I’ve always been goal oriented, especially when it comes to career, business, and money.
But my favorite goals, the goals that have had the biggest impact on my career and my net worth, went contrary to the conventional wisdom of setting SMART goals.
The SMART acronym stands for goals that are:
Specific – What specifically do you want to do or achieve?
Measurable – How will you know when you’ve reached it?
Attainable – Is it in your power to accomplish it?
Relevant – Does the goal fit with your values or bigger picture objectives?
Time-bound – When exactly do you want to accomplish your goal?
Using SMART goals is a very effective approach to achieving results and getting things done. I use that approach regularly to achieve many of my business and financial goals.
But there is something almost magical about having goals that are more aspirational in nature.
An aspirational goal defies logic in many ways in that you can’t see a specific path to achieving the goal when you set it.
You can’t explain each specific step that will get you to your destination.
You’re not sure when, or if, you will attain the goal or not.
You just know that it is something that is very important to you and you want to find a way to bring it into your life over time.
A Young CPA
As a young CPA back in my early 20s, I set a goal to make $30,000 by the time I was 30. That was back in 1984 when I was 23 years old. I was a year out of college working in a small CPA firm in Beaumont Texas. My income that year was $21,377.
I had no specific path as to how to increase my pay by 50% or so. But I knew I wanted to make more money and 30 by 30 had a nice ring to it. So, I let my subconscious know I wanted to get there.
In 1986, the college I had graduated from three years prior allowed me to interview with some international accounting firms that were coming to campus to interview new graduates.
At the time, the Big 8 CPA Firms (as they were known back then) hired people right out of school rather hire experienced CPAs or accountants. By the end of 1986, I had convinced a partner at Arthur Andersen in Houston, Texas to hire me and take a chance on an “experienced” CPA rather than a new graduate.
My pitch to them was to pay me the same money they paid new graduates (which was well below my $30,000 target) and I would show them in short order that I could add value at a much higher level. Once I proved I could do it, then I said I would sit down with them to see about increasing my pay to better match the value I was providing.
I knew that my pitch would increase my chance of getting the job. And I felt that getting the job and being in the middle of the action in Houston, Texas would help me get the experience to develop my skills and ability to add value in business. And that was going to be important for me to ultimately hit my financial goal.
My income in 1988, at 27 years old, was $32,430.
I had beat the goal and the deadline. It felt good to set a goal then look back on all the interesting turns and twists that ultimately led to hitting the goal.
And it also taught me to think bigger, and more aspirational, about my financial goals.
A Net Worth of $1 Million… or More
My next aspirational goal around 1990 was to have a personal net worth of $1,000,000.
At the time, I had what I jokingly refer to as a “not worth”. My personal balance sheet had more liabilities than assets. I had a negative net worth. LESS than ZERO!
And there was no clear path to how to go from a “not worth” to a $1,000,000 net worth. It was more like an affirmation than a SMART goal.
But it was very important to me and something I thought about often and something I taught my subconscious mind to work on for me. I wrote that goal down hundreds of times to make it a part of me even when I wasn’t thinking about it consciously.
I later revised the goal to add “or more” to it because I realized that I did not want to put a lid of what I was going after.
Now as time goes by, I just change the number. Because one thing I learned about goals a long time ago was that once you hit your goal… its time to set another goal. 🙂
Goals are a process and a journey, not a destination.
Progress is the Real Objective
The real benefit of having goals, both aspirational goals and SMART goals, is progress.
It’s about making progress toward a better you and toward a bigger and brighter financial future for you and for your family.
When you envision what would make you happy, you begin to see more clearly what you want to do and have. You begin thinking directionally about the progress and improvement you would like to experience in your life and work.
Driving Financial Improvement in Your Business
That’s one reason I enjoy homing in on the metrics that matter in business. And using those metrics to frequently define and monitor the 1 to 3 financial goals to focus on in any given month or quarter.
My experience over the last 30 years has taught me that having one to three financial goals or targets that are front and center is very, very important to driving financial results in a business.
Defining the key metrics, then “hooking them up” to your financial and improvement goals, is critical to making it easy to monitor and manage your progress (or lack of progress) toward achieving those important goals.
That’s what the Monthly Financial Rhythm is all about.
There is a natural rhythm to business and money. The Monthly Financial Rhythm is about orchestrating financial goals and targets and turning those into improved profitability and cash flow.
It is one of the most powerful processes I have discovered for driving financial health, wealth, and freedom in business.
And it all starts with identifying the 1 to 3 specific financial targets that you want to improve.
And then setting goals to help you make it happen.
Achieving goals is part of what makes life fun. 🙂
Philip Campbell is a CPA, financial consultant, and author of the book A Quick Start Guide to Financial Forecasting: Discover the Secret to Driving Growth, Profitability, and Cash Flow and the book Never Run Out of Cash: The 10 Cash Flow Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore. He is also the author of a number of online courses including Understanding Your Cash Flow – In Less Than 10 Minutes. His books, articles, blog and online courses provide an easy-to-understand, step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to create financial health, wealth, and freedom in business.
Philip’s 30 year career includes the acquisition or sale of 33 companies (and counting) and an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.
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