What is SMART Goal Setting?

With the New Year just around the corner, I imagine many of you are already thinking about your Resolutions. For most, the New Year’s Resolution is a chance to make a long-lasting change. Unfortunately, a lot of people start strong on those resolutions, but pitter out after a few weeks or month in. It’s the main reason I prefer SMART Goals to those set on a whim. So, what is SMART Goal Setting?

Well, SMART is an acronym. There are several different variations. However, I prefer this one: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive.

S – Specific

SMART Goals Graphics-SI enjoy hearing the goals of others. As a coach, it’s part of my practice to simple ask. What are you goals? Sometimes people will tell me a goal like: I want to gain more clients. That’s pretty vague. How many is more? If we get right down to it, 1 is more. For most businesses, 1 more client hardly makes a dent. Here’s another vague goal. I want to be happier. Well, what does happiness look like to you? What if I gave you your favorite piece of candy? It’ll make you happier for a moment, but is that the true type of happiness you’re looking to find? Be specific!

Ask yourself Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How: Who does this involve? What exactly do you want to achieve? When are you going to take these actions? Why are you doing it? That is, why are these goals important to you? Where do you need to be to make these goals happen. Finally, how are you going meet those goals?

M – Measurable

SMART Goals Graphics-M-minThis is the piece many people leave out when setting goals. They talk about what the goal is, how they’re going to get there… they spend so much time planning, but forget to put in tools to measure their progress. For example, if my goal is to lose weight after the holiday season, how will I know I’ve achieved the results I want? How will I track my progress so I see the gains I’m making with my goal?

Beyond that, there’s also the mental connection to the goal. That is, how is it going to feel to meet the goal?  Taking the example of loosing weight, the purpose is more than just the weight itself. There’s a reason for wanting to lose the weight. When you’re specific, you identify that reason. However, once you accomplish that goal, how will you know you’ve really the target.

If I say I want to lose 20 pounds after the holiday, is that really the end goal? If I lose pounds of muscle by sitting on the couch, eating the wrong foods, and not amount of the right foods, did I meet my goal? Well… that’s 20 pounds, but the true goal may not have been simply 20 pounds. Understand what the real goal is, so you can measure what you truly mean to measure.

A – Attainable

SMART Goals Graphics-A-minFor me, setting attainable goals is the hardest part of SMART Goal Setting. I love setting personal goals. However, my goals can be pretty whacked and unrealistic without help to think them through. It’s not that I don’t achieve them, but rather, I tend to think I can do a lot more in a short time than is reasonable. I’m so used of aiming high and falling short, I just brush off any failures and keep at it until I’m happy. For me, personal goals aren’t all or nothing, but rather making improvements. It’s the mentality that if I shoot for the stars and land on the moon, I’ve still accomplish a lot.

However, we are all unique, have different drivers, and motivators. Aiming overly high with a high risk of failure may not work for you. If less than complete success isn’t something that sits well with you, make a goal that’s reachable. One that you’re sure to accomplish if you work at it. Goals are meant to help you achieve, not play with your confidence.

R – Relevant

SMART Goals Graphics-R-minOne of the traps we can fall into is setting goals to meet the values of someone else. For example, I’ve had clients say they’ve pursued careers fields because that’s what their parents expected. They got married and had children, because that’s what society expects of them. They design their entire lives around what others want for them, rather than what they want for themselves.

SMART Goals look out for your interest. This is your goal. No one else’s. For most people, the reason their life is not going the way they like is because they’re spending too much time working on the goals of other people and not enough time working on their own goals. This goal is relevant to you. If your goal is specific, you know why you want to accomplish your goals. This goal is yours.

Also take into account whether you have the skills, experiences, and resources to achieve this goal? If not, what do you need to gain in order to to accomplish your goal and make it relevant to you? What resources and support do you need to make changes? 

T – Time-Based

SMART Goals Graphics-T-minEach time I hit a letter in the acronym, I want to say, this is the most important piece. I want to do that here also. But in reality, each letter is important. Making a goal Time-Based puts urgency to the goal. Without a deadline, you can be left with a sense of getting around to it when you get around to it.

You can probably think of one of those goals now. It’s that goal where you say, man… it sure would be nice if I did… fill in the blank. Yeah it would be nice. Now, I’m going to ask… how long has that goal been on the side burner, waiting for you to put it into action? This is why deadlines are so important. It puts the goal in the limelight. It turns the goal into the squeaky wheel.

Work through a timeline so you can set a reasonable goal. For example, if I want to lose 20 pounds after the holidays, I might say 1-2 pounds a week is an attainable goals and decide to X my goal day for 15 weeks from now. Also… plot your path with milestone dates. And break big goals into little goals with dates.


Final Thoughts

This post is getting rather lengthy. So, I’ll end it right here. Over the next few days, consider thinking about goals you’d like to set. Next week, I’ll provide you an example of what a SMART Goal might look like.