I love the SMART goal setting technique. It really helps me break my goals into smaller and more manageable pieces.

However, there is one crucial element (or letter) that is missing from this acronym. This missing letter can potentially make it harder for you to reach your goal – no matter how well you have broken down your goal into different pieces and action steps.

Playing the SMART game

If you are not familiar with the SMART goal setting technique and what the acronym means, here is a brief rundown with a simple example:

  • S = Specific

Your goal has to be specific enough (“I want to lose 4 inches off my waist”)

  • M = Measurable

“My waist line is measured every week, on Saturday mornings after waking up”

  • A = Achievable

“Do you think that you can do this? Or are you going too far by getting rid of yet another 10 inches? Or should the goal be 5 inches instead, maybe that would be more achievable?”

  • R = Realistic

“Is your lifestyle stable enough that you can commit to this goal?  Are you mentally prepared to do this? Do you want to achieve this goal by next week or in six months?”

  • T = Time-framed

“It’s January 2012 now, so I want to achieve this by July 1st 2012.”

As you can see, when you break down your goal like this, they become much more manageable and concrete than just saying “I want to to be slimmer”.

All fine and well, except that there is a crucial letter missing in this package – another letter “A”.

So, what is this missing letter “A” all about?

Other letter “A” stands for accountability and this is a great way to make sure that your defined plan is actually executed and it is not left just on the talking or planning level. Even if you crafted a masterful plan by using the SMART goal technique, it becomes useless if you don’t actually execute it. To make sure you start the execution phase, you want to throw some accountability into the mix.

By having some external pressure on your back (in the form of accountability), you are more likely to take action on your goal steps than if you just kept the plan to yourself. Accountability is based on the fact that you want to stand behind your words and save face. When you announce your goal to the world, you realize that the world is now watching you and you don’t want to let the world down.

Accountability is also about keeping the expectations of others. If you announce a goal or a task in public, other people are expecting you will achieve the tasks and goals you have laid out for yourself.

Different ways to implement the letter “A” in your goal           

1. Keep it to yourself

I was a bit hesitant to include this, since in this scenario you are not telling others about your plans or tasks. However, for some people this might work since your conscience is your accountability partner in this situation. And you don’t want to let your conscience down.

2. Announce it to the people you are dealing with

Your people could be your colleagues at work, your local golf club buddies, the subscribers and readers of your blog or your Twitter followers. I would say that accountability is more effective when dealing with “offline people”. Being accountable face-to-face to someone is very effective.

I’m in no way underestimating the power of “online people” either. If you are trying to form solid relationships with others online, you want to keep your word – even if you don’t necessarily meet the people in the same sense as in offline world.

3. Accountability partner

A little bit more intimate way of being accountable is to report to your friend or spouse about your doings. When this route is chosen, you might decide to call your partner on a frequent basis how you are doing and how you are progressing on your task that you promised to do.

4. Stickk.com

If none of the above ways work for you it’s time to put Stickk into play.

Stickk.com is a web site where you can announce your goal (“Commitment Contract”) and to make you even more committed to reaching that goal, there is money on the stake. Money is not mandatory to get set up with Stickk, but knowing that you will lose a certain amount of money if you don’t reach your goal, can give you an extra push to get stuff done.

5. Mastermind groups

Mastermind group is a group of like-minded people, gathering on a frequent basis (online or offline) trying to push each other closer to their goals. This type of accountability is very common in business world. When you are in a mastermind group and you have set the objectives you want to achieve by the next meeting, you want to get stuff done and fulfill other’s expectations.

Mastermind groups are a great way to improve your productivity and reach your goals with the help of others.

6. Coach

If you really want to get personal attention to your goals and a person who will make you to reach your goals (much faster than what you could do by yourself), then hiring a personal coach may be the best way to stay accountable.

Not only are you accountable to your coach, but you also have to pay for his/her attention. This makes the coach option even more effective. You want to make sure you do everything you can to get the assignments done before the deadline you two have set. So there is a money factor to keep you accountable as well. Since you want to quickly move forward, this option is a very effective for staying accountable with your goals.

Next time set the goal using “SMARTA” instead

The next time you are set on reaching a goal, add that letter “A” to the SMART goal setting technique:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed, Accountable.

The accountability factor of reaching your goals may be just the thing you need to make them a reality.

(Photo credit: Letters and symbols in fire via Shutterstock)

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