Goal setting used to be something only the elite successful few had knowledge of and utilized. But it is now becoming widely known as the smartest first step to achieve success.
In spite of this, it’s quite surprising to find that many people don’t know how to write a good SMART goal statement. They don’t write them well or even understand why it is so important.
SMART is a well-known acronym, which is mostly understood as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. However, there are also a number of simple secrets to this acronym that can really make a difference.
It took me ages to learn how to write an effective goal. I had mentors and trainers who would pick my goals apart to make them even more SMART. It took persistence until it eventually paid off and I have since experienced the myriad of benefits.
When we effectively write a good SMART goal statement, it gives our mind direction and we see more possibility. We become more focused and because of this, we often achieve what we want a lot faster. We also save time and work more productively.
And here’s why:
There is a tiny part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System. It acts like the gatekeeper between our conscious and unconscious mind. It filters information and controls what we become consciously aware of in our everyday environment.
The thing that most people are unaware of is that, the RAS as it is often called, filters according to past and present experience, and it deletes anything that isn’t relevant to that.
This means if you don’t write a SMART goal statement with this in mind, you could miss essential cues that could help you achieve it. Your reticular activating system will delete that information.
A SMART goal statement is a sentence or even paragraph written to the formula of the SMART acronym. This contains all the effective criteria you need to help you write a powerful goal. When you adjust this acronym slightly, it brings that formula to life. This is where it becomes much more powerful.
Let me explain how this works.
Specific – Where It Is Often Misused in Goal Statements
Specific means more than just precise objects like a house, car or money, although this is important. True specificity is also in the micro details of the experience.
What do I mean by that?
It’s essential to be clear on:
- What you want to achieve
- Who else will be involved in it
- When and where it will be achieved
- Why you want it
Including the sensory details of the experience is vital, such as what you will see, hear, feel, smell or taste as you achieve it.
This makes your goal statement sensory specific. And because we experience everything through our five senses, it brings your goal to life. It kind of tricks your reticular activating system. This is because it doesn’t know the difference between imagination and real experience. And we respond almost automatically to this sensory information, which means we will make different decisions. 
As you write your goal this way, your RAS will start to provide you with opportunities. Many people call them coincidences, but it’s just that your blinkers have come off and you are more consciously aware.
Writing your goals with specific and sensory detail you will begin to notice many more possibilities than ever before.
Measurable – The Necessary Requirements
This is anything with numbers in it, such as quantities, measurements, amounts and dates.
If a goal isn’t measurable, then it becomes quite easy to veer off track. It’s kind of like a football field with no goal post. The game would never end and no one would know which direction to play.
When you make your goal measurable, it gives you a concrete criteria to aim for. This will increase your focus making your decisions and actions much more defined.
This can sometimes be tricky with certain goals. For instance, it’s easy to write a measurable goal when aiming for an increase in income or possibly a decrease in weight. Goals around things like relationships, friendships or health require more thought.
Think about how you will know the goal has been achieved and what measurements could be involved. For example, if you want to increase the fun in your relationship you may be having date night once each week. Or you may be doing something adventurous once a month. This makes your goal measurable.
As you write your goal statement as measurable as possible, it will give you a clear vision of what you are aiming for. This is vital to reaching your target.
Achievable – Replacing This with “as If” Will Power You Forward
It will benefit you greatly when you write your goals “As If” they are happening right now. This is because it makes your goal statement a current experience.
If you write your goals as a future experience, then it will always be in the future. This is because your mind will delete indicators, which can help you achieve what you want.
When you write your goals in present tense, your mind starts to think in a different way. Your goal becomes believable for your mind. And when your goal is believable, you will feel more confident in your ability to achieve it.
Writing your goal statement this way also changes the way your RAS is filtering information. You will notice things you used to be unaware of. This causes you to take actions you may not have taken before or go places you’ve never been. You may even bump into someone who can give you precise information to help you achieve your goal. These are often referred to as “signs” that you are meant to be doing it. When it just means your goal statement made you more aware.
