There are literally millions of articles, blogs, essays, mp3s, books, courses, and seminars on the topic of setting and achieving goals. I’ve taken many courses and seminars (some great and some not so great) and I’m well read on the subject. More importantly, I’ve personally experimented with many different techniques for almost two decades. I’ve enjoyed many great successes as well as many great learning opportunities. I’m here to tell you that setting and achieving goals boils down to a few simple concepts. I’ve decided to chose what I believe are the top five. These five simple strategies will help you set and achieve SMART goals, regardless how big they may be.
Before we learn the five simple strategies, let’s first make sure that our goals are SMART. Smart doesn’t refer to the overall intelligence of our goal. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These are important qualities of any well-formed goal. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
A specific goal is one that is clearly defined and unambiguous. The more specific your goal, the more likely you will be to accomplish it. This is because it’s hard to wrap your brain around a vague goal such as “I will be a better student”. What exactly does it mean to be a better student? To be specific, a goal should be able to answer the five “W” questions:
Who: “Who is involved?”
What: “What exactly do I want to accomplish it?
When: “When will it be finished by?”
Where: “Where will I accomplish it?”
Why: “Why is it important to me?”
Ideally, a measurable goal has some kind of number or amount associated it. This allows our brain to answer one of the most important questions in goal-setting: “How will I know when I have accomplished my goal?”. Some examples of measurable goals include: “I will go to the gym and lift weights for 45 minutes at least 3 days a week.”, “I will complete 100% of my homework assignments in English on time”, and “I will finish the semester with a 3.50 GPA or better.” Measurable goals answer questions such as “How much?”, “How many?”, and “How often?”. These are important questions to ask. If a goal has no measurable outcome, it will be extremely difficult to track and to manage.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker
When setting a goal, it is important to believe that the goal is within our reach. If we don’t believe we can achieve a goal, we won’t be motivated to put in the required time and effort. On the flip side of this, it is also important that the goal stretches us a bit. If the goal isn’t a challenge, we run the risk of not being motivated to work towards something that is too easy. Ideally, we want the goal to be challenging but not so hard that we get discouraged or believe it is out of our reach.
Our goal must be personally relevant to us and to our current life situation. We absolutely must know our WHY and it must be personal. A relevant goal is one that is meaningful to us, one that we ourselves want to achieve. It is not a goal that someone else (a parent, a friend, a significant other, …) wants for us. Personal relevance is important because it is virtually impossible to stay motivated and work hard to achieve someone else’s goal.
In addition, our goal needs to be relevant to our current life situation. If you’re a student with final exams coming up in two weeks, you probably won’t be very motivated to accomplish a goal that doesn’t have immediate relevance to your upcoming finals.
Our goals should have a time limit on them. This gives us a sense of urgency and helps us stay motivated. A goal without a time limit runs the risk of becoming a wish that we will get to someday. Goals can be short-term goals to be accomplished within a few weeks or long-term goals that may take several months or even years. Whatever the time scale, it is important to have an end date. Deadlines create a challenge and we typically respond well to challenges.
As you begin to create SMART goals, here are four guiding questions to ask yourself:
· What do I want?
· Why do I want it?
· How will I know when I have it?
· Why don’t I have it now?
The answers to these questions will help you get clear on your goal and why you want to achieve it. Once you have a well-defined SMART goal, you can use the five strategies I will share in my next post to help you achieve it faster. Stay tuned …
“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.” – Earl Nightingale