From the moment we are born, quite innocently we fall into a continuous cycle of goals we are expected to meet. As a child, these are generally selected for us, by our parents, teachers and health workers. As we move into our teens and adulthood, we start to set our own goals and learn to adapt to workplaces where our employers are constantly setting and amending goals for us. Goals are quite literally part of every aspect of our life; how you conduct your relationships, your career and even the way you choose to use your spare time. Put quite simply, it comes down to how you choose to priorities your accomplishments, and that can be either a conscious or subconscious decision.
Without setting goals or objectives, your life becomes a series of chaotic events, which you are powerless to control. You become the plaything of coincidence. Achievements like sending someone to the moon, inventing the iPhone are not chance events. They are the result of a goal that was set at some point. A vision that was charted and realised.
What is SMART goal setting?
Setting SMART goals adds structure to your goals and allows you to track your success. Instead of vague resolutions, by setting SMART goals you create verifiable milestones towards your objective and an estimation of the goal’s attainability. The simple process of creating SMART goals brings your objectives closer to reality.
What does SMART stand for?
Why not think of a small goal you want to set right now, personal or professional. To make your goal SMART., it needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
What exactly do you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll get exactly that. SMART goal setting clarifies the difference between ‘I want to be a millionaire’ and ‘I want to double my salary by retraining as a physiotherapist’.
Questions you may ask yourself when setting your goals and objectives are:
- What exactly do I want to achieve?
- With whom?
- What are the conditions and limitations?
- Why exactly do I want to reach this goal?
- What are possible alternative ways of achieving the same?
Measurable goals mean that you identify exactly what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements. You’ll need concrete evidence. Being happier is not evidence; not smoking anymore because you adhere to a healthy lifestyle where you eat vegetables twice a day and fat only once a week, is.
Measurable goals can go a long way towards defining what exactly it is that you want, too. Defining the physical manifestations of your goal or objective makes it clearer, and easier to reach.
Is your goal attainable? That means investigating whether the goal really is acceptable to you. You weigh the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations and priorities you have in life.
If you don’t have the time, money, motivation or talent to reach a certain goal you’ll almost certainly fail and be miserable. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take something that seems impossible and make it happen by planning smartly and going for it!
There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the stars; if you aim to double the productivity of your business within a year with no extra labour involved, how bad is it when you only reach 1.8 times? I’d say that’s still a success!
Is reaching your goal relevant to you? Do you actually want to run a multinational business, be famous, have three children and a busy job? You make the decision as to whether this goal is right for you personally or professionally.
If you’re lacking certain skills, you can factor in training. If you lack certain resources, you can identify ways of obtaining them.
The main questions, why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?
You may think that switching to a new company who will pay you more will make you happy, but are you actually in the right career in the first place?
Set yourself a realistic and flexible timeline for achieving your goal. Setting yourself an unreasonably tight timeline will create unnecessary stress and may lead to failure. Go easy on yourself and be generous; unless your SMART goal is life or business critical, this doesn’t need to be a race!
Where to start?
- Start by thinking about your whole life, both your work and home life.
- Identify the areas you would like to enhance or change.
- Develop a goal statement for each of these. Goals should encompass your ultimate desired outcome, whilst being specific enough to allow you to measure your success.
- Don’t create too many goals. If you overwhelm yourself with too much change initially you are more likely to fail. Focus on one or two goals to begin with and, when you’ve succeeded at those and fully integrated them into your life, you can create more goals. A couple of early successes are more likely to feed a hunger to create further opportunities to succeed!