This is the best time of year!  I always enjoy the final weeks of December and the first few weeks of January.  It’s such a great time of year as we can look forward with optimism to a new year of possibilities.  I always enjoy the fresh, cleansing feeling of looking to another year of what can be.

I learned at a young age to be an avid goal setter and it has stuck with me ever since.  My parents and especially my Father was the one who really got me started setting goals.  My family had a tradition of holding something every Monday night called Family Home Evening.  This tradition persisted throughout my childhood and teenage years.  Susan and I kept this tradition alive in our home as well…  Monday evening was a time set aside for family.  No other outside activities were scheduled for that night.  When Monday Night Football started in 1970 this presented a unique challenge, but I will save that story for another time.

I have fond memories for Monday’s special Family Night.  Each Monday evening comprised a special family meeting or program.  One of us would take our turn as the person conducting the meeting.  We would stand up proudly and belt the familiar phrase, “Welcome to Family Home Evening!” The job of conducting rotated from week to week and was always the coveted assignment.  We would sing an opening church hymn and someone would be invited to say the opening prayer.  The first topic on the agenda was always, Family Business.  This was a time to discuss a broad range of topics from calendaring, to household chores, to piano lessons, to scouting activities to planning an upcoming family vacation.

After Family Business, Mom or Dad would lead the family in some sort of religious lesson or instruction for about 15-20 minutes.  We would reach scriptures and learn from the prophets.  We would then have a fun activity or game and then conclude with family prayer.  Afterwards, there was always a special treat or refreshment.  This was the best part!  But in January each year there was always a special lesson and activity on Goal Setting.  My dad was a very optimistic, “you can do it” kind of person.  He believed in personal responsibility and self-reliance.  He used to say that, “the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.”  His belief in the capacity of the human spirit was infectious.  My father has been a big icon in my life and I owe him greatly for who I am today. He and my mother are in their advanced years today and doing well, retired and living in Utah.  They are wonderful people whom I love dearly.

But, this concept of goal setting was prominent in our home.  I always looked forward to this Family Home Evening experience.  This concept of casting one’s mind into the future and selecting an important challenge or project you wanted to engage, and then writing it down as a personal quest was an exciting prospect.  This was a routine played out over and over again in my home…

During Family Home Evening, Dad and Mom would hand out pieces of paper and pencils.  My three siblings and I were all expected to write down goals for that next year.  Depending on the time of life, our goals might be related to our grades at school or achievements on the ball field or other personal goals.  It might be how much money we were trying to earn or save or countless other purposeful aims.

One year, Dad told us that our goals were so important that he was going to take them down to the bank and put them in the vault.  I remember being captured by that thought for weeks.  “Wow, my goals in the bank vault?” I mused.  Dad worked as a Corporate Manager in the banking industry.  We had all been to the bank to see him at work and had seen the big vault where all the money was stored.  As a child, this was fascinating.  Sure enough, true to his word, Dad took our goals and put them in the bank vault for safe keeping, only to be retrieved at the end of the year at yet another Family Home Evening.  During that session, we could evaluate how we had done and check our own progress.  This became a routine each January and only elevated the importance of goals and goal setting in my life.

As the years progressed Dad taught us to set goals in different areas of life.  This began a regular process for me that continues to this day.   I have become practiced at setting personal goals in the physical, spiritual, financial, social, emotional and professional areas of life.  This has been a most rewarding experience.

After college and as I progressed into my work life, my understanding of goals, goal setting and goal cultivation expanded, especially during a three-year Goal Cultivator program I participated over a decade ago.  This course was developed by the acclaimed entrepreneur Dan Sullivan and founder of Strategic Coach. The course was moderated by a dear friend and coach, Richard Geno.  This was a profound three-year experience for me.  There is too much here to write, but suffice it to say that I am in love with the goal setting and planning process. Is it any wonder that I own a Wealth Management Practice and spend considerable time helping individuals, families and business owners chart their financial lives?

Back in the 1990’s I began to realize that there were certain elements or components of a well-designed goal, that if incorporated and followed, would make the goal setting process not only more meaningful, but could make goal attainment more achievable.  Who wants to set casual New Year’s Resolutions that by mid-February are not only forgotten, but whose failure to achieve cankers our own personal spirits to try again? Bah Hum Bug!

