New Year’s, it’s a time of celebration and reflection. Celebration for all that we’ve accomplished in the year. Reflection for positive changes we could make to ensure that next year is even better. A popular annual tradition is to set New Year’s Resolutions. Popular resolutions include getting in better shape, quitting smoking and better managing our finances.
While setting a goal for the new year is a good first step, it’s just as important to make sure that you accomplish it. Here’s an example from my upcoming book, Burn Your Mortgage, that illustrates this: the gym is flooded by new member applications in January, yet by the time February rolls around, many of those same people haven’t stepped foot inside the gym. In fact, here’s a stat that will surprise you: two-thirds of people with gym memberships never step foot inside a gym.
I’m all for being ambitious, but you don’t want to be so ambitious that you throw in the towel in January. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To better your chances of success, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Instead take baby steps.
If you haven’t stepped foot inside a gym since high school, it’s probably not realistic to start working out six days a week. But if you set yourself a more realistic goal like going three times a week, your chances of success are that much better. (It also doesn’t hurt to work out with a buddy. It’s the perfect way to bond and get in better shape.)
SMART Goal Setting
It’s no coincidence I wake up with a big smile on my face every day. I feel motivated and ready to face the day. I owe much of this to goal setting. I wouldn’t have bought a house at 27 or paid it off in only three years by age 30 if I didn’t set goals. And I’m not the only one who thinks goal setting is worthwhile. Canadian rapper Drake set himself the goal of making $25 million by age 25, and guess what? He achieved it.
Setting a goal is a good start, but if you want to be successful, it helps to take it a step further. I’m a big fan of SMART goal setting (I dedicate the first chapter of my book to goal setting). “SMART ” is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.”
Saving the down payment for a home or paying off your mortgage may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. SMART goal setting helps break down your goals into smaller, more manageable chunks. With goal setting, suddenly the impossible seems possible.
Let’s say your goal is to buy a home in Toronto. Instead of just saying that you’d like to buy a home, it helps to get more specific. Here’s an example of a SMART goal for a couple who wants to buy a condo in Toronto.
Specific: My partner and I want to purchase a two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto.
Measurable: We will “pay ourselves first” by setting up a preauthorized savings plan at our bank.
Attainable: We will save $1,667 per month in a high-interest savings account.
Relevant: By achieving this goal, we can get our foot in the door of the Toronto real estate market and start building equity.
Time-Bound: We will save up a down payment of $60,000 in three years by January 1, 2020.
This is just one example of a SMART goal. SMART goal setting is flexible. It works for both short-term goals like saving for a vacation and long-term goals like paying off your mortgage. (For longer-term goals, it’s helpful to regularly check your progress. That’s where a money coach can come in handy.)
Goal setting isn’t just a one-time exercise. It’s something that we can do throughout our lives. I may have paid off my mortgage, but I have plenty more goals I’d like to achieve. My short-term goal is for my book, Burn Your Mortgage, to be a best-seller in 2017. My longer-term goals include achieving a net worth of $1 million by age 33, starting my own business by age 35 and traveling to all seven continents by age 40. I’d also like to one day be a dragon on Dragon’s Den (it doesn’t hurt to dream big).
Come up with your goals for 2017 and beyond and put your plan into action today. 2015, when I burned my mortgage, and 2016, when I wrote my first book, were amazing years for me, but I’m confident 2017 will be even better. Seize the day and do what it takes to make 2017 your most successful year yet.