Setting ‘SMART’ goals to start off the new year right

Every year as December comes to a close and a new year hovers on the horizon, I have always set new goals for myself. Some people like to call these new year resolutions, but over the years I have determined that calling these plans “goals” is a more positive way to approach the changes I want to make in my life.

I’ve learned over the years that resolutions fade too quickly in my mind, but by creating a set of realistic goals and then actually tracking them, it’s easier for me to achieve those goals. I once read a book on goal setting that revealed the five “golden rules” to goal setting. I wish I still had that book, but as I usually do, once I memorized the content I passed it along to a friend.

Those five rules are easy enough to remember and to follow, and as long as you remain dedicated to those goals, you should be able to achieve your goals too.

One of my biggest goals – set way back in 2016 – was to become completely debt free by the end of 2018. I am happy to announce that while there have been a few setbacks here and there thanks to some unplanned car repairs and a few other things that popped up in 2017, as long as I remain diligent and follow my plan, I should be debt free by the end of this year.

This particular goal, like most of my goals, falls into the five golden rules of goal setting, and by using that system I read about, I have learned I can attain pretty much anything to which I set my mind.

So, what are the five golden rules of goal setting? Simple, set goals that motivate you, be sure you are setting “SMART” goals – more on that later, write those goals down, make an action plan and stick with it.

Now most of those rules are self-explanatory and are things that I had done in the past, mostly with success, but the whole sticking with it thing was tricky for me at times. What I really wanted to share was the “SMART” goal setting system. That step is what was missing from my plan in the past. Since implementing them, I have found it much easier to reach my goals.

“SMART” goals are simply goals that should be designed to be smart – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound.

For my goal to become debt free, I made sure it was specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound, I want to be debt free by Dec. 31, 2018. Let’s face it, you can’t be more specific than that, and when is it not relevant to pay off debt? So, I totaled all my debt and divided by 36 months to ensure it was attainable and that I could make the necessary payments each month to reach the goal. To measure that goal, I did a three-year bill plan which included extra payments to all my debtors that I refer to every month as I pay bills, so I could get that debt paid down and eventually paid off.

I am happy to report, so far, so good. By writing those goals down in my payment plan and tracking it each month, I am holding myself accountable, which seems to have done the trick for me. I hate to let people down, especially myself, so it’s become easier for me to walk away from those impulse buys that generally went on a credit card, which was always my biggest problem.

New this year, I am adding a specific savings component to my plan so that I have a specific amount in the bank at the end of the year, and I am super excited to see how this goes as well.

If you are looking at setting some goals for yourself in the new year, I would encourage you to set “SMART” goals and stick with them. After all, if I can do it, anybody can.

But hey, it’s only my opinion.

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