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Getting Smart With Your Goals

By Phivos Hadjinicolaou

January is a month of rejuvenation, focus, and inspiration, and it’s all about carrying these emotions and intentions through the entirety of the year. It is a time for resolutions, promises to ourselves, and carefully crafted goals.

The question is, how many goals? How can they be measurable, actionable, and real? How can these goals be inspirational without causing anxiety or a sense of “failure”?

Goals should not complicate our lives, but rather, simplify it. They should make our lives more enjoyable, more meaningful, facilitating solutions and choices. Ultimately, a release from “feeling trapped” in situations that we or others have created and are no longer serving us.

An excellent approach is to start with small goals. They are as important as big ones, as they give us that positive reinforcement of achievement, and help us develop more confidence in ourselves. A list of 3 goals would be sufficient – 2 small goals, 1 large goal – would go a long way.

Author, businessman, and founder, Paul J. Meyer, wrote a book on goals and makes a notable reference to a system dubbed as “SMART goals”. The term was coined in a 1981 Journal of Management Review article by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham. Let’s explore what SMART goals are, and how they can help you develop a more accurate sense of direction for yourself coming into 2023.

First, let’s define SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-relative

But, what does all of this mean? Let’s break it down.

Specific – Align your goals with purpose. Understanding the various elements that would entail achieving your goals helps you  Start answering questions such as:

  • What exactly do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • Who do I know that could help me or guide me in achieving this goal?
  • Where exactly does this goal take place?
    • An example could be climbing the ladder in your company, or at a space of physical activity, or in an academic institution like your university or school
  • Which limits might be imposed, and which resources may you need to acquire, or already have at your disposal?

For example, you want to create some financial stability in your life. You’ve determined that you can nurture your emergency fund, by saving 50 Euro every week. Doing so creates peace of mind, knowing that you have a pool of money to fall back on in emergency situations, such as having to repair your car, or a medical expense.

Measurable – Consider what indicators you can establish to monitor your progress, and how close you are to achieving your goals. Consider these elements:

  • How many goals am I going to set for myself?
  • How much effort is required to approach and achieve these goals?
  • How will I know, with certainty, that I’ve achieved this goal?

Benchmark your current lifestyle against your desired lifestyle. How much money do you need to bridge the gap? Meeting those differences will indicate that you’ve achieved your goal in transitioning to your desired lifestyle.

Achievable – Your goals should test your abilities without breaking you. Achievable goals are realistic and tangible. We don’t want to be setting goals that feel insurmountable. When you look to create achievable goals, ask yourself:

  • What will it take to achieve this goal?
  • What constraints am I facing when trying to achieve this goal?
    • Financial, social, health, are among the elements that influence our abilities when pursuing a goal

Following the 50/20/20/10 rule that we have discussed in our webinars, and previous blogs, can be difficult to abide by. The rule states that 50% of your income goes to must-do expenses, 20% goes to savings and pension, 20% goes to debt and loan repayments, and 10% goes towards your wanna-do’s. 

Your goal could be to commit to this budgeting rule, but seeing as you may not be able to adhere to it right off the bat, you can start taking small steps towards it. Make slight adjustments to your lifestyle and spending habits so that the change is not overwhelming, and so that you can perceive and understand the benefits of sticking to this budgeting rule. 

Relevant – An important step in goal setting. It’s crucial that your goals matter to you. Primarily, your goals should be relevant to you. A secondary consideration is what the world currently needs. Assess your interests and skills, and see where they fit in the world’s current needs. We suggest you consider the following:

  • Are the goals that you set for yourself worthwhile?
  • Do my goals fit in the current socio-economic systems?
  • Do the happenings in my life enable me to pursue these goals?

Do your goals align with your financial goals? If you’ve made a promise to yourself that you will start saving a certain amount every week or month, ensure that your other goals are not detrimental to your financial goals. The goals you set for yourself must be relevant not only to yourself, but to each other. Creating a synergy between your goals helps you pursue them in a more structured manner, that allows you to develop a better understanding of your financial habits, and helps you develop a greater sense of the budget you need to sustain yourself.

Time – This is all about setting a starting date, and a deadline. The more we structure our goals, the more tangible they are, and the more we commit ourselves to pursuing them. 

  • What can I achieve in 3 weeks?
  • How far can I take it in 3 months?
  • What can I do today to push myself further?

Saying “I want to earn 10,000 Euros from my side hustle” is great, but when do you want to achieve this? Set a realistic time-frame for yourself to see how much you can achieve, and assess what more you can do to get closer to your goal. 

If you do not achieve your goal in the time you’ve allotted, you have at least created a strong sense of self-awareness, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your interests. At the office, you may have been told that you must learn to manage client expectations. Well, you should do that for yourself too.

Navigating our goals in a time of financial, political, and societal uncertainty can be strenuous, but these are the times where we grow into the strongest possible versions of ourselves. Achieving our goals may require us to take a step back in our lifestyle choices. Perhaps limiting our budgets further – learning to live with less. Remember, it’s temporary as long as you are working to achieve something. Seldom do we find ourselves with no reward in areas where exceptional effort has been made.

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