Print this Post

Set Specific Goals – Aim Small, Miss Small

Set Specific GoalsHave you set specific goals for yourself? My goal this weekend is to watch a little golf as this weekend marks one of the four greatest golf events of the year – major tournament weekend – and specifically, US Open weekend.

While some may disagree (and others may not care), I say that the US Open is the best of the four major golf tournaments. While the Masters and the Open Championship (aka British Open) have tradition on their side and the PGA is the “player’s championship,” the US Open is the people’s championship.

There are two reasons why the US Open is my favorite. First, because it’s an open format, theoretically anyone can play their way into the tournament through a series of regional qualifying tournaments. Now the chances aren’t great and I’ll never find myself playing in the US Open, but every year, there are a few really good amateur players that make it all the way. I love that!

The other thing I like about the US Open is the challenge of the course. The tournament director sets up the course to be very difficult for the players. Usually, professional golfers can move around a course, make bad shots, and recover fairly easily. Not at the US Open. If you make a bad shot, you pay for it with your score. And that’s the way it should be. The setup of a US Open course makes the best golfers in the world look human – or at least look like the rest of us.


The Players Make the Sport

In all professional sports, it’s the players (and television) that make it great. Especially if you have tried to play the sport, watching the professionals makes you appreciate how good they really are. And what’s great about major tournament golf is that it’s a world-wide sport. The best players from the entire world gather to make a run at greatness.

What makes sports even better is a rivalry. In this case, we have a three-way rivalry. Currently, the three top-ranked players in the world are from three different countries (Jason Day – Australia, Jordan Spieth – USA, and Rory Mcllroy – Ireland). All three are phenomenal golfers and seem like good guys as well.

While this year it looks like Jason Day is the man to beat, two years ago, it was Rory who was unstoppable. And last year, it was Jordan Spieth, the phenomenal 20 something from Texas who took the professional golfing world by storm. Jordan won both the Masters and US Open major tournaments back-to-back last year and finished respectively in the other two. And earlier this year, Jordan looked ready to repeat as Masters champion until an unfortunate meltdown on the 12th hole stopped him in his tracks.

For those who don’t follow golf, you may not realize how significant this meltdown really was. After leading the 2015 Masters from the opening round through the final hole and then starting this year’s Masters by leading the entire way up until the 12th hole on the final day, Jordan looked completely in charge. But on the par three 12th hole, Jordan hit not one, but two balls into the water. After finally landing safely on his third attempt, it took Jordan three more strokes to complete the hole, leaving him with a five over par eight. And effectively dropping him from contention to win his second straight Masters.


Set Specific Goals

I first heard the expression, “aim small, miss small,” during a golf telecast last year. The expression was credited to Jordan Spieth, although he borrowed it from somewhere. I believe it actually dates back to the Revolutionary War, when soldiers were given the advice to aim at a small button on the jacket of their enemy. If they missed the target, they would still be close enough to cause damage.

While the concept of aim small, miss small can be applied to other sports, it can also be applied to money management. Specifically, in money management you must have targets you are aiming for and they must be precise so that even if you don’t hit the target, your miss will be small and your result will still be reasonably good.

As an example, saving money is a generic goal. It’s a good idea, but it’s not measurable or specific (think SMART goals for those of you in the academic or corporate world). Instead, stating your goal as saving 10% of your gross income every year is SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound).


Goal Setting Process

With clearly defined SMART goals, you have a much better chance at success. And because it is so important to set specific goals, use the following steps to manage the process:

Align your goals with each other.  For example, if you have an early retirement goal of saving 20x your income by age 35, you’ll want to set specific goals for income, saving, and investing that align with your overall goal of early retirement.

Write your goals down.  Not only do I write them down, but I post my goals on the bathroom mirror cabinet. That way, every morning I get to look at my goals and remind myself what’s important.

Consistently measure your progress.  The benefit of having set specific goals is you can measure your success in achieving those goals. Have you met them? If not, why? Do you need to change the goal or change what you’re doing to meet the goal?

Keep moving forward.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep going when faced with a setback. Ask Jordan Spieth how hard it was to keep going after the 12th hole at the Masters. But moving forward even in the face of adversity is what separates those who succeed from those who do not.

Celebrate your victories.  When you do meet a goal, take a little time to cherish the moment. The magnitude of the goal dictates the size of the celebration. Have you seen how professional teams celebrate after a big win? The coach tells them to go out and celebrate that night, but be ready to start preparing for their next opponent tomorrow. Enjoy the moment. You have earned it. But get ready for your next challenge.


Readers, have you set specific goals for yourself? Please share some of your goals.


Permanent link to this article: http://financialslacker.com/set-specific-goals-aim-small-miss-small/


Skip to comment form

  1. Apathy Ends

    We have yearly goals set that are pretty specific and track our progress throughout the year.

    Savings rate, Roth IRA contributions and 401k contributions are a few we set

    One thing we need to start working on is a few longer term goals – that our smaller goals can work towards

    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      It’s so much easier to track your progress now with all the tools available. Sounds like you have everything well in hand.

      View Comment
  2. Get FIRE'd asap

    Nice segue from a relaxing weekend in front of the TV watching sport to the importance of goal setting. Genius!!

    And a reminder that I need to do this more often, Cheers FS.

    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      Unfortunately, as much as I would like to spend the whole weekend relaxing in front of the TV, it’s not going to happen. Between weekend number 4 out of the past 5 with a swim meet and other gatherings, I’ll be lucky to catch much of the tournament at all. But that’s ok. There are worse ways to spend your time.

      View Comment
  3. The Green Swan

    I love the golf talk at the beginning. I’m looking forward to the Open this weekend too! I’m a big Zach Johnson fan.

    We set SMART goals each year which lays out are targets both for the short term and long term goals with reasonable estimates for income growth and expenses (including lumpy expenses like cars and daycare etc). And we’ll revise and adjust each year as our circumstances and life objectives fluctuate.

    Thanks for the great post!

    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      Zach Johnson is great. He just turned 40 and can still compete. That’s what I love about golf. It’s a timeless sport.

      View Comment
  4. Julie @ Millennial Boss

    I’ve always wanted to learn golf. I’ve been to the driving range but I get so frustrated. Not quite Happy Gilmore level frustrated but still it’s tough for me. Maybe I’ll take a golf lesson (or watch it on TV). Thanks for the inspiration!

    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      It’s a fun game, but very frustrating.

      I’ve taken lots of lessons over the years. Last summer, I took a series (5 or 6) and that really helped. This may sound funny, but I also found a website that helped as well. I’ll find the site and post a link.

      View Comment
  5. Dividendsdownunder

    Thanks FS 🙂

    We have a number of goals for 2016 which we have on the blog. Hut our main goal that we are trying to achieve is be pregnant before the end of 2016 through IVF


    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      Good luck with the IVF. I know it’s a long and expensive process, but it will be worth it in the end.

      View Comment
  6. ZJ Thorne

    I want to save 5 percent of the anticipated cost of the condo I desire by December. Then, from January through April, I want to save 15 percent more, which will be more feasible then since I will have reduced other debts. Then I want to enter the market and purchase a condo for under 150K, which may not be possible in my market, but it is what I’m trying for.

    View Comment
    1. Financial Slacker

      That sounds like a reasonable plan. The good news is that interest rates are at the lowest level in a long time. But even though rates are low, have you considered an ARM? Miight help your buying power go a little farther.

      View Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *