4 Strategies for Evaluating Your Goals

a woman holding a paper that has a confused look on her face as she is looking into a laptop as she is planning her goals.

We stress the importance of setting goals all the time. For anyone to achieve success, it’s crucial that they have goals set and are constantly working to achieve them.

Achieving your goals means having a plan. Without one, success is very unlikely. As Harvey McKay said, “Failures don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.” And for a plan to succeed, you must inspect the plan carefully. Only by evaluating your goals and the steps you’re taking to get there will you have a chance of success.

Here are 4 strategies for evaluating your goals to make sure you’re on the right track:

  1. Make them both concrete and flexible. Goals need to be concrete in that they are written down and firmly planted in your mind. It’s not enough to want to save more money or pay off debt. One must know how much to save and by when. Know how you will pay off your debts and create a plan for getting there. At the same time, those goals need to be flexible. If you’re falling short, you need to be able to revise those goals so that you can keep making forward progress. Ironically, the more concrete you make them, the more flexible they’ll be: writing down your specific goals and all of the steps you plan to take to achieve them gives you a concrete plan that you can edit if necessary. Nebulous goals that you occasionally go over in your mind aren’t as flexible because they’re less fully formed. Create a written, concrete set of goals and you’ll have something you can work with if you need to revise your goals to get back on track.
  2. Measure your desire. Sometimes you’ll come up with a goal that is based on a whim or a temporary obsession. You won’t really be able to achieve your goals unless you have the true desire to succeed. Maybe you got interested in becoming a gourmet chef and are saving towards the cost of a top-of-the-line oven. Evaluate that desire; if your interest in cooking is a temporary fad, you should know when to revise and put that goal aside and move those funds to a more vital purpose. If you feel that your desire is still as strong as ever, then you’ll know that you’re working toward a goal that will make your life more fulfilling. The flip side of this is that some worthy goals may seem undesirable; you might want to get into better shape, but exercise is hard work and time-consuming. Smoking brings you pleasure in the short term, so the goal of quitting might not seem like something you really want to achieve. In these cases, think of all the benefits of success and write them down. Then think of all the detriments of failing to achieve your goal and write those down, too. The more the benefits add up, the more you’ll really want to succeed, and the more likely you’ll be to get there.
  3. Make sure your goals are not inconsistent. This is a big reason why goals should not be considered in isolation. Create a whole list of goals from all areas of your life and make sure they aren’t mutually exclusive. If one of your goals is to travel around the world, and another is to pay down your excessive debt, then you’re not likely to be able to achieve both. Focus on achieving on of the goals first (paying off the debt, in this case), then set to work saving for the second goal. When comparing your goals in this way, it’s important to know what’s more important and make those goals your first priority. The goal of saving up for your kids’ private school tuition is going to take precedence over saving up for a new Jet Ski or snowmobile.
  4. Is there a way to test them? If your goals are not testable, then they haven’t been thought through thoroughly enough. ”To retire rich” isn’t a goal; it’s a wish. It becomes a goal when you create a concrete but flexible plan for getting there. Give yourself a way to measure your progress. With paying down debt, it’s easy, because you only need to look at your credit card statements to see if you’re making progress. If your goal is to have a better relationship with your family, it’ll be harder. Think about keeping track of how much time you spend with them, or plan a regular activity that you can keep track of, like joining a bowling league or starting a family game night. Whatever your goal is, you need to figure out how to measure whether you’re having any success in moving toward it.

Like we’ve said many times, setting goals is crucial, but it’s only the first step. To be successful in achieving those goals, you have to constantly evaluate them to determine whether they’re worthwhile and whether you’re making progress toward them. In other words, “inspect what you expect.” As we said above, you won’t be able to achieve your goals without a plan, but you can’t create a workable plan until you’ve evaluated your goals to ensure they are worth the effort.

Since 1974, we’ve helped thousands of people set goals and get on the path toward achieving them. We know from our experience that anyone can succeed if they set goals and plan intelligently.

If your goals include paying off debt, saving on your mortgage, or becoming a homeowner, contact our financial counselors to get the solutions you are looking for.

Article written by
Melinda Opperman
Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined credit.org in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.

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