How To Make Your Goals SMART

Learn how to make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) with the help of TNFC Ambassador Justin B.! 

Can you believe it’s 2020 already? It’s the beginning of a new decade and everyone is preparing to set goals for the new year. For many foster youth, our lives can seemingly be in the hands of others. In 2020, we need to demand control and enter the driver seat. Unfortunately, what many of us fail to do is create a strategic plan for our future that fits a certain criteria. We’ve prepared a detailed guide to create and completing your goals this upcoming year. Don’t just create a goal but make it a SMART goal. 

S =  Specific
Make sure that your goals are clear and specific. Goals that are too general will be more difficult to achieve. For youth hoping to take advantage of the resources within the foster care system, we need to have a specific plan and direction on where we need to go. This also allows you to focus on a specific area you’d like to improve upon based on where you are personally, academically, and professionally. Having specific goals will help you communicate what is needed from those around you including caseworkers. Once you have specific goals you can then advocate from yourself.

M = Measurable
In order to track your progress, meet deadlines and stay motivated, it's important to have measurable goals. To do this, you should create your ultimate long-term goals along with daily and monthly goals. Then, you need to break down these goals into smaller increments.

If you haven’t yet, please buy a planner immediately (I recommend the Perfect College Student Planner by The Scholarship Expert)!  For foster youth in higher education, college life can be ridiculously overwhelming. We need measurable goals that’ll remind us that were on the correct path. A well-detailed planner will help you organize your goals while holding you accountable. In addition to the planner, a To-Do list is equally important. A To-Do list details your daily task and what needs to be done for each day of the week. Forgetting your daily goals will create unnecessary stress and anxiety, oftentimes leading to failure in executing your plan. Stay organized and be strategic!

A = Achievable
Work towards a goal that is challenging but not impossible. For example, If you’re barely making ends meet, you probably shouldn’t buy a new car next week. When foster youth can often be frivolous with our refund money in college. Lacking critical thinking will surely guarantee we won’t achieve our goals. Before you make a decision just ask yourself, “Does this help me get closer or further from my goal.” Give yourself some time to work, plan, and strategize on the best route to achieve long-term success. Here, you are making yourself aware of potential resources that could position you to succeed such as your network, support system, skills you already have and could develop, etc.. Be sure not to create goals that are out of your control such as winning the lottery.

R = Realistic
In conjunction with being achievable, your goals should be realistic. Realistic goals mean that your goals are logical and feasible. For example, if you have not prepared yourself for a final by studying each day, learning new strategies to improve, and going to tutoring or your professor’s office hours when struggling, then you cannot expect to get the grade that you’re hoping for.

T = Time-Bound
Every goal that you create needs a target date. A target date gives you a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. It will also create a sense of urgency that will force you to limit procrastination. Doing this, helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.

A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:
● When?
● What can I do six months from now?
● What can I do six weeks from now?
● What can I do today?

The timeliness of goals can be a critical component of why goals fail. You want to have time-bound goals so that you can hold yourself accountable. If you don’t have a date for when you need to complete your goal, then it would be considered a dream and never a reality. If you have within the child welfare system that needs to complete something on your behalf, let them know the date and continuously follow up with them. I would even keep track of the time you’ve contact that individual and report your number of call to their superior. This process should increase your chances tremendously of achieving all that you desire in your personal life and career.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” -  Napoleon Hill

An example of a SMART goal for 2020:

GOAL: Buy a car

1. Specific: I’d like to buy a car with 80,000 miles or fewer
2. Measurable: I will saved $50 a week to save for the car.
3. Achievable: I will visit one new dealership with my caseworker once a week to compare prices. I will seek guidance from my caseworker and others within my support network. I will call around to different car insurance providers to compare quotes and contact my local credit union for financing options. I will continuously contact YIT to funding with my vehicle while gathering the documents needed for complete the transaction with YIT
4. Realistic: I can’t save for my car if I’m over spending on entertainment, material items, etc. I need to have a well balanced budget.
5. Time-Bound: I will accomplish this by by August 1st, 2020.

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Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline." 

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