Goal setting makes success easier by helping you create clearly defined objectives that are based in reality. What you need is an action plan to follow and stay the course. Rather than getting stuck in the I-wish realm, try your hand at setting a SMART goal and see how you can actualize your desires.
Of course, until you know how to be SMART about goals, it’s difficult to really get the idea. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely
To have an effective goal you need to make sure you are Specific in what you want. You’ll answer questions like: What needs to be done? Who is responsible for it? What steps are there between here and successful achievement of your goal?
Once you know what you’re aiming for, you need to be able to Measure the progress you’ve made — how will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?
Then, you need to take a hard look at your goal and make sure it is actually Achievable. It’s all well and good to set a pie-in-the-sky goal, so you can whine about how you’ll never reach it. It’s much better if you take the time to set goals for yourself that are actually realistic and spend your time attaining it, rather than complaining!
The Relevant piece is a little tricky. It answers the question WHY are you setting this goal. If you want to be a lawyer, you’re not likely going to aim for a degree from Clown School. Set goals that are relevant to your desires and you’ll be on the right path from the word go!
And then Timely. This is important for many different reasons. Some goals will feel like 10-year plans but when you really write them out and look at all the pieces, you can see that in order to achieve the bigger goal, you’re going to have to break it down into smaller goals that you can reach much sooner. So giving yourself a time-line for your goal around when to start, what the half-way point looks like, and what will constitute successful completion of the goal are all parts to keeping things timely.
When my son was little, maybe 6, he was an anxious child and had a number of fears that he worked on over time. One of them was a fear of the garbage chute in our apartment building. He wanted to be able to help out and we agreed that taking the garbage to the chute was a good chore for him, so we worked together on a SMART goal to get him to be able to use the chute without fear.
First it had to be Specific “I want to be able to take the garbage out on my own”.
Then we had to see if this was Measurable — we’d know because the garbage was gone!
Was it actually Achievable? Yes, he felt that he could learn to do it.
Was it Realistic? Yes, a 6 year old walking to the end of their hallway with a kitchen-catcher bag of garbage as a weekly chore was certainly a realistic goal.
And then we added in the Timely piece, he felt that he could break the goal down into several steps, some in the beginning where I went with him and some later where he only went half-way, or he went to look without actually bringing the garbage (the noise of it going down the chute was part of the fear). And so we set a time-frame of 4 weeks. His goal became “I will be able to take the garbage to the chute without any help by one month from today”.
And lo and behold, because he’d planned it out SMARTly, he mastered that goal and never looked back! If I remind him about that fear today, he hardly even remembers it, but he gets a silly little half smile and a twinkle in his eye just the same, as he thinks about making that achievement!
This is a very simple example, but it demonstrates how you can use this wonderful tool to break down your goal and create a plan of attack that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.