach. Most of us have dreams. Why not achieve them? Having dreams without goals is like shooting at a target without aiming. If you want to hit your intended target, then set goals.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
It is important to understand the difference between short-term and long-term goals. This is the first step to setting successful goals that you can achieve. A short-term goal is something you want to achieve in the near future. These are typically meet within a year. A long-term goal is something you want to reach further in the future. These goals take longer than a year to achieve.
Most of us go through life thinking about our long-term goals, but have no idea how to actually get there. Long-Term goals are things like owning a home and paying off the mortgage. It could take you five years to get to the point that you can buy a home, depending on your financial situation, and most mortgages are setup for 15-20 years. Since both the purchase and payoff of a home take longer than a year, they are both considered long-term goals.
SMART Goal Theory
Now that you understand what a long-term goal is, it is time to figure out how to achieve it. A popular way to set goals is by using the SMART Goal Theory. The SMART Goal Theory stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This theory helps you set short-term goals that lead you to achieve your long-term goals. For example, let's go back to the long-term goal of owning a home. For the purpose of this example, your research tells you that you need a certain credit score and down payment. This leads you to write the following SMART goals:
- Put $150 of every paycheck towards credit card debt to increase credit score. I will do this for two years, while getting paid every two weeks, and I will payoff my credit card debt of $7,800. I will not charge additional debt to any credit cards.
- Put $200 of every paycheck into a savings account for a down payment on a home. I'm paid every two weeks, giving me $10,400 in two years.
These goals meet the SMART Goal Theory. They set specific amounts of money and time periods. You can measure each and how it will reach your long-term goal. They are achievable and realistic because you know you have that extra money, even if there are small things you must give up (ex. drinking pop, eating out, cable). They are timely because you set a specific amount of time that is not too distant.
Steps to Help Along the Way
- Feed your motivation. The best way to achieve a goal is to stay motivated. To do so, you have to figure out what your motivation is. So you want to buy a house. Why? Are you tired of throwing your money away in rentals? Do you want to make changes to a house that you can call your own? Do you want a better neighborhood for your kids to grow up in? Whatever it is, know your motivation and constantly remind yourself of it.
- Write your goals down. Some people say that it's not real unless it's in writing. If you want it, put it in writing. This creates something that is both visual and tangible. This is where the SMART Goal Theory comes in handy. Can you imagine how well you would do if you wrote your goals down using this theory and looked at them daily?
- Keep them in front of you. Like I said, look at them daily. For example, if you are working on your college degree, write your graduation date on a piece of paper and tape it to your computer. Every time you think about putting things off or quitting, you will see that date in front of you and realize it would be further away if you made either decision. You will be surprised at how motivating this visual reminder is.
We've established that it is crazy to go through life without a plan. What will you get if you aim for nothing? If you'd like to hit your target, you must set goals and go through the planning process on how to reach them. You should set both short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal is something you want to achieve in the near future; these are typically within the next year. A long-term goal is something you want to achieve further in the future; these goals take longer than a year to complete.
You can use the SMART Goal Theory in your planning process. The SMART Goal Theory stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This theory helps you to set short-term goals that lead you to achieve your long-term goals. A few steps that will help you along the way include: feed your motivation, write your goals down, and keep them in front of you. By staying motivated and looking at your goals on a regular basis you have more incentive to reach each goal.
I'm sure you've been thinking of at least a few goals you have for yourself. Now you understand how to reach them. So go get your pen and paper and start planning!
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