Be SMART with Your Goal Setting

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When it comes to setting your goals there are several key points to be mindful of if you are wanting a successful outcome. Goals are part of our day to day living from small to big, we set them throughout our entire lives. Think of your goals in different levels.

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Level A is your biggest goal, with this aim high and dream big. Don't worry if right now you think your big goal is just a pipe dream. It doesn't necessarily need to be realistic in your eyes at this stage, because along the way you'll create the steps to get there. We need to have a big dream, to think beyond our realms of possibility in order to provide us with the challenge to stretch ourselves and grow. If we achieved something easily then it wouldn't be worth having.

"Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land amongst the stars"...Les Brown

With level B, these are goals that are more challenging to achieve but necessary. Level B goals might take more time, effort and planning, they might rely on someone else becoming involved or you learning a new skill. Level C goals are relatively simple and easy to achieve; these are your quick win goals and help to kick start the momentum. With these levels B and C, this is the time to be realistic and create your SMART micro goals. Even by hitting your level C goals, you're still accomplishing something you have never achieved before. And, by being successful with B and C goals you're closer to your big dream; these are like the foundations to building a house. You're achieving your goals, brick by brick. Breakdown your dream into smaller chunks using this level approach. You can name the levels if you want. We need to chunk down our dream because sometimes the gap from where we are now to where we want to be is too big and we would give up on our dreams if we never experienced any progress.

What are SMART goals?

Whilst many of us have worked or continue to work within the public sector have heard of SMART goals and may have helped people create them, we often don't apply this tool to help create goals within our lives. Let's break them down and be clear about what constitutes a SMART goal. I've included an example along the way to demonstrate.

S - Specific:

What specifically is your goal? What is it that you want exactly? If our goal is general, the chances of achieving it is less than if you are specific in detail. A useful exercise is to visualise you are achieving the goal, putting yourself in that position at some point in the future where in that moment you know you have achieved it.

What are you doing? Where are you? What are you thinking? Are you with anyone? You must know what the end point is, because otherwise how will you know when you have achieved it? How will you know where to put your attention and focus?

A generalised goal is "I want to write a book", a specific goal is "I want to write a 400-page crime novel over the next 12 months and send it to a publisher by 1st June 2020."

M - Measurable:

In being measurable you have ways in which you have identifiable points or parts which you can measure the outcome. How will you measure your progress along the way? What will you see, hear and feel when you reach your goal? Go back to your visualisation of the goal, as you imagine yourself there in your future self, what are you seeing, hearing and feeling?

This step is about breaking down the goal into measurable parts. In the example of writing a book, it can be by completing a set number of words or chapters each day and at the end point having completed 400 pages, having a digital file and a manuscript printed off.  You are wanting to know, how will you know when you've achieved your goal? How are you going to measure your success?

In identifying your measurable steps, you are also zoning in further on what it is you want, and this helps you gain greater clarity on the steps to achieving your goal.

A - Achievable:

Some people identify this step as being attainable; there is no right or wrong since the concept is the same. Is your goal achievable? There is no point in setting a goal such as writing a 400-word novel within a year, if you have other commitments, obligations or priorities eating into your time and energy, you're never going to have the physical time to write. You also must consider the pros and cons to determine whether this goal is going to be ecological, in that it is not going to be detrimental to others if you are successful and that it is acceptable to you in your long-term future. Think of the time, cost and effort, can you afford to do it? Is the goal achievable but not realistically within the timeframe you have specified? If it is, then all that needs to happen is you be flexible with the timeframe and adjust accordingly.

R - Relevant:

Again, this is another element where people can use either relevant or realistic. I use relevant because there is no point in creating a SMART goal if the goal isn't relevant to you. Whilst writing a crime novel is relevant to me, it might not have any relevance or interest to you. Relevancy is unique to you and the future you are creating.

Maybe it's the case that you don't have the necessary skills or knowledge currently, but this is not a reason to discount the relevancy of it, it doesn't make the goal irrelevant, it just means you need to learn them.

Relevancy is also about understanding your why; why do you want to reach the goal? What will the goal allow you to do? Is it only for you? What's behind the goal?

T - Time based:

Set yourself a time and date by which you will have achieved your goal. When you are visualising a successful outcome, have a glance at your watch or phone, what's the date and time? Create the end point in time and create deadlines along the way. It's not a race to the finish but you do want to create some time reference on the goal in order to remain motivated and energised. Having opened ended goals don't hold you to account and you will lose focus as other things get in your way.

When creating your SMART goals, write them down and state them in the positive. Write them as though you are at that point in the future and they have been achieved.  You will find that along the way you are working towards achieving your big dream goal, you'll identify further level B and C goals, if only because there may be something you do not know now, but later down the line you do and this changes the route to your goal.