“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” — Confucius
Let’s face it. Achieving big goals is hard. It’s convoluted and it’s complex. However, we often fail to achieve our goals, not because they’re impossible to attain, but because we didn’t set them the right way. As a result we fail. Although we tend to learn a lot from those failures, they’re still defeating and depressive. No one likes to fail. But what if I told you that there was a way to actually set your goals that would help you achieve anything?
The truth? Most of us don’t have the slightest clue about how to set goals in a way that will empower and embolden us rather than deter and limit us. We usually have some outlandish abstracts in our mind of what we want to achieve, but we never actually fulfill those fantasies. However, when you set goals the SMART way, you’re far more likely to follow through. If you’ve never heard of SMART goals, then this primer should get you up and running quickly.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably been frustrated with setting your goals in the past. I know that I have. The biggest problem? I never realized that I was doing it the wrong way. I never knew that there was actually a right way and a wrong way to do it.
The SMART method allows you to set your goals so that you don’t feel frustrated or end up giving up on your dreams. When you follow along with this method you’ll get clarity of purpose by defining the goals the right way and ensuring that they’re harmonious with what you want out of life deep down inside. When you set goals this way, you often end up seeing them through.
It doesn’t mean that your goals are guaranteed to materialize. Much of your ability to achieve a goal has to do with the small and incremental steps that you take each and every day to make those dreams into a reality. When you stop taking action, and you procrastinate or engage in time-wasters, no goal setting method can help you.
What Do SMART Goals Stand For?
The acronym SMART has been mentioned countless times before by countless blogs. Now, I’ve written about SMARTER goals here in the past and have also created a rather in-depth goal-setting guide as well. When we talk about the former over the latter, we’re talking about 5 key elements that turn a good goal into a great one.
(S) — Specific
The first step in setting a SMART goal is to get specific about it. You need to be precise about what the goal is. It can’t be left in the abstract and it must be written down. Exactly what do you plan to achieve? You can’t just come up with a notion of what that idea is. You have to be able to track it and give it a metric.
A specific goal doesn’t just state that you want to be rich or be a millionaire or lose weight. The goal has to define the exact amount of money you plan to have or the exact amount of weight you intend to lose. Is it a million dollars? 10 million dollars? More? Do you plan to lose 20 pounds? 30 pounds? Or more maybe?
Specific goals are far more likely to be achieved. And when they’re written down, you’re more likely to follow through with those goals. It’s as if you’re bringing them out from the abstract and into the real world. As soon as you write them down, they’re real. Define them with a great deal of precision and detail.
(M) — Meaningful
Most people think that the letter “M” in SMART stands for measurable. Not true. The “M” stands for meaningful. If a goal isn’t meaningful, it can’t be accomplished. The trackable metric is defined in the first step where you get specific about the goal, but you also have to have a powerful and strong enough reason to achieve it.
Reasons come first. Answers come second. If you’ve ever wanted something badly enough in your life before, then you know just how it feels to overcome limitations by creating meaningful goals. I’m not talking about superficial goals. Superficial goals don’t work. You’ll just fail if you set superficial goals.
Behind the specifics of your goal, you have to have a strong enough meaning. Keep asking yourself why you want something, then try to figure out why you want the answer to that until the question equals the answer. Some examples of strong enough reasons would be things like family, freedom, love, country and so on.
(A) — Achievable
Set goals that you can achieve. I’m all for creating lofty goals, but you have to build momentum from small wins. Don’t set a short term one-year goal to make a billion dollars if you’re $100,000 in debt. That’s not achievable. Sure, you can set your 5-year goal to that. No problem. Just make sure that your goals are achievable.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t set outlandish goals that are further out. You most certainly should do that. When you do that, you’ll constantly look for ways to achieve those goals as long as you create milestones on the way there. Just make sure that your shorter-term goals are achievable.
Set your sites on creating multiple goals. Focus on a very achievable 12-month goal, which you can build momentum from. Then create your 2, 3, 5 and 10-year goals. This outline for your life will help give you direction so that you know where you’re heading. It provides clarity of purpose and calculated actions to achieve the end results. It’s a powerful tool that resides in both your conscious and subconscious minds when you know what you’re after in the long term.
(R) — Relevant
Your SMART goals need to be relevant to your life. The goals also have to be harmonious to your values and beliefs. The thing that often trips up most people is that they choose goals that run contrary to their beliefs. Sometimes, those goals even contradict their core values.
When that happens, you’ll find yourself giving up. Why? Because the goal went against the proverbial grain. You can’t set goals that are not harmonious with the internal workings of your mind. Once the going gets tough, it will be more likely that you’ll quit if you decide to do this.
For example, if you believe that “money doesn’t grow on trees” or “penny wise pound foolish” then how can you possibly have a big money goal? If you believe that all men lie and cheat, how can you have a relationship goal? Pick relevant goals that are harmonious to your values and your beliefs and you’ll do far better in the long run.
(T) — Time-Based
SMART goals are based in time. They have an exact date that’s selected when those goals are meant to be achieved. If you don’t select that date, then you’re violating one of the primary objectives of goal setting. When you select a date on a calendar, as opposed to saying next year or next summer or a couple of years from now, you’re more likely to follow through.
Another thing about time-based goals is that you can easily create milestones on your way towards that goal. You can break it down into monthly, weekly and even daily goals. It’s much easier to focus on what you need to do today to achieve a goal, rather than focusing on the enormity of something that’s one year out.
Take the time to select a specific date on the calendar for your goals. Then, put that goal with the date at the top in bold, right in front of you on paper on your wall or in your office. This way, it’s always on your mind and you can refer back to it often. You can also set it as the background screen for your phone and computer.