What do you want to have and do in life? For many young people just beginning their adult lives, this is not an easy question to answer. It’s worthwhile to set aside some time to think about what you want your life to look like and what that might cost. Keep in mind that your goals are a work in progress and will change as you move through life’s different stages.
Are you planning to pursue post-secondary studies? Are you considering a professional or post-graduate degree? Do you want to travel? Move into your own home? Do you dream of starting your own business? Are you planning to get married or start a family? These are examples of different goals you may have at this stage of life. But goals are very personal, and goals that are tied to your unique values are the most compelling and motivating. Without values, goals rarely get accomplished.
Values are about being and define a way of life. They are the things you will do just about anything in the world to achieve because they are the things that are most important to you. Values pull you towards your dreams and goals. Examples include academics, adventure, independence, security, achievement to name a few. If you don’t already know what your values are, you may want to discover them by doing a values clarification exercise.
SMART goals are:
Specific – What do you want to do? Specificity turns a vague dream into a concrete, achievable goal.
Measurable – How will you know when you’ve reached it?
Achievable/Action-oriented – Is it in your power to accomplish it? What steps would you have to take?
Realistic – Can you realistically achieve it?
Time framed (or thrilling!) – When exactly do you want to accomplish it? Is it a short, medium or long term goal?
Writing down your goals makes them real and easy to focus on. When you write down your important goals, you make your life purposeful. Then share them with family, friends, co-workers, or people with expertise related to your goals. If you keep your goals inside, you’re missing out on people in your life than can help you reach them.
Start taking action toward your goals, the sooner the better. Your action creates positive momentum that will help carry your goal through to reality.
Try to keep your values and your goals top of mind and use them as a framework to help prioritize your financial decisions. For example, if you’re trying to pay down your student debt, then your budget should align with that goal by prioritizing debt repayment, perhaps with an automatic transfer. Spending a lot of money in restaurants or on a vacation would not align with your goal of becoming debt free.
If you find you’re consistently unable to meet your goals, then perhaps that goal or that underlying value isn’t as important as you thought it was. That would be an indication that it’s time to re-examine your values and your goals. Try tracking your spending to see where your money is actually going. How you spend your money says a lot about what’s truly important to you.