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Last Updated on June 4, 2019

How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

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 but failed to act; or wished to get an annuity in place but failed to act; or wished to have control over your finances but failed to act. When you approach your goals with a carefree and nonchalant attitude you’re less likely to achieve them.

You should have a strategic goal setting method in place. It ought to be a time-tested and proven one. It ought to be purposeful. Without any of these considerations in view a person is likely to continue in a vicious cycle of failed goal realization.

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

What Is Smart Goal Setting?

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.

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.

The acronym SMART can be broken down thus:

  • S—Specific
  • M—Measurable
  • A—Achievable
  • R—Realistic
  • 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 would 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.

It is important to extend the enquiry by asking:

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  • How many times have you said you’ll read two books every week but failed to do so?
  • How many times have you said you’ll cut down on your expenses so you can save enough money to make a down payment for that apartment building you said you’ll buy five years ago but failed to do so?
  • How many times have you failed to keep to your diet routine even after all the tears you shed realising you keep adding pound upon pound every day?

We all have goals and we all have twenty four hours at our disposal and no one has more or less of it. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating. some find it difficult doing so.

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

How Smart Goals Make a Lasting Impact in Your Life

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 bankrupt.

SMART goals setting can make a lasting impact in your life:

Make Your Goal Clearer

When you use SMART goal setting it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

By using SMART 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. 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 too, 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.

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 and so leg measures do not necessarily mean that you are getting closer to your bigger goal.

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So it is better to stick to lead measures.

Help You Save Your Time

You can achieve more when you’re strategic with your goal setting task.

To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed. 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 a SMART Goal

To make your SMART goal works, follow the following tips:

Specific

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

For instance “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.

So 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 example 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.”

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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?

A man would only be setting himself up for failure if he 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” meanwhile the elections will be coming up in the next 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 actualise 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 actualised.

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.

Realistic

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

Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved.

Time Framed

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 framed goal.

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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 clearer and realistic strategy for your SMART goal setting.

Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds or 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

I could go on and on. 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 having a goal. It is not enough putting it down in writing. It is important having a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that guide you. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

After writing down your goals you would 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.

As a matter of practice, it is important that you begin by putting down a single statement that captures best your goal. For instance, “I want to own a $200, 000 worth duplex by 1st of August, 2019.”

Now, you can break this goal into smaller goals by saving $17, 000 per month for the next twelve months. You would have to ask yourself if this $17, 000 is within your reach on a monthly basis. If you make up to $25, 000 per month and you spend $5000 for monthly upkeep then it is possible setting aside $17, 000 every month for this purchase.

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 Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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Onis Sampson

The Founder of Staying True, a self development blog dedicated to teaching and exploring ways people can be their authentic, real selves.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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