Setting SMART Goals
We’re a month into the new year, how are your resolutions coming along?
If you are like most of us, you started of really strong, and gave it everything for a few weeks…
“This is the year,” so the resolution goes, “that I want to lose weight and keep it off.”
Variations may include setting travel goals (take that dream trip), financial goals (start saving), and many more.
If you’re anything like me, by now your enthusiasm and motivation have started to dwindle, and you eventually start to sink back into your old routine.
Well, you don’t have to wait until next year to have another go at it.
I’ve been using a great goal setting technique for several years now, and while I’m not necessarily a planner, and good at sticking to a plan, I find that by following this technique I am more likely to succeed.
Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Setting SMART goals
Yeah, I’ve mentioned it in passing before; the premise is simple. You will find more success with achieving goals the more you break them down into smaller, attainable parts.
State your goal as specifically as possible. Brainstorm up front and make all the decisions early.
To flush out the specifics try asking yourself WHAT, WHY, and HOW.
- WHAT are you going to do?
- WHY is this important to you? What do you want to accomplish?
- HOW are you going to do it?
For example, your goal could be “Go on a holiday”, now break that up. Where do you want to go in particular? South America? Peru? Ecuador? Chile? Why? Before you know it, you’ve created a rough itinerary.
Another example “I want to lose weight”, could be broken up into “I want to lose 10 kilograms”, and further by “I want to lose 10 kilograms by exercising at the gym 3 times a week, eating a well-balanced healthy diet (90% clean-eating compliance, and 10% cheat is a good start), and walking the dog every night”.
The more you can break a goal down, the more it reads like a step-by-step process. This helps in crossing the small pieces off, until you realise that you are SUPER-close to achieving your goal!
Sometimes your goal requires several goals are achieved before you can start on it. I know a few of mine do. Maybe you can’t go on that holiday until you save $5,000, accrue 3 more weeks annual leave, or get your passport. You see how these are stepping-stones to achieving your goal? Being specific helps.
Make it Measurable
The greatest tip I can give you in losing weight (for example) is to track your progress. If you can visually represent your progress (graphs and charts), you will feel motivated, and find it easier to stick to the plan; bringing success closer each day.
Similarly, if that big trip overseas was your goal. You got really specific. You broke it down to all the countries you want to visit, and the steps you need to take to get there. Maybe you needed to save a few thousand dollars first? Track your savings progress.
Tracking your progress is a great way to reflect and teach others too.
Make sure it’s Attainable
I’ve said this before. It’s important that your goal means something to you, and it is within your reach to achieve it.
Winning lotto for example, that’s a dream, not a goal.
Don’t go to the extremes. You will find keeping your goals attainable gets easier the more specific you are.
Make it Relevant
Relevance kind of relates to being attainable.
No use chasing someone else’s dreams. Live your life.
You will have more success doing what you really want to do, rather than following the crowd, or doing what others think is best.
It’s an introspective exercise, only YOU know what you want.
Following your heart is both motivational and inspiring, and makes the challenges and obstacles more bearable when weighed up against the reward (achieving the goal).
Just be sure you are realistic in your goal setting. The goal should be ambitious, but not impossible. You have to be willing to work for it.
I write a lot about bucket lists, and the biggest annoyance I have with people and their lofty goals is they don’t set a timeline. The term bucket-list itself implies that these are all goals you want to achieve sometime in your life, before you kick-the-bucket (die).
That’s not the best way of looking at it. You set yourself up for failure by not setting a schedule. Before you know it, you’re reflecting back on your life and all the regrets you have.
If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can “start tomorrow”. Sound familiar?
Goals should be linked to a time-frame that creates urgency. There should be tension between your current reality, and your vision of the goal. Without this tension, the goal is unlikely to succeed.
How do you achieve this? Just add a WHEN to your goal setting.
Choose a time, the sooner the better. Why not start on one of your goals now?
Why “loose 10 kgs”? When you can “loose 1kg a week for 10 weeks”.
Why “walk the Great Wall of China”? When you can “visit the Great Wall of China and camp out overnight before Christmas this year”.
a dream is a goal without a deadline
Many jump on the “no goals” bandwagon. Arguing that when you have goals, you are too focused, and you may miss out on being open to other opportunities that present themselves.
I agree somewhat. It’s important to have goals, but not so important to focus on them that you lose sight of why you are setting goals in the first place.
You want to live a life of Eager Existence right? You want to look back on your life and smile at the amazing memories, knowing that you made the most of your time on earth.
Sure, it can take hard work and determination. Sure it can take sacrifice. But what about enjoying yourself, keeping an open mind, and welcoming a little serendipity into your life?
It’s good to have goals, but its also good to be open to new experiences. Like everything, there’s a balance. It’s just a matter of finding it.
If you think you’ve heard all of this before — that is, you’ve tried these techniques and failed; then I would love to hear from you, either privately, or in the comments.
And I urge you to stick around (subscribe), and stay informed of upcoming posts — including an alternative method to help you work towards your goals and get out and enjoy the variety of life.
* header image via