Change + Goals = Success
I had been considering this post for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to writing yet. And I’ve noticed a lot ”goal talk” lately with my friends and online. So when I read an article written by a friend about how to get what you want, I took it as a sign that I needed to go ahead and actually write the post.
Disclaimer: The information here isn’t new, and I can’t claim rights to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym (that goes to George T. Doran), but I’ve seen so many people struggle with goal-setting that it bears repeating.
Since you’re reading this, it means that there is something in your life that you aren’t quite happy about. Something that you want to change. Something that you feel isn’t quite “you”. And changing a part (or several parts) of your life requires a goal. You have to decide what you want to change, and then figure out how to do it.
But there tends to be a major gap between the amount of goals we set for ourselves and how many of them we actually achieve. Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s Resolution only to renege on it two weeks (or days) later, know’s exactly what I’m talking about. We get an idea, we’re filled with enthusiasm, we make a plan (or not), and we get going just long enough to fall flat on our face.
It’s not you – It’s your plan.
“I just don’t have any follow-through.” or ”I’m a real procrastinator.” or ”I’ll never make it.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these excuses, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used them in the past. I’d need a few extra arms and legs to count them all on my fingers and toes. But the truth is that failing to meet your goals comes down to two reasons: Your goals are simply not the priority that you claim they are, and not having a realistic vision of your goals.
Priority, is a post all on it’s own, so today we’re focusing on the latter – creating goals that you can actually achieve.
What’s so smart about goals anyway?
S.M.A.R.T. is a lovely little acronym with meanings that vary depending on whoever is talking about it, but generally it stands for Specific, Measurable,
Attainable Ambitious, Relevant, and Time specific. I’ll go into each in more detail below, but as a rule, your goals need to meet all of these requirements in order to be valid.
Ambiguity will get you nowhere! Your goal must be drilled down to it’s basics in order to be achievable. What do you want? How will you get it? Will you need help? When is your deadline? You have to think about every aspect of attaining your goals, including how to get there, and what “there” looks like. Which brings me to…
Your goal must be measurable in some way. A goal that isn’t measurable is like playing Tetris on unending mode – you keep racking up score, but you never “win”. You have to set clear definitions of what success looks like, otherwise, you’ll never know when you’re there. Imagine going on a road trip, but there are no road signs, no maps. You can keep heading in the direction you think is right, but if you don’t know what you’re destination city looks like, you’ll either quit before you get there, or you’ll drive right on by never the wiser.
The original meaning here was “attainable”, but I prefer the less used “ambitious” as it really requires us to go into ourselves and earn our achievements. Do you feel empowered after tying your shoes in the morning? No, because it’s easy. You know you can do it with your eyes closed. Your goal shouldn’t be extremely difficult either, but it should present you with a challenge.
You can get pinpoint specific with your goals, but if they aren’t relevant, they aren’t doing to do anything for you. If you want to lose weight, but don’t want to gain muscle, then pumping iron in the gym 3 days a week isn’t a very relevant goal. Same goes if you want to learn how to, say, ballroom dance, but you sign up for a hip-hop class. Bottom line: Your actions must line up with your end goal.
I want to visit Italy someday.
Someday is the ultimate killer of goals. Someday is really just secret spy code for never. A great goal needs a deadline. If your boss told you he needed the weekly reports done “whenever you get around to it”, how long would it take you to hand him the reports? I’d say it would take a lot longer than if he said he needed them today.
Whether the deadline is a one-time thing, or a daily, or even an hourly thing, the fact remains that people push themselves harder when something is at stake, and the perceived “failure” of not meeting a deadline is a strong motivator.
S.M.A.R.T. Goals vs Dumb Goals
Okay, so maybe your goal isn’t dumb, but if you don’t put enough thought and effort into creating a goal that fits the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines, then your goal might as well be dumb, because it isn’t going to get you anywhere. So, I’ve listed some examples below of some common ill-formed goals, and a few ways to SMARTen them up.
Dumb goal: I want to lose weight.
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will lose 10lbs in 3 months by exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 days per week; by cooking at home at least 6 days per week; and by drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day. I will seek out support from my friends and family when I need it.
Dumb goal: I want to lose my temper less.
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will practice mindfulness daily by setting aside 10 minutes twice a day (8am and 8pm) to sit in mindful awareness. In addition, each time I become aware of anger and frustration building, I will step back and mindfully assess the situation, before it can get out of hand. I will practice thinking calming thoughts and remind myself that lashing out will not change the outcome.
Dumb goal: I want to start meditating.
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will meditate immediately after waking up in the morning for 30 minutes. I will have any equipment I would like to use ready, and easily accessible, so that I can not make excuses in the mornings.
What are your goals right now? Share in the comments below. This is a great time to practice your S.M.A.R.T. goal format!
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Photo by Carnie Lewis