Not Your Mama’s SMART Goals

Fri, Jan 6, 2012

behavioral finance, goals

If you’ve spent any time at all reading about finance, especially in the past week or so, you know what SMART goals are. They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. In other words, goals that meet those criteria are easier to reach because you’ve figured out most of the hard stuff already. If you create random goals like “win a million dollars” or “do more stuff,” you aren’t likely to get very far. Makes sense, right?

I have to be honest: I’m sick of reading about SMART goals. First of all, everyone in the universe got together and decided that a new year must include talk of goals, which makes me want to rebel. (Yet I’m writing a post about goals, the irony of which doesn’t escape me.) Second, I was forced to create SMART goals for myself in every job I ever had, and finding 900 ways to say “Don’t come to work drunk” just got old. I have a lot of respect for my fellow bloggers, most of whom are way smarter than I am, but I just can’t follow the herd on this one.

So I decided to make up my own definition of SMART goals to liven things up a little.

How to Create SMART Goals, Andrea-Style

Simple - Goals can’t be too complicated or I won’t even try. “Visit Grandma three times a quarter on the first Tuesday of the month at 3pm,” while very specific, is just too much for everyday life (unless you’re Martha Stewart). My goals are usually easier to keep up with, like “Pay $50 extra toward my car payment every month.”

Memorable - If you don’t care enough about something to remember it, you probably don’t need to make it a goal. So spend some time examining your values and choose things that matter to you. This is why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Working out and quitting smoking are great goals, but since I couldn’t be bothered to do it any other time, I’m probably not going to do it beyond the first few weeks of January. Instead, I prefer to focus on the things that do matter to me - earning and saving money, paying all my bills on time, and spending more time with my family.

Affordable - Whether or not you’re in debt, make sure your goals are actually possible from a financial standpoint. I’d love to go to Hawaii, for instance, but is it likely to happen this year? I doubt it. So instead of having this lofty goal to save enough money to go to Hawaii, I might instead save X amount toward a trip to Hawaii in a year or two. Yeah, it sucks to delay gratification, but you have to be realistic about your financial situation.

Radical - Push yourself beyond the mundane and accomplish something awesome. Sure, you could set little piddly goals like “Don’t die while sleeping” or “Refrain from eating human flesh.” You could even throw a little celebration at the end of the year when you meet all those goals with little effort. But what did you actually accomplish? Goals shouldn’t be the things you know you’re going to do anyway. That’s cheating! Push yourself to go a little further. If you always save $25 from every paycheck, shoot for $50 this time. If you have game night with your kids once a week, try twice a week.

Trackable. Make sure you can look back at your behavior and tell whether your goals were met. When I was still working as a therapist, my clients were horrible at this. “I want to be happier.” Okay, how will we know you’re happier? “Um, I’ll say I feel happier.” Yes, but what will you do differently when you’re happier? How will other people know you’re happier? “Because I’ll tell them I’m happy?” (deep breaths, count to 10, remember that assaulting people is not the answer…) Determining a way to keep up with your progress is just as important, if not more, than meeting the goals.

Are My SMART Goals Better?

Actually, the acronym I created isn’t that different from the original SMART goals. Just a slightly different way of saying the same thing. But just like people who have spending plans instead of budgets, I benefit from changing things up every now and then.

It doesn’t matter which version of SMART goals you use - just find a way to make goals that you’ll actually try to reach. If you’re not sure what your goals should be, ask your family and friends. I’m sure they’ll tell you all kinds of things you could work on!

Have you created goals for 2012? Do you use SMART goals? What system helps you stay on track and accomplish things?

15 Responses to “Not Your Mama’s SMART Goals”

  1. Michelle says:

    I have done this with my goals. I track everything on my blog (or I am trying to) and I feel like that helps a lot.

  2. Rachel says:

    I also can't stand the new years resolution bit. I figure either I'm gonna do it or I'm not so the new year has no bearing on the situation.

  3. Ashley @ Money Talks says:

    I love goal setting… I guess I'm just a big dork. And I like your SMART goals too. 

  4. Mackenzie @therandom says:

    Goal setting helps me stay accountable, but I love your take on the situation! :)

  5. AmericanDebtProject says:

    I definitely like the Trackable part!  I'm trying to do that with my spending and with working out, actually keeping a record.  Makes me feel super dorky, but it will be worth it, right? :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I used SMART goals before I knew to call them that!  The key for me is to monitor my progress and adjust my effort to reach my goal.

  7. Aloysa @My Broken Co says:

    Refrain from eating human flesh? Haha! That is very trackable. lol
    I liked how you explained SMART your way. I created simple goals for this year but then I realized that they are pretty broad as well. I startednarrowing them down so that I know what the hell I am supposed to do. :-)

  8. Jen @ Master the Art says:

    from eating human flesh" wouldn't be a piddly goal if there was a zombie apocalypse,
    you pretty much be making it a goal to not become one. That could be a wise
    goal under those circumstances. But yeah, there are a ton of SMART goal posts
    out lately. Yours was the only one I've read because I knew it wouldn't suck. :-)

  9. Daniel Milstein says:

    That is so true Andrea. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said "Working out and quitting smoking are great goals, but since I couldn’t be bothered to do it any other time".I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you're talking about. Can't wait to read more from you!

  10. Pam at MoneyTrail says:

    I must admit, I kinda like the Andrea-style!  Especially #2 - memorable.  If something isn't important to you, chances are, you will not change your behavior.  I listened to a radio discussion with Wes Moss (Money Matters host in Atlanta) this week.  He made the statement that getting out of debt is "simple but not easy."  Simple solutions are reasonable and doable but sticking with them for the long term is not easy.


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