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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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Published on August 4, 2020

How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

How Smart Goal Setting Helps You Make Lasting Changes

SMART goal setting is one of the most valuable methods used by high achievers today to actualize their life goals time after time. SMART goal setting is the inverse of random or carefree goal setting without strategy.

Perhaps, you’ve always wished to get back in shape, get an annuity, or take control of your finances, but you failed to act. When you approach your goals with a care-free and nonchalant attitude, you’re less likely to achieve them.

You should have a strategic goal setting method in place, and learning how to set smart goals is imperative in this case. The method is time-tested and purposeful, meaning it can help you achieve your goals now.

To achieve your goals consistently and join the pack of high achievers out there who have consistently achieved many of their goals, you must be prepared to do what these people have been doing, and be ready to do the right thing: SMART goal setting.

What Is the SMART Model for Setting Goals?

SMART goal setting is a goal-setting method that considers certain factors about a goal relative to the person setting it. These factors are simply the five different letters in the SMART acronym for goal setting.

It is relative to the person setting the goal because what is true for A may not be true for B; or what is possible for A or within A’s ability to achieve may not be possible for B or within B’s ability to achieve.

What does the goal setting acronym SMART stand for?

  • S—Specific
  • M—Measurable
  • A—Achievable
  • R—Realistic/Relevant
  • T—Time-bound

Is it possible that this acronym can make a long lasting impact in your life?

Is it possible that a mere goal setting metric like SMART can help you achieve so many of your unfulfilled goals?

Is it possible that if you practice SMART goal setting, you will be able to have faster results, understand your goals better, overcome the habit of procrastination, and achieve a lot?

The power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

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It is important to extend the inquiry by asking: How many times have you said you’ll do “X,” but failed to do so?

We all have goals, and we all have 24 hours each day at our disposal. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating, some find it difficult to do so.

For some people who have succeeded again and again in achieving their goals, they have simply found an easy way of doing this. Is there something they know that you don’t?

How Smart Goal Setting Makes a Lasting Impact

Smart goal setting examples can be found all around you. Through SMART goal setting, Stephen Cooley was able to grow his real estate business to the point of closing at $110 million in sales when the average price point of homes was between $100,000 – $200,000 in South Carolina[1].

Through SMART goal setting, Steve Jobs was able to improve the fortunes of Apple and prevent the company from going bankrupt, even when it had barely 90 days left before being declared so.

SMART goal setting can make a lasting impact in your life in several ways.

Make Your Goal Clearer

When you use the SMART criteria to set goals, it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

By using SMART goal setting, you’re able to ask yourself relevant questions pertaining to your goal.

Motivate You Into Acting on Your Goals

When you use SMART goal setting and break down the goal into smaller goals or milestones, the bigger goal no longer looks intimidating or impossible.

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, wrote in his book How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be about how they applied the rule of five in marketing their book, Chicken Soup, and were able to make the book a best seller after some months[2]. The rule of five simply means doing five specific things every day that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

In order not to be overwhelmed, you would have to measure your performance using the right metrics. Here we are considering the Measurable and Achievable aspects of the SMART acronym. It is critical that you measure yourself in terms of lead measures.

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What are lead measures? They are the things you do that leads you closer to your goals. On the other hand, you would have to avoid “lag measures.”

While lag measures mean a successful outcome that you wished for and got, they can be emotionally draining and deceitful because, whenever they don’t happen, you can become discouraged.

Therefore, it is better to stick to lead measures.

Help You Save Time

You can achieve more when you use SMART model goal setting.

To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. If you can’t identify any of these points in your goal, you probably will be wasting your time on a wild goose chase.

When your goals are written down, it’s easier for you to go into action mode.

Improve Your Self-Discipline

Self-improvement is an important thing for everyone to do periodically. When you set SMART goals, it makes you realize that you have to sit up and work on achieving them.

How to Set SMART Goals

See the source image

    To make your SMART goals work, use the following tips:

    Specific

    Every goal ought to be specific. It is important to guard against making vague goals because even when they have been achieved, you may not know. This is because you weren’t specific enough.

    For example, “I will start planning toward retirement” is vague. Rather than write that, you could say, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan.” This is more specific.

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    When you are specific on your goal, it’s easier for you to identify all its components and work accordingly toward achieving it.

    Measurable

    Your goals must be measurable. When they are measurable, it’s easier for you to follow through.

    A goal like this is not measurable: “I want to make millions of dollars.” You can make it more measurable by saying, “I want to make one million dollars selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each.”

    Also, using our SMART goal setting examples while explaining the Specific acronym, you can make the goal more measurable by saying, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month.”

    Achievable

    How realistic or actionable is your goal? Is it practical enough to fit into a given time frame? Is it something you are able to achieve in your capacity?

    You would only be setting yourself up for failure if you sets goals that are not reasonable.

    A goal like this is highly unrealistic and, therefore, not achievable: “I want to be the Governor of Texas in six months,” especially since the elections will be coming up in three years.

    Goals must be written down relative to the experiences of the one setting them. They must resonate with you. It is important that you have at least some of the resources needed to actualize this goal.

    It is also important that you consider your time frame. When the time frame to achieve a complex goal is too short, it is rare that such goal will be completed.

    Thus, using our previous example, if you write “I want to make one million dollars in ten days selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten dollars each,” you would only be setting up yourself for failure.

    This is especially true if you’re not a popular author or if you’ve never sold even up to one thousand copies of any of your previous books, whether e-copy or in print.

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    Realistic/Relevant

    Before you proceed to making the commitment toward that goal, you need think about how realistic and relevant it is.

    Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved. If your goal is relevant, it fits into the life you’ve imagined for yourself.

    Time-Bound

    Every goal must have a commencement date and an end date written down. It is also important that you break down your goals into phases, chunks, bits, or milestones.

    The act of having deadlines set to your goals is ample motivation that drives you into action. Without a deadline, it is not possible for you to know if you’re making headway with your goals.

    “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month for the next twenty five years” is a time-bound goal.

    Remember that some goals are short-term while some are long-term. It is important to always bear this in mind, because this will help you in making a clear and realistic strategy when SMART goal planning.

    Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds, on paper, or just midway into implementation. SMART goal setting reveals to us all the action points of our goals and helps us to have an awareness of every aspect of our goals.

    The Bottom Line

    What matters at the end of the day is what you do with the contents of this article because the power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

    It is not enough to have a goal. It is not enough to put it down in writing. It is important to have a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that point you in the right direction. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

    After writing down your goals, you will have to be ready to take action. There should be a clear action point. Write down what you need to do on daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

    When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that, in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals, remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.

    Do not bother yourself with the one-year, three-year, five-year or ten-year plan as this may likely overwhelm you with fear and doubt. Let your focus be on each day. What will I be doing today? Consider this and go for it.

    More on the SMART Model for Setting Goals

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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