Instead of beginning your goal with “By 31 December 2019”, I encourage you to write it this way; “It is 31 December 2019 and I am (or) I have.” As you write your goal in present tense, you will notice how real and exciting your achievement feels. This engages your senses too.
Realistic – A Different View to Consider
It’s important that you don’t make your goal realistic according to what you have achieved in the past. This is one of the most common ways you could limit yourself.
Anything is possible and it is only your own mind that gets in the way of achieving it.
We create things twice, firstly in our imagination and secondly in our physical reality. And we do this with everything, even the things we don’t want. This means if we can see it in our minds eye, we can have or do it. It may just mean learning a new skill or building a key strength.
Realistic means assessing whether the goal is achievable in the time frame you have allowed. For example, if you want to become a competition tennis player and you are a beginner, then it is unrealistic to expect to do this in one month. Within this time frame, you would possibly have joined a club and begun lessons.
When you set your goals, do a realistic check. And if your time frame is a bit out, just change it.
When you use this version of realistic, you will notice your potential expand and so much more becomes possible.
Timed – Creating Motivation in Your Goal Statement
When you set a date to your goal, it gives your mind a deadline. And as you probably know with any deadline, it gets you off the starting line.
Whether you leave things until the last minute or whether you action a goal gradually over a longer time frame, it has the same effect.
The thing is, your date must be specific; because if it is too vague, it won’t motivate you as much.
Our unconscious mind always wants to protect us from the prospect of failure. One way we can do this is by not deciding on a firm deadline. If we don’t have a clear target date, then it’s easy to tell ourselves it’s not important. We might let ourselves off or get distracted with something else.
Giving your deadline more definition, however, it becomes urgent and something to be dealt with quickly. When you set the target date for your goal statement, make it very detailed with the day, month and year. You can even add the time if you want to be really specific. For example “It is Tuesday 31 December 2019 and it is 3pm”.
Imagine how vivid this becomes in your mind’s eye when you do this. And the incredible sense of achievement you will feel when you reach your goal.
Bonus: Insight That Most People Don’t Think About
One of the most common mistakes I see is a goal statement written about what someone doesn’t want. You may think this is crazy, but it is easier done than you may think.
For example, say you are currently experiencing a lot of stress at work and you want less of that. You may write a goal that states you are “feeling less stressed” or you “have no pressure”. Your unconscious mind doesn’t understand comparison, negative or positive, it just hears words. If your goal includes the words stress or pressure, it will look for and create more of that.
So it’s important to state what you aim to have, instead of what you don’t.
Let’s look at another example. Say you want to lose weight. If you state the weight you have lost, your mind will go looking for it and guaranteed it will find it. This may be one reason you are experiencing weight loss and gain. In this case, it is essential to write a goal statement about what you weigh at your target date.
Carefully writing about what you do want instead of what you don’t, you will notice your achievement levels rise.
There was a much-quoted study, which was allegedly carried out in Yale University. The stories of this study have persisted since 1953. It showed that only 3% of those surveyed actually wrote goal statements. Findings claimed that elusive minority achieved their goals more consistently, had more confidence and earned more money than the other 97% who didn’t.
After further research this study and its stories were eventually found to be a myth. But, the reason they’ve perpetuated for so long is because their fundamental assertions are believable. The principals have been the practice of the most elite and successful for many years. And in my personal and professional experience I have found this to be true.
Whether the study happened or not, what I do know is this:
One of the main reasons many goals remain dreams is because the deeper meaning of SMART is not fully utitilized.
Implementing these powerful principals in your SMART goal statements will dramatically increase your odds of consistently achieving high!
More About Goals Setting
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
- How to Makes Lasting Changes with Smart Goal Setting
- How Setting Small Daily Goals Makes You Achieve Big Success
Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com
|||^||Corporate Finance Institute: Smart Goal|
|||^||Study.com: Reticular Activating System: Definition & Function Video|
|||^||Education.gov.au: The senses working together|
|||^||ForbesBooks: The Science Behind Setting Goals (and Achieving Them)|