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What is your vision of success? It’s different for each of us at different times of our life. Right now your vision may be getting a job or having a flexible work schedule or going back to school. Five years from now it may be different. But, whatever your dream, setting SMART goals will help you make it come true.
Setting goals is more than making vague statements like, “I will find a new job” or “I will make more time for my family.” It means creating a written plan that includes reasonable and measurable long-term and short-term objectives. It means setting SMART goals.
Lots of coaches and consultants like Brian Tracy suggest writing down your goals. Many use the SMART acronym to explain goal setting. Each one uses a slightly different set of criteria. In this case, S.M.A.R.T. refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed.
Specific: Goals need to be something specific. Often we set goals that are not precise, which makes it nearly impossible to judge whether we hit them or not. For example, a statement like “I will lose weight” is too vague. How will you know if and when you’ve reached your goal? Saying, “I will lose five pounds in the next 30 days” or “I will lose two inches from my waist” is more specific. At the end of the month it will be a simple matter of weights and measures: take your measurements and get on the scale.
Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. For example, many of us want to increase our number of contacts. But, “making new contacts” is an ambiguous statement. A clearer objective is “I will attend four networking events each month and try to connect with one person at each.” Another goal might be “I will sign up for Twitter and participate in one Twitter chat each week for the next four weeks.” It’s a simple, concrete goal. This makes it easy to track your results.
Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable for you. Nearly everyone has tried to drop a few pounds at one time or another. Often their success or failure depends on setting practical goals. In most cases, transitioning to a new career in 30 days is unrealistic. Whereas “Going back to school in the next six months” or “Going on one informational interview a month for the next six months” is more reasonable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are out of reach.
Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. When we’re children we believe that we can do anything. And we certainly have a variety of option. As adults we learn that while we can have a lot, we can’t have it all at the same time. It’s important to honestly evaluate yourself. Do you have the ability and commitment to make your dream come true? Or does it need a little adjustment? For example, you may want to go back to school. But, are you willing to spend your weekends doing homework? Be honest.
Time Framed: Goals need to have a time frame. Having a set amount of time will give your goals structure. For example, many of us want to find a new job or start our own business. Some people spend a lot of time talking about what they want to do, someday. But, without an end date there is no sense of urgency, no reason to take any action today. Having a specific time frame gives you the impetus to get started. It also helps you monitor your progress. If you think developing a set of written S.M.A.R.T. goals is a waste of time, think again.
Almost everyone has at one time or another tried to drop at least a few pounds. According to a recent article on ABC News, 108 million people in the United States are on diets. Many make four or five attempts per year, which is part of the reason the annual revenue of the weight-loss industry is $20 billion dollars. Losing weight is big business. Over the last few years, it’s become big business on television too.
On one episode of Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition Chris Powell worked with Jacqui, a 355 woman who wanted to turn her life around. Because the show follows contestants for a year, it’s easy to see that the coach has developed a plan with Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Framed goals at every stage. Chris tells her the goals for each three-month segment AND writes them down. In Jacqui’s living room turned exercise room is a large white board and on that board is written her goal for the first segment: 90 pounds in 90 days. And she has an exercise and nutrition plan to get there.
With determination and hard work she loses 92 pounds in the first three months. Do you think seeing her goal in front of her every day helped? I do.
Making it Yours
Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do. It involves figuring out what you need to do to reach your goal. And knowing how long it will take you to get there. Then you need to create a plan for every step of the way. Unless you have a professional coach like Chris it’s up to you. But you can do it. Now you know the fundamentals of goal setting.
Keep the SMART acronym in mind to help you remember the basics. Make notes on easel-sized Post-it® sheets that you can hang on your wall. Invest the time to translate this process to fit your needs.
Remember, S.M.A.R.T. goals are something that can help you in every area of your life whether that means changing jobs, transitioning to a new career, getting a promotion, developing your network of contacts, or even dropping a few pounds along the way. Get started today by determining what you want.
Develop a single statement that establishes your goal. From there you’re ready to create your plan. Start with your long-term goals. These are things you want to accomplish in one to five years. Next, establish short-term objectives. These include monthly, weekly and even daily targets that will move you toward your long-term goals.
Don’t make the mistake of pushing yourself to fast. In order to grow you need to step out of your comfort zone, but you shouldn’t jump into the deep end of the pool before you can swim. Never set yourself up for failure.
Start by deciding where you want to go. Then plan a route to get there. Your goals are your road map. If you stay on track, your destination will soon be in sight.
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