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Last Updated on June 12, 2020

What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

As a track and field runner in middle and high school, every year I would sit down with my coach and set a series of goals for the season. What times would I like to run that year? Which races would I like to win? The list went on. Once we had set my goals for the year, we would create a training plan and race schedule so I could achieve those targets.

Before I got a coach, I used to run aimlessly. No plan, no target races. I would just run in races whenever I was asked to by my club or school. More often than not, I would end up injured and find my season ending after achieving very little.

Once I got a coach, everything changed. We worked together to set my goals and target races, and my times over 800 and 1,500 meters tumbled down. I started winning races that mattered and began enjoying my sport. This annual process taught me from a very early age that goals are important if I want to achieve the things that are important to me.

This article will talk about why goals matter, what SMART goals are, and how they give you a clear, specific plan, whether they are personal or business, that work time and time again.

How Goals Lead You to Success

If you don’t have any goals, you drift. You get pushed and pulled in all sorts of directions by your work, your colleagues, your friends, and your family. Often, these directions are not the direction you want to go in, and you end up right back where you started, or worse, in a place you never wanted to be in the first place.

For just about anything you want to achieve in life, making a plan and a goal to achieve it is the only way you will make progress and give yourself a chance to make it to the end.

Goals give you a direction, they give you a purpose to wake up in the morning. They help you to see things from a completely different and more positive perspective.

Why Do People Fail to Reach Their Goals?

Setting and achieving goals is not easy, and many people fail. A study by Scranton University found that only 8% of those who set New Year goals actually achieve them, meaning 92% who set new year goals fail[1]. Why is that?

The problem is that many people see goals, such as New Year resolutions, as hopes and wishes. They hope they will lose some weight, they wish to start their own business, or they hope to get a better job. The problem with “hoping” and “wishing” for something is there is no plan, no purpose, and no time frame set for achieving the goals. Once these hopes and wishes come face to face with the realities of daily life, they soon dissolve into lost hope and wishful thinking.

So, in order to really achieve something, you need a concrete goal — a SMART goal.

What Are SMART Goals?

The foundation of all successfully accomplished goals is the SMART goal.

Originally conceived by George T. Doran in a 1981 paper[2], this formula has been used in various forms ever since.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. It has been used by corporations and individuals to achieve their goals and objectives and is a formula that, on the whole, works well.

The strength of SMART goals is that they set a clear path to achieving goals, and they have a clear time frame in which to achieve them. Let’s look at these in a little more detail:

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Specific

For a goal to be achievable, it needs to have a very clear outcome. What you are asking is “What exactly do I want to achieve here?” The clearer the goal, the more likely it is you will achieve it.

For example, if you just say “I want to lose weight,” then technically you could achieve your goal just by not eating dinner for one day—you would lose weight that way, even if it were temporary.

But that is probably not what you had in mind. You need to be much more specific:

“I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

Now that is much more specific and allows the other parts of the SMART goal formula to come into play.

Measurable

For you to have achievable goals, you need to be able to measure them. Take the example above: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.” It’s measurable.

All you need do is weigh yourself on 1 January, then deduct twenty-pounds from that and set that weight as the target for 31 July. Then, each week you weigh yourself to track your progress.

Assignable

Being assignable means asking: who is responsible for making this goal happen?

In our example of losing weight, the only person who can be responsible is you. Therefore, you need to take full responsibility for losing that weight. If you fail at achieving your goal, it will be no one else’s fault but your own. Accept full responsibility for achieving the goal.

Realistic

For any goal to be achieved, you need to set something that is realistic.

If you try to lose those twenty-pounds in one week, you are setting yourself up for failure. While it might be theoretically possible, the likelihood of you achieving that goal is very low. Losing twenty pounds over a six month period is realistic for most people, while losing twenty pounds in one week is not.

Time-Related

Finally, you need a timeline. All your goals need to have an end date because it creates a sense of urgency and gives you a deadline.

In our example of losing twenty-pounds, a timeline of six months would be specific, measurable, realistic, and would have a timeline. Furthermore, as you are accepting full accountability for achieving that goal, it is assigned—all elements of the SMART goal formula are included.

How to Reach Your SMART Goal

Is this really enough for you achieve your goals? Perhaps not.

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The problem I have always found with the SMART goal formula is it does not take in to account the human factor. We need motivation. We need a reason for achieving these goals. If you have no real motivation—no “why”—then you will fail.

