By Brittany McBride, Associate Financial Advisor at Cary Street Partners
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to talk about goal setting. After the hectic holiday season is behind us, we finally have a clean slate, a fresh mind, and returning energy. Something about the end of a time period makes everyone feel more optimistic. I get a similar feeling at the end of my credit card period. Even something as simple as the start to a new day. The runway is yours to start over and make the next period anything and everything you want it to be. This is why the beginning of a new year the best time to write and review your goals.
We have all been prompted to write goals before, whether in a class, seminar or conference of some sort. This is useful, but goal planning is most productive when you get to make your own personalized decisions on format, categories, time frames, etc. You will feel more optimistic and excited about your goals if the exercise is your decision.
The first time I really allowed myself to dive into this process was about two years ago. My time in college at Mary Washington taught me the importance of goal planning, but it wasn’t until my senior year internship where I saw some real-world impacts from coworkers and mentors who did similar exercises. It felt like a time capsule. The goals they wrote years ago that they thought were long shots ended up being blown away or achieved quicker than anticipated.
I was immediately inspired and decided to give it go. This is an intimidating thing. Something about writing your goals down makes them all the more real. I decided to begin with writing one-year, three-year, and five-year goals. For me, the longer-term goals can be the most difficult to conceptualize. Some great advice I have received on goal setting is to make SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. At times it can be tough, but the more specific you are with your goals, the better. This, along with being measurable, leaves less room for interpretation when you are reviewing what you would have liked to achieve by the end of a time period. Things like working out three times a week, volunteering twice a month, and getting a 5% raise are all measurable goals. You can track what you did and compare to what you wanted to do. It is important to set goals that challenge, motivate, and inspire you, but they must also be attainable and realistic. This might take some fine tuning, but you’ll eventually find a good balance between the things you are certain you can accomplish and the things you dream of accomplishing. In order to look back on our goals and evaluate, we need to set a timeframe. This is why it is helpful to think of your goals as a timeline. Assigning yourself a window of time will help with planning for longer term goals that are often intimidating to begin.
Goal setting is not about predicting the future; it is about dreaming where you would like to go and establishing a formula for how to get there in your intended time frame. I am a strong believer in reaching for the stars and pushing past where you thought you could never go. Goal setting helps keep me on that mindset, even if I fall short sometimes.
My favorite part about goal writing is the accountability factor. Who is better to hold you accountable for the things you want to accomplish than yourself? A personal example comes to mind towards the end of 2019. I had made a goal to begin specific certification classes for my career but had a licensing exam standing in my way that I was moving rather slowly through. Taking a fresh look at my goal process for the year gave me the final stretch of motivation I needed to finish my exam and begin my certification classes. I wrote down that I would begin the courses before the end of the year, so that was a priority. It would have been okay if I didn’t finish the goal by year-end, but the happiness I get from achieving something I committed to outweighs any negative emotion I feel from missing a deadline. This feeling is a catapult of confidence and optimism into setting the next goal.
Getting started is the most difficult part, but there is no better time to find your optimism and strive to reach your fullest potential than the beginning of a new year!