It is pretty obvious that the subject of setting goals and objectives would come up from time to time in a personal finance blog. One of the best know methods of goal setting was first proposed by George Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. A lot of variations have appeared to the original S.M.A.R.T acronym suggested by the author. Here is an example of how this might work in practice. S: Specific: Lose weight
M: Measurable: 15 pounds
A: Assignable: I am responsible
T: Time: Within the next month
In practice setting goals can be a little treacherous. Specific is in the eye of the beholder. Lose weight isn’t really specific until a measurable quantity is attached to the next criteria. Even when the number of pounds is assigned, there is nothing to say if the party to whom the goal is assigned finds it meaningful, attainable or even as desirable as the alternative of gaining 15 pounds in the next month.
The process can be improved by asking questions like, “Why?” or, “How?”
I have read in a number of different sources that by far the most successful diets are undertaken by brides preparing for their wedding. The goal is not to lose weight but to look beautiful in a wedding dress on the most important day of her life.
S: Lose weight Why? Look beautiful in wedding dress
A: Assignable: I am responsible How? Leads to a plan that includes diet and exercise
Asking yourself questions as you set financial goals, career goals, or personal goals will lead to better goals. Don’t stop with just one level of questions dig deeply into what really is of value—to you.
Make the goal positive.
Losing weight is a negative. Looking beautiful is a positive. Entering a 5K race is another positive reason for losing weight.
Set a goal that is of benefit to you.
Looking beautiful in a tuxedo at a wedding is not of much benefit to me. I would need to find another motivation for losing weight.
Set a goal that is believable by you.
Organizations that set goals from the top are often disappointed because none of the people who are asked to perform these miracles believe they are possible.
Set a goal that you can control.
The greater the control that you have over the outcome of your effort, the more likely it is that you will succeed. I am actually losing weight. I do have a long term goal. I am not telling you, but I have written it down on a piece of paper I carry in my wallet. I have learned that my body does not respond in a predictable or controllable manner to my efforts. This could be discouraging if I did not have smaller goals that I can actually control. For example, I can’t say I will lose 5 pounds in the next week. I can say that I will walk more than 20 miles during the next week. Barring injury or illness, I can control that goal.
The deeper you go with this process the better you will understand yourself. The better you understand your own values and motivations the more likely your success. The next level of motivation for my weight loss effort is my heart condition, arterial fibrillation, a fast and irregular heart rhythm. There is a reasonable probability that if I can drop a significant amount of weight my heart would snap back into a normal sinus rhythm. Then I wouldn’t need to continue taking medication that has potential undesirable side effects.
Don’t stop there. Keep going down to deeper and deeper levels of understanding. In my case, I am no longer 18. There are still a lot of things I want to see and do over the remaining years that the Lord may give me. If those years are going to be full and rewarding, I better start working on my health before it is too late.
Set a goal that is Congruent with who you are, your values, and your gifts.
Congruence is a strange word, but it is the best word I know for the principle of alignment. In order to pursue and achieve or goals with a minimum of time and effort, it is important that every aspect of our person and our behavior is in alignment with our goals. Two sets of points are called congruent if both have the same shape and size and thus are indistinguishable. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we must seek congruence and coincidence in our life, that is we make the effort shape our actions, thoughts and beliefs in such a way that they take the same shape and point in the same direction. If your goal is in alignment with your passions, the natural flow of your energy, your talents and gifts, and most importantly with your true bedrock values, you will succeed.