What does your dream future look like?

Maybe it includes a beach house overlooking the ocean…starting your own business…or the freedom to quit your job without ever worrying about money…

Whatever your dream is, there’s a way to reach it – but it all starts with knowing what you have to do and why. Because the road to your dreams can be long, and you need plenty of motivation along the way – and that’s where your “why” comes into play. To get that beach house, you may first have to pay off credit card debt so you can put more money toward a down payment. To leave your job without worrying about money, you’ll need to build a healthy nest egg and a steady income stream.

You can get all of that done…and the first step is clearly defining your goals. Those goals set the framework for your financial plan – the key to financial success. Without that plan, it’s almost impossible to live your dreams.

The trick to setting achievable goals is to make them as specific as possible. They have to be measurable, so you can see your progress, and they need a timeframe so you can create realistic steps to get there.

So if you’re basic goal is to “have plenty of money,” transform that into more specific goals you can work toward, something like “build a $3,000 emergency fund in one year so I don’t have to worry about unexpected expenses anymore,” “save up $2,600 so I can take the kids to Disney in March 2018 without running up my credit cards,” and “create a $1,000,000 nest egg by the time I’m 55.”

Make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific.

Once you come up with clear goals, prioritize them and write them down. When you can see them spelled out like that, it’s easier to stay motivated and to measure your progress. Tracking how much you’ve accomplished toward your goals feels like victory – it really helps keep you motivated.

And if a particular goal starts to feel unreachable (like there’s no way you can save up $2,600 for that Disney trip by March) – don’t toss it – rework it so it becomes achievable (save $2,600 by May, or save $1,800 by March and stay at a cheaper hotel).

With your dreams turned into SMART goals, you can create your financial action plan. And with that plan in place, you’ll get closer to your future fortunes every day.