It is that time of year again when many of us are setting goals or resolutions. Why do we do it? We do it because we want to be better, do better, make a difference, change and grow. We are okay with where we are at now but want to improve ourselves, our families, our teams, our businesses and our lives.
A goal is the stated end-state of where we want to be in the future. Sometimes these goals are big and in order to reach them, we will need to set smaller goals that are steps to reaching the bigger one.
A neighbor of mine grew up in a small town and participated on the local school’s track and field team. His friend was the best high jumper in the school. He would go to the track meet, make his jump and win the competition. He rarely practiced as his talent and ability were so good. He was invited to participate in the state competition and looked forward to it. When he arrived at the competition, the bar was set to start at the height that he normally jumped over. He cleared the jump but when the bar was raised, he failed to clear it and went home empty handed. He spent the entire season being okay with where he was but had he challenged himself and set a goal to improve, he could have done much better in the state competition.
In the business and self-improvement world we find the acronym of SMART as a guide in setting our goals. We can use these suggestions to improve the likelihood that we will achieve our goals.
S stands for Specific. Your goal should be well-defined. Avoid vague language. “I am going to lose 10 pounds by March 31st by exercising three times a week for 30 minutes and not eating sugar.” is a lot more specific than “I want to lose weight.” Include answers to questions like: Who is involved in the goal? What will be accomplished? Where will it be done? Why am I doing this?
M stands for Measureable. Are you able to track progress and measure the outcome? The measurement should allow you to know when your goal is accomplished.
A stands for Attainable. Is the goal realistic and reasonable within the constraints you have? Is your goal too high or too low? (To stay with the high jumper - Don’t lower your bar. You should raise but not too high too fast.)
R stands for Relevant or Realistic. Is your goal consistent with your long term plans and will it meet your needs?
T stands for Timely. Your goal should include a time limit. Having a sense of urgency will prompt you to work on it rather than put it off until tomorrow.
I set goals several times a year. I have ten year vision of where I would like to be (a vision is not a goal as it is so far into the future and is subject to change.) I have broken that down into five year, three year and one year benchmarks that would need to happen in order to reach that vision. I take these and break them down into quarterly goals and select the ones that are the most important to achieve during the quarter. By focusing on only a few at a time, I do not feel overwhelmed and make progress towards the larger goals.
In the book, The One Thing by Jay Papasan, he encourages us to think about seven different areas of our lives for goal setting – Job, Business, Finances, Spiritual Life, Physical Health, Personal Life, Key Relationships (Family, Partners, etc.) After thinking about these he encourages us to ask “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” He then suggests working on that one thing as your goal until you have it and then move to the next one thing.
There is no one right way to set goals but the practice of setting them and working towards them brings progress. Good luck on your goal setting and achievement.
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