Losing twenty-pounds, for example, is not easy. You are going to spend many months feeling hungry. Hunger is not something that can easily be ignored, and unless you possess super-human mental strength, you are going give in to the pizza, chocolate cake, and ice cream temptation.

All SMART goals can be distilled down to three words — What? Why? How?:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve it?
  • How are you going to achieve it?

When you simplify your goal in this way, achieving the goal becomes much easier.

1. Visualize What You Want

Another part to making your goals achievable is to visualize the end result. When you write out your mission statement, you should be imagining what it will be like once you have achieved the goal.

In our weight loss example, you would close your eyes and imagine walking down from your hotel room in Ibiza in July with your towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and swimwear on. You would imagine walking past all the other sunbathers and the feeling you have, the pride in the way you look and feel. Your head is held high. Go deep into every tiny detail. Look at the gorgeous blue sky, feel the temperature, smell the air, heavy with the scent of sunscreen, and feel the warm concrete by the side of the pool on your feet.

Try to invoke as many of the five senses as you possibly can. Every time you read your mission statement, go through the same visualization technique[3] .

Top athletes go through similar visualization techniques every time they perform. They visualize every step they take on the field of play, every shot they make on the golf course, and every pitch they throw on the baseball field. They visualize every move done perfectly. This visualization has been proven by science to work because it rehearses the moves in your subconscious brain. When the time comes to perform, your mind takes over to make sure you perform at your very best.

Every shot golfer Jack Nicklaus made on a field was rehearsed days before he made it:

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”

2. Identify Your “Why”

If you take losing twenty-pounds as an example, once you have made the decision you want to lose twenty-pounds, the next question to ask yourself is “Why?” Why do you want to lose twenty-pounds? The more personal your why, the better.

Your why could be, “because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza this summer.” That is a strong why.

If your why is, “because my doctor told me to lose some weight,” that is not a good why because it’s your doctor’s, not yours.

You could be very happy with your weight as it is, which would mean your motivation to continue with your weight loss program over a sustained period of time would diminish rapidly.

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Write your mission statement.

To help with setting achievable goals, when working with my clients, I always ask them to complete the following mission statement:

I will [STATE GOAL CLEARLY] by [DATE YOU WANT TO COMPLETE THE GOAL] because [YOUR REASON WHY].

In our weight loss example, your mission statement would be written: “I will lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza.”

Contained in that simple sentence, you have all the elements of a SMART goal. It is specific, it is measurable (lose twenty-pounds), it is assigned (you will do it), it is realistic, it has a time frame, and it now has a motivator—your why.

Never write a mission statement that is full of vague, Latinate words. The words you use should be simple, direct, and clear.

For example, do not write, “We will build an asynchronous, holistic messaging app that resonates with millennials.” The words “asynchronous,” “holistic,” and “millennials” mean different things to different people. These words might sound good, but they are not clear enough to motivate a team to focus on building what you want. A better goal would be, “We will build a messaging app that appeals 18 to 30 year olds that allows them to message each other across different time zones without annoying notifications.”

3. Figure Out Your “How”

Before you can begin achieving your goal, you need to create a list of steps you can take to make it happen.

For this, I always recommend to my clients that they take a piece of paper and write down everything they can think of that will achieve their goal. It does not matter what order you write these tasks down; what matters is you write down as many action steps you can think of that will achieve the goal. I always aim for around one hundred small steps. This makes it much easier to assign tasks for each day that not only moves you forward on your goal, but also keeps you focused every day on achieving the goal.

Once you have your list, you can then create a to-do list for the goal. You can allocate the steps to different days in the right order so you create momentum towards a successful outcome.

Bonus: Make a PACT with Yourself

There is one more part needed to really make sure you achieve the goals you set for yourself, and that is something I call PACT. PACT is another acronym meaning Patience, Action, Consistency, and Time. You need all four of these to achieve goals.

Patience

Without patience, you will give up. To achieve anything worthwhile requires patience. Success does not happen overnight. Be patient and enjoy the process of stepping a little closer towards achieving your goal each day.

When you set your goal, look at the timeline you have set for yourself and create a number of milestones. If you have given yourself a six-month time frame to achieve your goal, then divide your project into six areas. In each area give yourself two or three milestones. This will then keep you motivated to continue, even when you feel little or no progress is being made.

