The Paraplanners

How to set goals that are fit for purpose Tue 17 Mar 2015

Recently I have found myself setting big goals, getting distracted by life and then being disheartened in not achieving the big goals I set for myself.

In my work, having clear objectives for the clients I am writing reports for is incredibly important as, ultimately, this is what financial advice is for: Helping a client meet their own personal goals.

It got me to thinking about goal setting and how to get the most out of long term planning, especially when the some of the goals are pretty big.

In many walks of life you hear the term SMART goal setting. Making goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Whilst this is a great way to clarify goals and bring them to life, I started to think particularly about the word "achievable" and how your own personal views on what is currently achievable for you can affect how you approach your goals.

The best example of this in my life has been my journey to getting fitter.

When I started, my main goal was attendance. It wasn't about smashing my one PT session a week or hitting personal bests or being better than I was last week. It was about going, every week without fail.

It was tough. I wasn't used to it, it left me feeling broken and unfit. The only realistic goal I had at that stage was attendance so I concentrated on that.

Once I got comfortable with attending once a week, the goal shifted slightly. Only slightly though, attend more. This was the logical next step. Things started to happen and I started seeing some form of results.

Now if I was concentrating all this time on my ultimate goal, losing a substantial amount of weight and looking like a slim fit athletic goddess (a girl can dream) I would have been incredibly disheartened. I was nowhere near there yet.

However I got the attendance thing down. Then came the next small step and the one after that and goals that seemed a million miles away at the start suddenly began to feel much more achievable.

Thinking back to financial planning, it reminds me that, whilst it is great to have a long list of really detailed long term goals, the journey is often more measured.

Yes the big goals are important, the ultimate aims are often what get you started. But, to me at least, it seems that it's the achievement of the little goals that actually move you forward towards that great big end goal.

For a younger client, the little steps taken now, with the funds that are available, could start the process of building up capital and saving for a more financially secure future. Taking the time and care to get things right at this stage could mean that, in time, these goals evolve.

The bigger goals that may have felt unrealistic at the start could start to look and feel much more achievable. And when things feel achievable, it gets much easier to put the work in to making things happen.

Additionally, for me at least, I think it is important to re-visit goals – going back and sense-checking whether you are achieving the goals you previously set.

And if not, perhaps concentrating on those for a time before tackling the next one. Are the goals achievable and in fact still relevant and are there any previous steps that need revisiting to make the journey a little easier?

For a client with unlimited funds, perhaps this is not so much of an issue but, for example, where affordability or confidence may be an issue, taking little steps to improve their position and building on this over time seems like a reasonable strategy.

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