All too often overlooked, yet incredibly important, goal setting is essential for success in both our personal lives and our businesses. Throughout all the self-help books and growth seminars we attend, there is one common denominator – how essential goal setting truly is. We should be setting long term and short term goals for both our personal and professional lives, as well as big, lifetime goals we are aspiring towards.
S.M.A.R.T is the concept of specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-based goal setting. This powerful process is all about taking matters one step at a time and transforming ideas and vision into achievable and actionable things. Essentially, it’s a practice that all successful businesses and individuals have in common.
We all know that setting goals has value, yet some of us have a hard time sticking to them and achieving results. Sometimes we struggle with setting and achieving goals because we aren’t specific enough about what we want to accomplish. If our goals are too vague, it makes it far too challenging to stay focused on them. We lose track along the way and give up.
At other times, our inability to stick with the goals we’ve set can be seen as a fear of failure. If we never name a goal out loud and start on it, then we haven’t really failed if we don’t get what we were hoping for.
Once we’ve named a specific, clear goal then we need to determine points of measurement throughout the process. Times to check in or ways to measure our progress will let us know how far we have come and make us more inclined to keep trying.
If we’re able to make commitments and keep them, such as setting and achieving goals, it indicates how much trust we place in our own ability. Confidence in ourselves allows us to make and keep commitments, but when we don’t achieve what we set out to, we become insecure and lose faith in ourselves.
Our goals should be relevant to our skillsets, careers and the current business environment and economy. Dream big, but keep your feet on the ground, know the challenges you’re facing and have an accurate picture of the world at the moment and that will make setting and accomplishing your goal easier.
Furthermore, we increase our chances for success when we set our goals within a specific time frame – one that is reasonable to accomplish, but not so loose it offers us too much leeway. Overly strict deadlines make our goals impossible to achieve, but dates too far in the future gives us greater opportunity to lose focus or make excuses.
Sometimes the goals we set are admirable, but not realistic. New Years’ Resolutions are a prime example of this – drastic changes don’t happen purely because the calendar does. They’re typically based on ideals rather than achievable results.
In the book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” author Stephen R. Covey touches on how beginning something with the end already in mind gives us a clearer understanding of the destination. Consequently, knowing where we’re going with our plans helps us both understand where we’re at currently and where we want to end, so the steps in between are headed in the right direction.
An example of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting may be the following:
- Set a Specific Goal. Perhaps you want to drop a dress size, to feel healthier and more self-confident.
- Identify a Measurable Outcome. In this case, it’s that smaller dress size.
- Ask yourself is the goal is Attainable. How will you go about accomplishing it? Perhaps you’ll get good nutrition by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat and decreasing your fat, sugar and salt intake. You could also get physically active and participate in aerobic exercise three times a week, for at least 30 minutes. In addition, you could maintain focus, listen to your body and address any health problems.
- Ensure the plans to achieve your goal are Relevant. Are the specific, and will they do enough to help drop that dress size and feel healthier?
- Set the appropriate amount of Time. Give yourself long enough to lose the needed weight and make the changes, but beware of setting a deadline that is too short or too far in the future.
Reasonable goals such as this are achievable and offer tremendous results. Focus on smaller, short term steps in working towards the bigger picture and you’ll find you have the confidence to set and work towards bigger dreams. Try setting your goals based on the S.M.A.R.T. principles and give yourself the chance you deserve.