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Goal Setting

How to Set SMART Goals

5 Minute Read

Many of us are going into the new year with the best intentions to take control of our money, get fit, or start a new hobby—but the reality is, many of us will fail to meet those goals.

No matter what time of year it is, setting goals are always in style. But how do you stick with your goals for more than just a couple of weeks and actually achieve them?

If you’re waiting on something or someone else to change your life, you could be waiting for a while. You have to do something. It’s time to sit down, take control, and make smart goals.

What are SMART Goals?

If you’re stumped on where to start, just remember the acronym SMART:


These five elements are the building blocks for achieving your goals.

Writing Down SMART Goals

The best way to set smart goals is to write them down, including all the steps it will take for you to get there. Something amazing happens when you take the time to write down your specific goals. Instead of just keeping them in your head as intangible thoughts, it can actually help you achieve them.

Putting your goals in writing is a great way to hold yourself accountable and track your progress along the way. Use our Goal Tracker Worksheet to write down your goals along with the steps you need to take to achieve them.

Keep It Specific and Measurable

For your goals to work, you need to focus on exactly what you want to achieve. For example, just saying you want to lose weight won’t cut it. Instead try, "I would like to drop 20 pounds and be able to do at least 20 pull-ups in a row." That goal is specific and includes an exact, measurable amount.

Give yourself daily, weekly and/or monthly steps that help you see when you’re making progress toward your goal. If you know your ultimate goal is to pay off $24,000 of debt in the next year, you have to pay $2,000 a month to reach that goal, or about $460 a week. Breaking it down to the specifics makes the goal that much more achievable.

Set a Time Limit

Giving yourself a date for your goal gives you a point to aim at. Once you have your time-sensitive target, create a plan and break it all the way down to daily activities. Then give yourself a deadline. Something like, "I would like to lose 20 pounds by December 31."

Knowing this, how many times do you need to work out each week? What will your calorie intake be each day? As you prepare your strategy, you’ll be able to clearly see whether or not your goals are attainable.

Own It!

One of the easiest ways to fail at goal setting is by trying to accomplish someone else’s goals. If your parents want you to be the most successful doctor in the country, it won’t happen unless it’s your dream too.

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Why? Because as you may have figured out, striving to win isn’t for the weak of heart. It’s tough. And you won’t have the drive to stick with it if you’re working toward a goal you’re not passionate about.

Likewise, just because your spouse or dad wants you to get out of debt doesn’t mean you will. You have to want it too. The goals you set must be your goals—because when push comes to shove, you’re the one who has to fight to make them a reality.

Seven Areas of Life You Can Try SMART Goal Setting

It’s important to have goals for all the significant areas of your life. Hit them and you’ll be well on your way to success. Neglect an area or two and it could hinder you from reaching your other goals altogether. We recommend you set goals for these seven areas:

  • Financial Goals: Start saving for retirement, get out of debt, or implement a monthly zero-based budget.
  • Spiritual Goals: Pick up a new devotional, start a daily gratitude journal, or get plugged in to a group at your church.
  • Fitness Goals: Hit the gym more often, take the stairs, or remember to eat your veggies.
  • Educational Goals: Go back to finish your degree, get your MBA, or read a good book every month.
  • Family Goals: Plan one-on-one dates with your kids, have a standing date night with your spouse, or make it a point to call Mom and Dad every Sunday night.
  • Career Goals: Work toward a promotion or raise, do something that will benefit your career, or send out resumes if you’re looking for a new career path.
  • Social Goals: Say yes when someone invites you out to lunch or a social gathering, or for some of you, say no more often.

So, what do you want to accomplish? Give yourself permission to envision the endless possibilities of what the future can hold. Then get ready to tackle your goals and make them happen.

Start Setting SMART Goals That Matter Today!

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t accomplish your goals the way you originally planned or if you get off track. Life happens, and we all hit roadblocks along the way. That’s okay! As long as you stay focused on the end goal and keep taking small steps toward achieving it, you’ll be on your way to making a big change.

The average family who uses Financial Peace University pays off $5,300 and saves $2,700 in the first 90 days! Become a member today.