Goal Setting & S.M.A.R.T Goals

As updated in my last 2 blog entries, did goal setting (as a branch) 2 weeks ago ….. and subsequently managed to find time last night (or rather this morning before bedtime) to complete the booklet.

Given it was back to regular PPI / focus group after combined branch goal setting the week before …… and Hari Raya Puasa (public holiday) last Monday …… and a good 3 weeks since we met up (as a small group) …… 1st half hour of the session was dedicated to taking about weekly activity commitment and tracking.

In fact, as I was filling in the booklet last night/this morning, I sort of had a mild epiphany. More often than not, we continuously set goals, only not to follow through on them as we get distracted by many other stuff going on in our lives, thus forgetting about the goals we have originally set for ourselves …… and losing focus as a result.

One common recurring theme that I hear more often than not is the phrase called S.M.A.R.T Goals. When broken down, it means:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

More detailed explaination of each component can be found here – http://topachievement.com/smart.html

Setting goals and writing them down is not difficult. In fact, writing them down is the easiest part of the entire goal setting process. It is following through them, keeping to them and actually acheiving them that is the most challenging/difficult. Simple case in point – how many a time when we were all enthusiastically writing down our new year resolutions at the beginning of each new year …… but only to totally forget and lose track of them as the year goes along, and when we reach year end, bemoan what is NOT done.

Not only that, just writing them down, as much as it is the very 1st step is not good enough. As per the S.M.A.R.T formula, first things first, the goal(s) written must be Specific. Can’t comment on others, but for myself I finally realised many a time, my goals/resolutions ‘fail’ because they are too general, and lack a timeframe (to be done/acheived).

For instance, just saying “I want to lose weight” …… “I want to plan for retirement” …… is not enough. There has to be a timeline (by when) …… a target result (how many kilos, how much $$) – which comes under the 2nd M – Measurable. If we do not keep track, how are we supposed to know how close are we to our set goals right? Tracking and keeping regular updates on our progress is also another key component that we fail to do. So end of the day, if we end up as ‘headless chickens’ feeling like we have acheived nothing, it is more important that we take responsiblity for the lack of commitment in tracking 1st, rather than blaming the environment and external circumstances for our ‘failure’.

This is also what happened to me as my lack of enthusiasum resulted in me slacking off my tracking/monitoring …… thus my year end banding goal fell short of expectation. Lesson learnt on my part! And not just work. Like what CP has shared on more than one ocasion on her weight loss experience, tracking her food intake, exercise output and measuring her weight daily – the consistency of these activities day in day out meant that she was successful in her weight loss goal. Definitely something we can learn from and apply as well.

As I write, doing the S and M components right would mean that the A component i.e. Attainable is acheivable as well. And of course they must be Realistic. As highlighted in the link above, a realistic goal is one which you are both willing and able to work towards.

To give a very specific and real life example. In the course of my work, I always hear clients/prospects telling me they want to save and invest for retirement, only not to follow through using lack of time, no mood as excuses not to take action. Generically speaking, saving and investing for retirement sounds simple enough …… but how as a financial planner are you supposed to be able to guide your client/prospect towards this ‘simple’ goal when they are unwilling to do the following:

1. Commit a cash flow amount for saving/investing
2. Refuse to do up a basic Income & Expenses data sheet after saying they have no idea how much they save
3. For those who say they need time to think about it, they end up chucking it aside, using no time as an excuse. A common thread is also that there is also no timeline/time commitment on their part to get this done-up as it is up to them only when its convenient and when they are in the mood.
4. Refuse to engage in further discussion – either not picking up calls, responding to emails, refusing follow-up appointments etc. In my view, this is 100 times worse than being risk-averse and not having much left to save as it is irresponsiblity and rude-ness at its core.

So how am I suppose to ethically advise a client, be considerate to ALL their needs (they will tell you they don’t want to buy too much insurance because they need to set aside for retirement and property purchase. Fair enough, so where is the cash flow breakdown??) …… and yet a simple thing as Net Income, Net Outflow and Net Savings also don’t want to give …. don’t want to engage ….. so basically these people are just wasting our time giving opaque and unrealistic goals given how totally unwilling and unable they are to work on it.

And the last T – apart from it being Timely (grounded within a specific time frame) …… it should also be Tangible. A tangible goalis one where you can experience it with one of your senses – be it taste, touch, smell, sight or hearing. Rather than going into such sensory aids, I would say, if we can see results/things happening by the actions we take …… we are 1 step closer to the goals that we have set out to acheive!

But of couse in order to see the results that will keep us motivated towards reaching our goals, we have got to do our basics right i.e. the S, M, A, R before the T comes into play.

So at the end of the day ……

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