Make your goals SMART

A new year - and a new decade - is almost upon us, and that means now is the perfect time to think about your life's big picture and create some goals to help you move towards achieving your dreams.

Although many people set goals, they often fail to achieve them. Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals are SMART.

SMART stands for:






Specific:  Avoid vague goals by answering the six “W” questions about your goal: Who will do it, What specifically will be done, When will it be done by, Where will you focus, Why the goal is important, etc.

Measurable:  Include specific criteria that will allow you to measure your progress and know when you have attained your goal. Ask questions such as “How much?” or “How many?”.

Attainable:  Make sure your goal is something you are both willing and able to work towards. Start by asking yourself: "Is this a goal I am really committed to achieving?" If you are not committed, you will struggle with the discipline and change that will be needed to achieve your goal. You also want to make sure your goal can be achieved with the skills and resources you have currently available. 

Realistic:  You should set a goal that is challenging, but that you truly believe you can accomplish. If you believe a goal is too hard, it will be. If it doesn’t require growth or extra effort to achieve, it’s too easy. You know you have a realistic goal when you feel excited and challenged when you think about your goal. If you feel frightened or overwhelmed when you think about your goal, try to determine how you can break it into smaller, more manageable goals.

Timely:  A time frame is needed to create a sense of urgency. Without a time frame, a goal becomes relegated to the “I’ll get to it when it’s convenient” category. Challenging goals are never simply convenient, they require some discipline to achieve. If it was convenient and easy you wouldn’t need a goal in the first place.

Remember, if you start working on your goal and discover that any part of your SMART criteria is either too easy or too difficult, you can modify that part of your goal. Just make sure you keep it challenging but not discouraging.

Here are some examples of strong and weak goals:

Weak Goal:

I will buy real estate for cash flow.

Strong Goal:

I will buy a single-family home in my area that cash flows at least $100 a month, by the end of this year.

Weak Goal:

I will invest in precious metals.

Strong Goal:

I will buy at least 10 ounces of silver for $25 or less per ounce by July 31st.

Weak Goal:

I will learn about the self-storage business.

Strong Goal:

By March 15th I will have learned what it takes to buy and run a self-storage property including all startup and operating costs, upside potential, downside risk, and exit strategies, and decide if this is an area I am interested in investing in.

I wish you all the best as you strive to achieve your goals in 2010 and beyond!

Original publish date: December 24, 2009