Resolutions? Let’s Be SMART About Them.
Let’s be honest. Just about every one of us has made a New Year’s resolution at least once in our life. The most common subject is weight loss and exercise, but they can cover about anything. Budgeting, quitting a habit, relationships, job, convincing the cat that it’s ok to take a bath… Whatever that resolution is, according to Statistic Brain, 62% of us will end up making one at some point in time. But are you being smart about it?
Scroll down through the link above and you find that only 8% of people will be successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. That’s not very good odds. And yet, according to Statistic Brain’s research, people are 10 TIMES more likely to be successful when they “explicitly make resolutions” than those who don’t.
So, what does this mean for us? Will it hurt to make a New Year’s resolution? I certainly don’t think it will hurt. Will you be successful? Well, the odds aren’t in your favor, but there is certainly a better chance if you are intentional about it.
In the world of financial counseling and education, we talk a lot about setting goals. Whether it is home buyer education, credit card debt, student loan debt, or dealing with any other kind of debt, we encourage people to be intentional about setting and achieving their goals.
Normally you would need to come see us either in a class or counseling setting to get this info, but consider it my New Year’s gift to you. You are getting it right here and now for nothing more than the time it takes to read it!
Write It Down – Be intentional enough about your goals to take the time to write them down. It encourages you to spend time and really process what you want to set as your goal. This is especially helpful when the goal involves more than just you. You all need to communicate and find common ground before the goal can be identified.
Writing your goals down also provides a bit of framework for working on that goal. It gives you a reference to look back on and use as a reminder. Take that written goal and put it somewhere you will see it. Most often people will put it on the refrigerator or on their bathroom mirror. Use whatever location works for you whether it is on your computer screen, the wall of the shower, or the dash of your car (preferably not covering the speedometer). Just write it down and keep it visible.
See The Whole Picture – Most often when I talk with people about their goals, they think only about the high-cost long-range goals – those goals that will take a year or more to achieve. While those are great goals, the little ones can be just as important to us if we take time to think about them. They may only take the year or even a month or two to reach, but they can be critical pieces of reaching other goals or simply steps towards contentedness. After all, who hasn’t set the goal of ‘surviving today’?
Make Them Smart – We teach the SMART model of setting goals. It’s an acronym, so here it is laid out:
- Specific – Make sure that not only do you know what you mean, but if someone else reads it, they can understand exactly what you want to accomplish. So you want to ‘save money’. Does that mean you want more money in your savings account? Or does it simply mean you want to buy less or cheaper stuff? I can’t answer that for you, so you tell me. Make your goal specific.
- Measurable – If you are setting a goal, you obviously want to be successful. But to reach that, you need to know exactly where successful is. Create a benchmark for you to reach in your goal. You want more money in savings? How much? Will you consider yourself successful if you end 2015 with $.05 more than right now in your savings? WOW! A whole nickel! I don’t think that’s what you are aiming for, so communicate what you are working towards by making your goal measurable.
- Attainable – Sure, who wouldn’t want to be a millionaire by the end of the year? For most of us, however, that just isn’t going to happen. I wish it would, but let’s be honest about it. It’s good to stretch yourself, but by setting unrealistic goals you are simply setting yourself up for failure, guilt, despair, and public ridicule. OK, maybe not public ridicule, but you are probably going to find some extra frustration if your goals aren’t at all attainable given your situation.
- Relevant – No goal exists in a vacuum (unless your goal is a cleaner home). To use financial resources as an example, setting aside more towards your goal of increasing emergency savings means having less towards paying off your credit card debt. Neither is a bad goal, but we need to prioritize and find balance. Also consider your goals within the context of everything else going on in your life. If you are pregnant, a national roller coaster tour in the next 3 months probably isn’t a very good goal. Make sure all of the pieces are relevant and compliment each other.
- Timely – It’s no secret that deadlines motivate me. By setting a deadline for achieving your goal, you can give yourself a little more motivation to get off your keister and get it done. Much like making your goal measurable, it also helps you identify when you are successful. When you set a goal, set a deadline so we know when to show up for the next point of this blog post.
Celebrate It – If Times Square can throw the party they do over setting New Year’s resolutions, why not celebrate when you achieve your goals? Go ahead and be happy; it’s more than understandable when you find yourself successful. Better yet, have a plan to celebrate when you follow through with your other plans. Remember earlier when I mentioned that only 8% of people are successful at following through with their New Year’s resolutions? If you achieve your goals this year, you are in a small crowd my friend. You deserve to celebrate.
Be Ready For Life – Despite your best intentions, life still happens. Now this is important, so listen closely and really soak in what I am about to say….. THAT’S OK! So something happens that makes one of your goals irrelevant or unattainable. So what? Evaluate where you are at and reorganize your goals. Perhaps you need to delete or change one or perhaps a goal just gets moved further down the priority list. That’s OK as long as you are still being intentional about where you want to end up.
A little overwhelmed with the enormity of it all? That’s all right. It really isn’t that difficult. If you would like, our counselors are all aware of SMART goals and would be more than happy to meet with you. While they can’t set your goals for you, they can provide an objective view to help you process your financial goals.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net