Smart Goals And How To Set Them
Setting goals are important. It not only gives you direction and focus but also helps you measure your progress. However, often times we fail to accomplish our goals.
A survey indicates that 25% of New Year resolutions are broken in the first week. Let’s face it, considering the number of people that quit on their New Year resolution, it is clearly evident that a vast majority of people struggle to reach their goals. This happens because most of us set “bad goals”, that is farfetched.
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score”. -Bill Copeland
Good goals Vs Bad goals
The reason why some people manage to accomplish their goals and others don’t lie in how their goals are set. A bad goal that is too vague will be difficult to achieve than a goal that’s well defined.
Ramit Sethi gives an example of what bad and good goals look like:
TERRIBLE GOAL: “I want to get fit.”
BAD GOAL: “I want to lose 10 lbs.”
GOOD GOAL: “I want to eat 3 healthy meals per week and go to the gym 2x/week for 15 minutes.”
In the example above you can see how ill-defined the first two goals are. In the third example, notice how the goal is broken down into simpler steps that makes it practical. Such is an example of a smart goal. Transforming big goals into actionable steps dramatically increases the likelihood that it will really happen.
Why set SMART goals?
SMART goal setting strategy is the formula that can help you transform any big vague goal into actionable steps. To set good goals that you will actually follow through, you need to apply the SMART goal setting strategy. SMART goal setting brings structure and trackability into your goals and objectives. Instead of big vague goals, SMART goal setting creates a verifiable path towards a certain objective, with clear milestones and provides an estimation of when it can be attained. Every goal or objective, from intermediary step to overall objective, can be made S.M.A.R.T. Setting smart goals to provide structure and accountability in professional, academic and/or personal life.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting
To make your goal S.M.A.R.T., it needs to follow the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
What do you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the bigger the chance you’ll get exactly that. When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Imagine you are sailing a ship in the middle of the ocean. Without any destination fixed in mind, you would not know which way to steer. Consider the same situation, only this time you have a navigation chart and you know exactly where you are headed to. In which case is it more likely that you would reach the harbour?
Of Course the second! As Dr Hans Selye said, “No wind blows in favour of the ship without a direction”.
A specific goal should include the answers to the following questions below:
Who – Consider who needs to be involved to achieve the goal. (Whether it is an individual or a group goal).
What – This should include what exactly you are trying to accomplish (don’t be afraid to go into the details).
When – It is important to set a time frame.
Where – Setting location is important for event-specific goals.
Why – What is the reason for the goal?
Making a goal measurable means breaking it down into measurable elements. A SMART goal must have criteria for measuring progress. To keep track, you’ll need concrete evidence. For this, you need to decide on the metrics, the basis on which you will be measuring the progress.
Now take an example of a student studying for a test that is scheduled for Monday.
Below are the examples of the goal set by him/her.
Case 1: I’m going to study for the test on Monday.
Case 2: I’m going to study every day from this set date and then meet with a tutor on Friday to prepare for Monday’s test.
Case 2 is clearly more measurable and thus would be easier to pull off. Measurable goals can go a long way in defining what exactly it is that you want. And once you have defined the physical manifestations of your goal and objectives it will be much easier to track its progress.
Is your goal attainable? You will need to research and probe whether or not the goal or objective set by you is achievable. This means doing a cost-benefit analysis: weighing the effort, time and other costs your goal will take against the profits and the other obligations and priorities you have in life. The goal is to inspire motivation, not discouragement. The achievability of the goal should be stretched to make you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can actually achieve it.
According to Researchers Locke and Latham (2006), the highest level of effort occurs when the task is moderately difficult and the lowest levels occurred when the task is either very easy or very difficult.
Goals are proven to be an effective motivation tactic if the difficulty is taken into consideration. They should be set high enough to encourage high performance but low enough to be attainable. Too much stress is never fun.
Should you set goals that are realistic? Or should you dream big and aim high? And most importantly how do you define a realistic goal and differentiate it from an unrealistic one? Let’s take the same losing weight example as before. If you want to lose 5kg within a year, do you think it is possible? The answer is a big yes. People have done it and within the time frame of a year, it is definitely possible to lose 5kg. However if your target is to lose 5kg in 2 days, unless you plan to undergo surgery, there’s is no way on earth that can be achieved. What makes a goal unrealistic depends on the strategy. Unless and until the strategy justifies your objectives, it will remain an unrealistic goal.
SMART goals must be realistic in that you must be able to accomplish your goal within the available resources and time. A SMART goal is realistic if you believe that it can be accomplished. To know whether or not your goals are realistically set, ask yourself the following questions:
Is the goal realistic and within my reach?
Is the goal reachable given the time and resources?
Will I able to commit to achieving the goal?
If your response to these questions is affirmative, chances are your goal is realistic.
A smart goal needs to have a start and finish date. Deadlines are what makes most people switch to action. With no time frame tied to it, there’s no sense of urgency. So establish deadlines for yourself when you set a goal and go after them.
For instance, gaining the skills to become a domain expert may require additional training or experience. How long will it take you to acquire these skills? Do you need further training, so that you’re eligible for certain exams or qualifications? It’s important to give yourself a realistic time frame for accomplishing the smaller goals that are necessary to achieving your final objective.
Keep the timeline realistic and flexible. Having an extremely inflexible deadline can have the opposite effect and make the whole process a hellish race against the clock – which is not how you would want to achieve anything.
SMART goal setting strategy can be used as a tool to create the criteria to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing any goal. Smart goals set you up for success by providing you with a clear sense of direction. Once you have mapped out your SMART goal, it’s time for execution. Keep in mind though that goals no matter how smart it is, won’t magically happen unless you act on it.