Action

If you do not take action on any goal, then no goal will be achieved. You need to make sure each day you remind yourself of your goal and why you want to achieve it. Read your mission statement, and then take the necessary action to make sure you move a step closer each day.

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You action steps should be clear and direct. They should be marked and put onto your calendar. Make it a non-negotiable task.

Consistency

The action you take each day towards achieving your goal needs to be consistent. You can’t follow your diet program for a week and then have three weeks off. It doesn’t work like that. Jim Rohn said it perfectly when he said:

“Success is a few simple disciplines practised every day.”

At the beginning of the week, sit down with your calendar and create tasks related to your goal for each day that will move you closer towards achieving it.

Time

Of course, you need to allow enough time between where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Be realistic about time, and don’t get disheartened if you miss your deadline.

Remember, if you have followed the steps and have moved yourself closer towards achieving whatever goal you set for yourself, continue on until you reach the goal and readjust your timeline if necessary.

The fact that you started means you are now closer to achieving your goal than you were yesterday. Don’t give up. Readjusting your timeline does not mean you failed. It just means you did not get your timeline right the first time.

The Bottom Line

The key to success is to put everything together. When you connect all of these elements, you create an environment where achieving SMART goals becomes much more attainable.

When you have a strong personal “why” for your goal, your motivation to keep going stays strong.

When you visualize every day what it will be like once you have achieved your goal, you are preparing yourself for success.

And when you mix in PACT and are patient and take action consistently every day over a period of time, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals!

More Tips on Reaching Your Goals

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on August 3, 2020

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

To make goals or not to make goals, that is the question.

On the one hand, if you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to YOU.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openess – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful meaningful life:

1. Start with the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now. Let nothing hold you back. Just keep that pen moving and see where it leads you.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? How is your health?

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month? One week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

If this exercise seems daunting, don’t worry. It’s actually a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

I’ve used it with thousands of workshop participants who have rocked their lives. It will work for you, too!

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Get specific about when, where, and how you’ll reach your objectives by breaking them down into subgoals.

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Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

Make your aims positive. Instead of “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

In my creativity workshops, I’ve found that most people don’t get what they want in life because they’re playing out someone else’s idea of who they should be.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of shoulds and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to — well — pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s no wonder we try to stuff everything we can’t do at work into our off hours.

But the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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Make balance a priority in your goal-oriented life. Start a hobby or side project to rejuvenate yourself after the workday ends. Paint, play hockey or try a new dinner recipe. Doing something you love for just a couple of hours a week can significantly improve your life. Like steering a ship slightly to the right, over time you’ll arrive at the destination YOU desire.

5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

If you don’t know where your true talents lie, try using assessment tools such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths and psychologist Martin Seligman’s Character Strengths to discover your personal strengths. You can also find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intimate” as “a very close friend or confidant: an intimate friend.”

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A few weeks ago, I suffered from an “eye stroke” and suddenly lost vision in my left eye. I’d moved to Portland nine months before and only knew one busy family I didn’t want to overburden. I was super lonely.

Because of my vision loss, I needed to ask for rides from people I barely knew to attend meetings of some of the groups I’d joined. These acquaintances are now turning into friends. I couldn’t have made it without their help and the support of friends I’ve known for years scattered around the globe.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

I should know.

Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being. Put it in your goals.

7. Open Up Emotionally

When crafting your goals, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others. To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings.

According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps,[7]

“Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. What are their emotions? What triggered them? This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter or making a phone call or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list. Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it and try to be kind.

Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self, that you did it for YOU. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

8. Nurture Happiness

To be more goal oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach). According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment to your life.[8]

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If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on? If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[9] Dr. Amit Sood defines “compassion” as:

“Your ability to experience others’ feelings — from joy to sorrow — with a desire to help.”

By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal oriented. It includes:

  • Endgame — Asking yourself where you want to be in 5 years, 1 year, now.
  • Nesting — Creating positive, specific, measurable subgoals.
  • Values — Building your goals around what truly matters to you.
  • Inspiration — Making time for meaningful hobbies and side projects.
  • Superpowers — Orienting your life plan around your unique strengths.
  • Intimates — Spending time with close friends and family.
  • Openness — Being honest about your feelings.
  • Nourishment — Nurturing people and activities that bring you joy.

It may seem like a lot of work at first glance but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal oriented.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

“What you seek is seeking you.”

Be more goal driven!

More About Goals Getting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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