Words are power, and each word has its own weight and energy. Words have inspired people to stand up for what they believe in or hang their head down in defeat. Therefore, choosing the right words to describe that which you want to manifest is very important.
For example, when speaking of aspirations for the future, there are those who use the words dreams and goals interchangeably. However, they ae distinctively different in definition and performance. A dream is boundless, fueled by your passion and imagination. However, it is akin to fantasy, with no immediate call to bring it to life. When someone tells me they dream of owning a sports car or starting their own business, I know most of the work to make that dream a reality hasn’t taken place and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.
A goal, on the other hand, is the mapwork to that dream, concrete and behavior-driven. When you have a goal, you have markers, measurements and steps to get to the destination. Setting the right goals, especially when it pertains to financial goals, can have a significant effect on how and when you achieve them. In fact, a guide to good goal-setting has long been to make it S.M.A.R.T.1:
Specific: if we are truly making a map towards our goals, telling ourselves to go in a general direction or for an undefined distance is most likely only going to get us lost. Steps towards our dreams have to be detailed and specific.
Measurable: When a goal is measurable, there is a way to track your progress to stay motivated or identify issues that may need problem-solving.
Attainable: It is admirable to be striving for something grand and lofty. However, it’s imperative that we have feasible goals that we can accomplish to keep us motivated and actually accomplish said goal.
Relevant: Having impressive goals are fine and dandy, but if they don’t move you closer to your overall goals or work against other goals you may have, it may be time to rethink them.
Time Bound: Once something has been stated as a goal, the stop watch has started. There is an expectation of completion, which is necessary to keep us moving forward towards that goal. It may not get completed in the expected timeframe, but just by having a deadline, we can stay accountable.
Based on this description of a S.M.A.R.T., you can see that there is a difference between, “I’m going to start saving money for a house,” and “I’m going to put 15% of my paycheck into a savings account specifically designated for my eventual down payment, and I should have enough saved after 3 years.” One expresses a desire while the other one lays out a concrete plan to achieve the goal.
If one seems to be fueling the other, how can a dream inhibit a goal? Well, one way is when your lifestyle fits with your dream rather than your goals. To achieve many financial goals like saving for retirement or buying a home, one needs to save and stick to a budget. However, if you fail to save and incrementally work towards the goals, it will take longer and longer to see results. Worse is if you choose to skip the incremental steps and live your dreamer’s lifestyle by using credit cards. The debt you accumulate will take you farther and farther from your goals and possible put you in an unfortunate and stressful predicament.
Sometimes when we haven’t developed a goal for a dream, it’s vagueness can work against an already established goal. Perhaps a good friend asks you to go into business with them. If you choose to pour funds into this new endeavor without any parameters, you may find yourself taking funds away from saving for retirement or depleting savings you already had. Of course, if you had outlined your goal on how to contribute to your friend’s business, with specific and timely parameters, the situation could be completely different.
Please understand that I’m not asking you to stop dreaming. In fact, quite the opposite. I happen wake up every day saying, “Dream Big! Work Hard! Laugh often!” I sign letters and thank you notes and end employee meetings with those very words. Dreaming is important.
So please know I want you to dream big and bold. At the same time, I want you to buckle down and create some S.M.A.R.T. goals to propel you closer to your dreams.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.