To borrow a quote from Tony Robbins

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible".

Whether you set your goals SMARTER, SMARTLY or SMART, does not matter as much as what the goal of these acronyms want you to attain when setting your life goals, which is to bring those goals to life.

Money is not the end in itself but rather a tool that helps us achieve a majority of our life goals.

Not having 'enough' money or having the wrong attitude towards money has the potential to affect the achievement of critical life goals related to the quality of our life and can put a strain on our relationships.

So whether your goal is to have a comfortable retirement, send your kids to good schools, buy a car or build that home you have been dreaming about, five critical steps and the precision with which those steps are performed will determine whether the goal stays as a fantasy or becomes reality.

5 Critical Steps To Achieve Your Goals

These 5 critical steps are:

  1. Know - The first step is to know what the goal is. If you don't know where you are going, how do you know whether you are on the right path to getting there or when you have arrived?
  2. Analyze - The next step is to critically analyze and frame the goal in a way that makes it achievable. This is where the various acronyms come into play, to help you frame your goal in a way that spurs you into action.
  3. Plan - The third step is to plan how you are going to achieve the goals, which includes the resources you will need, how you will execute and monitor your progress.
  4. Execute - After planning, you must put the plan into action if you are to achieve the goals set in them. Execution is what puts life into your plan and results in achieving the goal.
  5. Evaluate - The last step is the feedback step and is where you check periodically to see how well you are doing in achieving your goal and what adjustments need to be made to the goal, plan or execution steps

Just as with all other life and business goals, personal financial goal setting also requires the application of analytical frameworks and tools that when used correctly, can enable us get to the goal we have in mind.

A number of frameworks have been developed and used primarily in business settings but are now being increasingly adopted and applied in personal goal setting situations and there is no better place to adopt them than in the critical area of personal financial planning.

One such widely known and used tool in this regard is the SMART goals setting framework. Simply put, this framework is encapsulated in in the word which represents the frame of analysis you must use when evaluating any goal you have in mind.

What this acronym implies is that, to improve the chances of realizing that goal you have set, you must first make sure that the goal is SMART, meaning, it must be:

  1. Specific - Have you specified exactly what you want to achieve or is it a hazy blur of fantasies?
  2. Measureable - Can success and progress be measured? Is there a way to measure measure your progress and outcomes to know how close or far you are from you goal? 
  3. Attainable - Can the goal be achieved or is it a pie in the sky, far out of reach?
  4. Relevant - How does this goal relate to your overall situation and where you want to go or what you want to be?
  5. Time-bound - When will I achieve my goal?

Other additonal words have been added by others to those outlined here and they provide additional depth and rigour to the analysis stage, as you can see here in this article and such as the additional letters added to the SMART framework like SMARTER and SMARTLY frameworks where the: 

  1. stands for Evaluated
  2. R stands for Reviewed
  3. L stands for Legal or in some cases, Little steps
  4. Y stands for  stand for You - which puts the burden of accomplishing these goals on you.

Your tasks for this post are to:

  1. Identify and list your financial goals
  2. Make your goals SMART, SMARTER or SMARTLY

Here are some useful videos by Mind Tools on How to Set SMART Goals and the Golden Rules of Goal Setting.

What other frameworks have you used to help you achieve your financial goals and how well have you been doing so far? Share your experience and help others to also achieve their goals by commenting below.