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Roadmap to Goal Setting

A new year can be the perfect time to set new goals.

But maybe you’re new to goal setting. Or, maybe you find yourself setting and forgetting goals year after year. (You know the cycle: set a goal, forget about or give up on the goal, set the same goal the next year, and repeat.)


Regardless of where you’re at, it may be time to take a fresh look at the goal-setting process.


Step 1: Give it some thought.

Before you set a goal, ask yourself:

  • Is this goal something I truly want?
  • Am I willing to invest the time and energy needed to reach this goal?
  • Have I set this goal before? If so, what went wrong? What would I do differently this time?


It’s also important to realize that the more goals you pursue at one time, the less likely you are to reach them. If you aren’t willing to put the time or effort needed into a goal, ditch it. It’s better to determine the goals that matter most to you right now and focus on those few. 


Step 2: Make it S.M.A.R.T.

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you want, make sure your goal meets the S.M.A.R.T. criteria:


Specific – Make your goal as specific as possible. The more specific you are, the greater your chance of accomplishing the goal.

Measurable – Define how you will measure your progress.

Attainable – Choose a goal that is realistic and manageable. Do you have the skills needed?

Relevant – Make sure the goal is important to you and aligns with your overall values.

Time-based – Give your goal a deadline.


Being specific is the most important part of a S.M.A.R.T. goal. For example, many people set goals to save money, but they don’t always decide how often, how much, or set a timeframe. A specific goal for saving money would be, “I will add $1000 to my Alliance Bank savings account by the end of 2021.”


Step 3: Write it down.

When you write down your goal, it becomes real. When you put pen to paper, something is triggered internally that says, “I’m serious about this.” And did you know that just by taking the time to write it down, you increase your chances of achieving it? So, get serious. Write it down and put it in a place where you’ll see it every day!


Step 4: Break it down.

Think about the journey, not just the end destination. Yes, the goal matters. But once it’s clearly defined and written down, the most important thing you can do is focus on the habits needed to get you to your goal. Those are the things you’ll want to focus on and measure. Take the big goal and work backwards, creating a timeline of when you’ll reach certain milestones. This will create a sense of urgency and keep you on track.


Let’s go back to the example of saving $1000. My action plan could be to save $20 each week. To make this as easy as possible, and to eliminate the risk of forgetting, I could take it a step further and automate the process. One way to do this would be to split my weekly direct deposit into 2 accounts. I could deposit $20 into my savings account and have the remainder of my paycheck go into my checking account.


Step 5: Make it happen.

If we’re not careful, goal setting can give us a false sense of accomplishment. You’ve defined your goal. You’ve taken the time to make it S.M.A.R.T. You’ve written it down. You’ve even mapped out a plan to accomplish it. But the truth is, none of that matters if you don’t get into action. Ask yourself, “What is the very next step I need to take?”


Once you’ve defined the next step, take it. Do this again and again, and you’ll reach your goal in no time!