In a word, the elements needed to turbo charge your personal goals is to transform them into S.M.A.R.T. goals.  I don’t remember exactly where I learned this.  It might have been Stephen Covey or Hyrum Smith or from one of hundreds of workshops or seminars I have attended over the years, but the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals really works.  Include these elements in your goal setting process and watch your performance and life soar.

Here are some related guide posts to get you tuned up.  Since a “goal not written down is just a wish,” let’s first commit to putting our goals to paper.  This is essential in charting your way forward, so get your keyboard ready.  And let’s also remember that “success is a process, not a destination.”  This experience is going to take some time, as meaningful achievements typically don’t happen overnight.  I know we expect microwave results, but life is not that way, so be prepared for a longer journey.

In addition, great achievements require vision.  Remember the counsel in Proverbs, which says, “Where there is no vision the people perish.”  As we sharpen our vision and commit to a cadence of being “anxiously engaged in a good cause” we put ourselves in the zone of great goal cultivation and achievement.

Let’s get started,

First, your goals must be Specific.  Saying you want to lose weight, save more money, get out of debt or find a new job is a good start, but you must be specific in your goal statements.  You have God given equipment!  Your brain is a problem-solving device, but if you don’t give it a specific problem to solve it can’t work on it, so be as specific as possible in your goal setting language.

Second, your goals must be Measureable.  How are you going to chart an effective course if you can’t measure your progress?  Great teams keep score!  Make sure, as you set your goals, that they are stated in such a way that they can be measured.  Including quantitative, as opposed to just qualitative key indicators, is essential to success.  For example, consider a spreadsheet approach to track your progress.  This seems simple with financial, charitable or exercise goals, but other key actions could be tracked to measure your progress with spiritual goals, like the amount of time invested each morning in scripture study or prayer.

Third, your goals must incorporate the provision of Accountability.  Other goal guru’s say “A” is for Achievable, but being accountable in my mind is paramount to goal achievement.  Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy, but if we are accountable to someone else, especially someone we hold in high esteem, we will think twice about quitting.  I had a personal trainer for years.  It’s amazing how much more accountable I was when I knew he was waiting for me at the gym.  Consider joining an accountability group or asking someone to be an accountability partner for a goal you know may be difficult or challenging.

Fourth, your goals must be Realistic.  Sometimes we set our sights so high that we can fail before we get started.  Therefore, your goals must be realistic.  There is an art and magic to this element of S.M.A.R.T.  You don’t want the goal so easy as to preclude you from reaching, but you also don’t want the target so unattainable that you get discouraged and throw in the towel early.  So, look closely at the goals you are setting and be honest with yourself about the objectives.  Setting sub-goals when tackling larger targets is advisable as well.  For example, someday I would like to compete in an Iron Man Triathlon, but for this year, I am going to compete in what is called a Sprint Triathlon, which is a fraction of an Iron Man distance.  Sometime in the future I am hoping to tackle the larger goal.

Fifth, your goals must be Timely.  Great goals have dates, deadlines or specifically described time frames or intervals attached to them.  This is essential to success and the shorter you can break down your targets the better.  Longer time frames can be frustrating and you can lose motivation, so shorten up the perceived horizon.  Achieving goals and quickly celebrating your accomplishments can be a powerful motivator, so build your deadline intervals accordingly.  Is it any wonder why companies formally report financial statements not only annually, but monthly and quarterly?

Once written, you must pause, stand back and test your goals… Are they S.M.A.R.T?  Are these five important elements laced through-out your goal statements?  If not, go back and rework them until they are reflective of these attributes.  Once you have your goal statements formulated, build an action plan for how to achieve them.  Again, use S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria in your action plans.  I love the inspiring quote by Theodore Roosevelt that reads,

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”

Get out of the grey twilight this year and set some great goals!  And don’t worry about missing the mark.  If you fall short it’s okay, because look how much further along you are because you engaged in a goal setting process.  Dust yourself off and start again…  I have always believed that “Commitment to continuity develops emotional stability.”  As you commit to a contiguous plan your emotions will stabilize and you will be on the road to a better you!

Have a great year!  You can do it!