The Five Qualities of a Good Goal

Bob claims he wants a second home on a lake where he can build memories with his kids. He’s asking, “How do I accomplish my goal?”

To be fair, Bob’s “goal” is really more of a daydream at this point.

Nothing wrong with that. Daydreams are harmless fun. They CAN lead to goals; usually, however, they result only in a lot of wishful, wistful thinking.

Goals, on the other hand, are full of intention and determination. And reaching them involves hard-work, serious effort, and personal cost. But they—not daydreams—are the fuel of our biggest accomplishments. 

What is it you want to accomplish or acquire? A house on a lake? A debt-free life? Don’t just daydream. Set a goal. But make sure it’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Smart goals have five qualities. They are:

1. Specific.  

“A second home on a lake” is a daydream. 

“A 3,500 square foot house on a 2-acre lot on a secluded point on Lake D’Arbonne, costing no more than $300 per square foot with three bedrooms and two baths” is a goal. 

When you locate that property, you’ll know it instantly because you’ve already been there in your (very specific) imagination!

Always answer as many who, where, when, why and how questions as you can when writing out your specific goals.

2. Meaningful

Does your goal match your deepest values? If it doesn’t, you’ll constantly be in conflict with your innermost self (your conscience). If it does, you’ll have a tailwind of energy that pushes you forward when the journey gets bumpy. 

Also, since you’ll have to pay a price—perhaps a steep one—to achieve your goal, make sure you’ll be happy with that exchange. A truly meaningful goal is one where you evaluate the cost and are able to say an enthusiastic “yes!” to it.

3. Accountable

Now that you know specifically what you want, and are convinced your goal aligns with your values and is worth the price you’ll have pay, it’s time to recruit some help.

I don’t know about you, but there are days my self-discipline sleeps in—it doesn’t report for duty! And if I’m the only person to whom I must answer, I quickly discover what a softy I am when it comes to policing myself. 

This is why we need an accountability partner (who also has his/her own set of S.M.A.R.T. goals) to help us find our motivation when it goes AWOL.

4. Realistic

Can you write out all the steps it will take to achieve your goal? Are these steps truly “do-able?” 

“I will win the Powerball,” is not a goal. The lottery is an unrealistic exercise in chance. 

However, “I will save 10% of my income until I have $20,000 in the bank” is a very realistic goal. It can be done by most anyone—given enough time.

5. Timeframe

Scarlett O’Hara made famous the phrase “tomorrow is another day.” For many, “tomorrow” isn’t about hope for a second chance. It’s an excuse to put off today’s responsibility. 

Set your goals with a calendar in hand.

To recap, Bob’s lake house goal will be S.M.A.R.T. when he:

  • determines the specific kind of lake house he wants, 
  • ensures his desire aligns with his deepest values 
  • gets someone to hold his feet to the fire,
  • creates a series of realistic steps to get to the desired outcome, and 
  • establishes a clearly-defined timeframe for accomplishing his endeavor

Are you tired of dreaming about some vague lake house you might possibly stumble upon one day? Get S.M.A.R.T. and you’ll turn that daydream into an actionable goal.

Meanwhile if you’d like to set some S.M.A.R.T. retirement goals, email for a quick 5-minute quiz that can help you figure out—based on your unique “financial personality”— the least stressful way to turn your retirement savings into retirement income.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

Scroll to Top
Speak with an Advisor