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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.

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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. [3]

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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

Final Thoughts

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.[4]

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

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Corporate Finance Institute: Smart Goal
[2] Study.com: Reticular Activating System: Definition & Function Video
[3] Education.gov.au: The senses working together
[4] ForbesBooks: The Science Behind Setting Goals (and Achieving Them)

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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