Setting a New Year’s resolution or goal is great, but a SMART goal is even better. There is a higher likelihood that you will achieve a SMART and meaningful goal. Here’s a four-step process that will help you set and achieve important goals in 2023 and beyond:
1. Reflect on the past year
Before you put 2022 in the rearview mirror, take a moment to think about the previous year as a whole. What went well? What goals did you achieve? Where did you fall short? What memorable experiences did you enjoy? What challenges did you overcome? Who were the people who made the year special? What opportunities did you pivot towards? What mistakes do you wish you could take back?
2. What should I improve upon?
Now, start looking forward. Perhaps there’s something that you said to yourself, “I’ll work on that in 2023.” Perhaps you experienced a major life or professional transition last year that has readjusted your path toward your long-term goals. Or maybe there’s an important change to your health or relationships that you want to prioritize in 2023.
As potential goals begin to form in your mind, remember that you’re far more likely to hit a goal that has real, personal meaning to you. Don’t pick a goal just because it is trendy or you might get more likes on social media. Rather, set a goal that is to going to make you better and has intention behind it. Once you have a couple of possibilities, ask yourself, “Why?” to filter out any goals that you can’t connect to personal motivation. If you pick a broad goal like being in better shape, then you might falter. But, if you pick something more specific that has a meaning like running a half-marathon where your children live, that could be an important step towards your personal success.
3. Set SMART goals
Why do people always fall short of their “save more money this year” resolution? Because it’s not SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed.
A SMART goal could be, “I want to maximize my Roth IRA contributions this year,” or, “I want to save X for a down payment on a new house by the end of the summer.”
Once you have that specific goal in sight, you can start breaking it down into the smaller benchmarks that you need to hit throughout the year on your way to your overall goal. You can think about these short-term goals like the key performance indicators (KPIs) that many companies use to track, measure, and manage their progress toward annual targets. If your goal is to max out your Roth IRA contributions this year, you might focus on contributing an equal amount each month, like dollar cost averaging. This would be very easy to track and should not seem as burdensome as a large contribution at one time.
4. Write goals down and track them
Whether you write in a specialized journal or have a calendar that you hang on your fridge, visualizing your progress towards goals can create both motivation and accountability. Seeing all those checkmarks strung together will make you want to keep adding to your chain of success. Blank spots will nag at you to catch up. And if you share how you’re doing with your family or friends, they’ll be sure to give you that extra boost you need on those days when you’re feeling frustrated or low on energy.
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