Setting Goals – Applying SMART for Personal Growth

BearMoney Team

BearMoney Team

BearMoney is the balanced finance blog for new and old Canadians alike. We are a team of people living international that research, write, and share

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Smart Method
SMART goals – Courtesy of Dungdm93

The Importance of Goals

Setting goals should be a core part of every aspect of your life. Without setting a direction for yourself you run the risk of stagnating, regressing, or worst of all, following other people. The key to mental, physical, and financial health is to take control of your own situation and move forward.

A lot of talk that happens around goals misinterprets that last sentence. Moving forward does not always mean charging forward. People who project and expect perfection are mostly talking nonsense for the benefit of their business or social profiles. While you should always be setting challenging goals you own personal circumstances should dictate your thinking and not other people. Remember that no matter how slow you run, you’re always lapping everybody on the couch!

When taking a goal-oriented approach it is always advisable to see if there are parallels in any political, social, or economic activities that you can mimic. At BearMoney we’re a big believer in using the SMART methodology for setting goals, due to a couple of factors.

Where SMART comes in

Before explaining the methodology (which many are probably familiar with), it is important to explain why it fits our approach. After all, it can see odd applying a business approach to personal growth or fitness.

Firstly, the method contains a conditions that your goals must be realistic. This is sorely lacking from a lot of the #goals talk out there.

Second, the method allows you to define what each aspect means to you. You can be as exact and granular as you like or you broadly define objectives under kinder conditions.

Finally, the SMART method retains enough of a business focus that it will help you think more seriously about different aspects of your growth. It is better to have to use systems that you work to scale down rather than up.

What is SMART

Smart is a management method for objective setting. It is an acronym with several definitions including Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. These terms are fairly straightforward when it comes to growth goals;

  • SPECIFIC – You have to choose a particular area to grow in
  • MEASURABLE – You need a system to measure this growth
  • ATTAINABLE – Your growth target is generally possible
  • RELEVANT – Your growth in this will improve your overall life
  • TIME-BASED – Your efforts have a defined and targeted schedule

Applying SMART to different areas and lifestyle goals

Applying SMART to different areas can be challenging. Certainly, applying it to an investment strategy is a lot easier that applying it a wellness strategy. Nevertheless, there is great value in having a consolidate way of thinking that can apply anywhere. The key to making a success of this is defining SMART and its measurement tools by the context of each area of your life.

We’ve broken it down into the standard BearMoney areas to help with this: Financial Growth, Personal Growth, Health Growth, and Social Growth.

Money Goals

SMART Finances

Finance goals are the easiest to adopt a SMART approach for. To do this we recommend considering the following:

Specific: Your specific finance goal is naturally to increase the net amount of money in your life. Breaking it down there are three ways to do this. You can increase income via labor, you can increase income via investment, or you can increase net money via saving strategies. These are the specific subcategories that you should pick from.

Measurable: This is easy as net income is quite literally just a measure. Just remember to always think in net terms when weighing your options.

Attainable: You need to look around at what similar people to you have achieved. Then you need to look at the crazy successful people too. Your goal lies somewhere between the two. Sometimes you can never really tell with money, you could be a new case study in brilliance or just an average Joe.

Relevant: The amount of extra money you gain has to be worth the sacrifices you are making. Don’t value your time health, or happiness as worthless.

Time-Based: Another simple one, this should be measured based on your overall goal. Depending on the scale this can be months or years. If the goal can be broken into milestones you should always have it broken down until at least a quarterly basis.

Growth Goals

SMART Personal Growth

Personal Growth goals can be a tricky one. They cover so many different areas and success is often harder to measure than it is in the case of money. Overall though, you can totally adopt a SMART approach in your personal growth.

Specific: Your specific personal growth goal should be broad enough that you can easily find ways to reach it. It is fine to put things in general terms (e.g. I want to get better at painting) but your actual aim(s) need to be as narrow as possible.

From the example above this could translate to ‘I want to get better at painting by doubling how often I paint and increasing the difficulty.

Measurable: Your measures are going to come from the above ‘narrowing down’ and also a general analysis of your growth. From the example above you would set a range of how much you aim to paint over X period and what difficulty increases you’ll do (new techniques etc).

You measure you progress by periodically taking on a similar challenge and seeing where you stand. It might take some time to find measures for certain things (personality traits are a big one) but it gets easier with each cycle of self-improvement.

