SMART Goal Setting
Many people who think they are setting goals are really just defining wishes, dreams, or New Year’s Resolutions. Goals have power because of the way they are defined. If you are serious about the vision you have for your future you need to start setting "SMART" goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
This is not a new idea, and first appeared in print in the 1980s. Since then, many people have set SMART goals as part of creating their desired future. SMART goal-setting has had its share of critics, and much of that criticism comes because it doesn’t necessarily create motivational or inspirational goals. That’s true, but if you have already defined your “Why” and understood your values then by creating SMART goals aligned with them, your goals are totally motivational and inspirational and will hit the mark.
Let's work through the SMART goal process.
The goal must clearly state what you will achieve, by whom, and where and when you will achieve it. It might even state why that goal is important. Not all of these points will apply to every goal, but use all of them to assess whether your goal is specific enough.
For example, this is not specific enough: “Get control of my credit cards” because it has a vague outcome (“get control”) and doesn’t have a deadline. This is a specific version of the same goal: “Pay off all my credit card debt by 30 September”.
Ensure you can measure both the end result and the milestones along the way. Be sure you can answer the questions of quantity: how much, how often, how many? For example, your goal might be to make $60,000 next year, which is a measurable goal. You can then break this down into monthly milestones of $5,000. This makes the goal more attainable because it is easier to think of making $5,000 each month than $60,000 in a year.
There’s an old saying that what cannot be measured cannot be managed. This is often true when it comes to goals. If at first you can’t find a way to measure your goal, look deeper because you might be able to apply an indirect measurement.
For example, you might have a goal to have less financial stress this year. You can’t measure stress itself, but you might measure the outcome in other ways – for example: reducing your mortgage to a specific amount, no overdue bills, or a specific amount of cash available each month for fun activities.
Set goals that stretch you, but ensure they are achievable. Even if you have not achieved this goal in the past, you must believe you can achieve it. If you set goals that are unbelievable even to yourself, it is very unlikely you will achieve them. The goals must also be possible, all things being equal. There is no point setting a goal that is impossible (“defying gravity and floating in the air through the power of my mind”) or unrealistic (“swimming in the Olympics next month” if you’re a poor swimmer). No matter how hard you try, it won’t be achievable.
However, be careful not to limit yourself too much. Don’t judge yourself only on your past; recognise you can do better in the future. And don’t let other people’s negative beliefs limit you, either.
Your goals must be relevant – in other words, aligned with your “Why” and values. You might be tempted to set a goal that seems easy and attractive, only to discover later that is has no long-term importance to what you really want to achieve. If you pursue it, you will take valuable time away from more important things; and if you discard it, you lose motivation.
You only have limited time, so focus on those things that are most important and aligned with your purpose and values.
A goal is a dream with a deadline, so always set a deadline for your goals. This is part of making your goal specific, but it’s worth listing separately because it’s so important. Even if everything else about your goal is specific, if it doesn’t have a deadline, it’s too easy to let it slip.
A deadline is important because:
- It reduces procrastination
- It gives you a clear “finish line”, and you can plan backwards from it
- It keeps you motivated and focussed, so you can say “No” to less important things
Make Your Goals SMART
Now it's time to create some SMART goals. Don't be tempted to skip the process of SMART goal setting and just “get on with it” without fully analysing your goals. Doing this careful planning now will save you a lot of time and disappointment later, and you will avoid making costly mistakes.
Finally, review your goals to ensure they meet your real needs, and are aligned with your desired future.
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Posted by Tracey Sofra at December 2, 2016