Striving for and attaining goals makes life meaningful. Goals create drive but only if you set yourself to achieving them in the proper way. I’ve found that the letters in the word SMART are very useful in articulating goals.
SMART reminds me that my goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time Bound.
Specific and Measurable relate to how you phrase your goal. Vagueness goes hand in hand with lack of genuine commitment. You don’t think a world-class pole-vaulter, for instance, just says, “I want to jump higher next year.” No, he has a certain height in mind.
So instead of “I will be more fit in six months so I can hike into mountains and help with a reforestation project,” you might say, “In six months my resting blood pressure will be ten points lower.” Or, “In six months I’ll be twenty pounds lighter.” “I’ll be running three miles in four to six months” is more effective than “I’ll be running more in four to six months.”
Or if your goal is to become a standout salesperson so you eventually can rise in the firm and change its focus, you’d be better off proclaiming, “I will increase my sales next year by twenty percent” rather than “I will sell more next year.”
In order to ensure your goal is Measurable, you need to know if you’re making progress? You need to set up interim goals or checkpoints along the way. Depending on what your goal is, you might be checking your progress every day, once a week, or once every two months.
Action Oriented means that your goal will involve “taking action”. We cannot move toward our goals by standing still, and stating your goals in such a way that denotes action releases the power that you inherently have available internally
The statements above include the action that will be taken. Words like “hike”, “help”, and “running” make the goal real, powerful, and motivating.
Realistic has to do with the goal, which should be just beyond your reach, making you stretch. It should be attainable, yet challenging. If it’s almost impossible to achieve, a goal can be demotivating. On the other hand, a goal with 100 percent chance of achievement is not really a goal; it’s a given. And that defeats the purpose of goals, which is to move you forward by making you work harder, or by gathering more resources than you have in the past.
And the “T” of SMART goal setting is Time Bound. Until you set a specific time frame in which your goal will be accomplished, it is merely a wish, not a goal. Set the exact time that the goal will be accomplished, and if it is a longer term goal( over three months), you should also set up short term check points that you will measure progress, and take corrective action in order to get back on track.
You may discover that your goal is not attainable or realistic within the time frame you’ve set. But be flexible about your game plan before you reconsider your goal. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, so you may have to make adjustments in order to stay on track and keep up your motivation.
Some other suggestions about goals:
- Write them down. It’s one thing to think about your goals, but it’s quite another to dignify them by putting them on paper. Turst me on this! Writing them down makes them more tangible, more meaningful, and more imperative. Instead of being maybe nothing more than a vague musing, your list of goals becomes a call to arms, a goad to action, and a pact with yourself.
- Make them personal. They must be sincere and something you want to do rather than something you think you should do. Whatever your objective, the reasons must be strong enough to fuel your desire to work to attain your goal.
- Make them positive. The mind can’t refuse to think of something when instructed to do so. So if you say, “I will not smoke today,” your mind automatically ends up thinking more about smoking than if you had said, “I will breathe only clean air today.” Same purpose, more effective.