Reaching resolutions: Set goals you can reach & avoid unrealistic ones
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Reaching resolutions: Set goals you can reach & avoid unrealistic ones

1 year ago · 3 min read

Many CPAs are familiar with the SMART criteria for goal-setting — an acronym first mentioned in a 1981 paper by George T. Doran, requiring goals to be:

Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound

Following the SMART framework is the first step in creating reachable goals — however, it shouldn’t be the only one. Goals are only achievable when an action plan is implemented (and adhered to!) and progress is tracked regularly.

The finance team at the Colorado Society of CPAs (COCPA) provided guidance on the extra steps needed to create reachable goals based on COCPA’s success in implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) during 2020. EOS® is a comprehensive business system designed to align and synchronize all aspects of a business to produce desired results.

Be disciplined and thorough in your goal-setting.
- Declare dependencies — and make sure others are bought-in to achieving the goal! Many times, people don’t reach their goals because the goals are dependent on others playing a role, either directly or indirectly. After setting your SMART goal, spend the time to determine what roles others will play in helping you reach the goal — then make sure they are willing and capable of doing so!
- Hold others accountable for their commitment to helping achieve the goal. Once someone is bought-in to the idea of helping you, hold them accountable for their role in achieving the goal. Life and mistakes will always happen and require compassion — but maintaining accountability will ensure successful results.
- Be realistic in how much others can or are willing to be involved. Even if others are bought-in to the idea of helping you achieve a specific goal, make sure you set realistic expectations for their involvement. Your goals are YOUR goals — take primary responsibility for ensuring you meet them.

Implement a process to track progression — and stick to it!
- Without a process to track progression, it is easy to lose sight of a goal and for the “urgent” to take over. When we don’t regularly evaluate how our actions are furthering the achievement of our goals, it becomes easy to rationalize why other things in our life (feeling urgent in the moment only) should take precedence. So, make time to measure your achievement! Taking time each week will exponentially increase your chances of success.
- Following through on tracking the progression is essential. It bears repeating – taking time to measure your achievement each week will help you stay on track and will exponentially increase your chances of success in reaching your goals.

Plan for hurdles — both with people and in the process.
- When you hit a roadblock, it’s easier to give up than to continue when you’re not prepared to overcome it. Nobody’s perfect (including ourselves in our SMART goal setting!). So, we must anticipate that people will not always be capable of following through on their commitments and that it’s possible to make mistakes in the way we set goals and determine achievement. If we recognize these possibilities early and plan for them, it’s easier to seamlessly scale hurdles when they appear.
- Brainstorm likely hurdles to reaching your goals as well as possible strategies for resolution. What will happen if someone doesn’t follow through on their commitments or a natural disaster creates a barrier to the goal’s achievement? While it is impossible to plan for every possible scenario, having an idea of what can be done should an issue arise will reduce the time it takes to overcome the hurdle — as well as the emotional and physical toll it may take!

To maintain focus and improve your chances of success, don’t exceed three to five goals every quarter.
- Keep expectations reasonable. Nothing in life happens perfectly. Plan for success by keeping expectations reasonable and focus on three to five goals every quarter. Successfully achieving three goals is better than achieving none.
- Short-term goals can either be independent or pieces of a goal that will take longer than 90 days to complete. If a goal can’t be achieved in 90 days, break it down into smaller chunks that can be. Set yourself up for success by being reasonable in your expectations and planning. Taking an aggressive approach is possible and sometimes preferable, but make sure to ask yourself if the result is worth it — in five years, will it matter that I achieved something 90 days faster?

Sarah Bilant, CPA

Sarah has been practicing as a CPA in northern Nevada since 2013, specializing in helping individuals and business owners make sense of challenging financial topics. As a graduate of AICPA’s Leadership Academy (Class of 2017), Sarah is deeply passionate about the future of the profession and continuously works to improve it by holding volunteer positions with both the Nevada Society of CPAs and the AICPA. She is currently a Senior Manager at Bethesda, Maryland-based accounting firm, Lescault and Walderman. In addition to being a CPA, Sarah is mom to two children and a rambunctious 1-year old border collie rescue. She is also in her final semesters at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where she is pursuing a J.D

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