Attainable: This can actually be the most difficult part of personal growth. Either through insecurities or a lack of self-awareness, setting reachable targets can take a lot of effort. The best place to start is to imagine the skill level average person and compare yourself. Set your goals accordingly. If you’re already above average you should research what the elite do in your area of choice.

Relevant: You should focus on growing areas that make you healthier, happier, and a better person. Applying SMART goals to toxic personality traits or unproductive skills is pointless.

Time-Based: For personal growth you should map out a plan for 1,3,6,9, and 12 months. One year is more than enough time to complete a well thought-out goal. In support of this, checking in on yourself every month/3 months can help avoid slippage.

Fitness Goals

SMART Health

Our health is one of the most important things and is the foundation upon which all of our other growth is based. Health goals tend to be fairly straightforward as they nearly always breakdown to measurable numbers at some point.

The danger with health goals is that we set targets that aren’t based on the science of health. It is important to consult your doctor before embarking on any health journey. It is equally important to tune out social media advice.

Specific: Your specific health goal should center on improving areas your medical professional has recommended. If you don’t need to improve on anything from a health perspective then increasing fitness or a aesthetic goal is fine. You should always aim to improve the in the most needed area first.

Measurable: For a genuine health goal, you should have recommended metrics from your healthcare professional. If it is a fitness/aesthetic goal, you should research a range of opinions and devise measure for yourself. An example of this is lowering body fat that is already healthy, your aesthetic goal should match medical recommendations.

Attainable: Health is a lifelong battle and your goals should reflect this. What you set out to do should be generally possible under normal conditions for someone in your health. Setting a weight loss target of 10lbs a week for example, is normally not healthily attainable.

Relevant: Achieving your health goal should obviously make you healthier but it also must not decrease your overall happiness. Set your targets where you can balance all aspect of life.

Time-Based: It is important to follow medical advice on safe rates of change in your behavior. The only tip here is to research and ask your doctor.

Social Goals

SMART Social Growth

Social growth is an incredibly broad concept. It is often left out of personal and financial advice as it’s seen as unrelated to you and your money. However, the truth is that social growth can fuel everything else. It is also an outlet to get benefits from your other successes.

Included in this category are things such as social club memberships, business/personal interactions, interpersonal skills, travelling, lazing on the couch. A whole host of things can grow your ability to exist in the social world.

Specific: Think about what you do for fun and the people you interact with on a daily basis (work and home). Write down anything you think could help you enjoy those interactions and experiences more (or dread them less!). It is important to give a name to this goal for later steps.

Measurable: Before you start write down what your think these social activities will be like once your goal is attained. Underline the differences between now and the future successful you. These are your measures.

Attainable: Successful social growth is based on self-confidence and self-awareness. You should reflect and be honest with what you think you can achieve. Again looking at the ‘general population’ judge what you can do compared to them.

Relevant: Your social growth should not increase the amount of negative emotion in your life. It is okay in the short term to experience tiredness from your efforts but the person you want to be at the end should be a happier person.

Time-Based: It is fine to see a long time scale on your personal growth. However, if you have targets such as ‘go to X number of networking events’ then you should be very strict in sticking to your schedule.

Being kind to yourself is great but you need to set goals that are both fair AND challenging. Check in with yourself periodically or ask a friend to keep you accountable. Social growth is the easiest area to slip in.

The route

Conclusion: Goals and Dreams

You have probably noticed that we encourage all growth strategies to have some form of measurable number. You might also have caught the importance of building a plan around these numbers. This is because of one simple truth: a goal without a plan is just a dream.

There’s a little bit more to that truth though. We at BearMoney firmly believe that achieving a dream is built on smaller goals that were pursued diligently. Even having a ‘eureka moment’ where you get a huge win seemingly out of nowhere is built on your earlier goals.

That job you got offered could have pivoted on the fact that you spoke at two conventions as part of your confidence building goal. That house you want to buy might suddenly be available because you started saving in enough time to take advantage of a market downturn. Those extra 2 miles you walk a day? That’s where you cholesterol dropped from.

The sum of your goals is going to make a multiple of your success. Taking individual views while following a broadly consistent approach can work wonders for your overall growth.

Let us know in the comments below any strategies that worked for you!


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