Have you ever made a resolution for the new year and then forgot what it was by the end of January? If this has ever happened to you, you might consider making SMART goals. The SMART goals model has given me the focus and structure that I have needed to reach my goals over the past few years. It has made such a difference in my life, and I hope that it gives you the boost you need to launch into this new year with goals that stretch you beyond your comfort zone.
The more specific you can make a goal, the easier it becomes to figure out the path to reach that goal. If you aim to obtain a leadership position, know all of the required and preferred qualifications. If you strive to improve in a sport, know the exact workouts and training you need. If you want to excel in school, know what classes you need to take and what outside resources are available.
When you set a measurable goal, you are able to hold yourself more accountable. Time is easily measured. Goals based on some sort of time measurement are common… a deadline for an application, a personal record for a race, a duration of an event… Whatever it may be, if it is measurable, you are much more likely to keep track of progress.
When I think of what is attainable, I think of what I can do, with what I have, where I am. This is different for everyone, which is why we all have unique goals. If a goal is attainable, then you can put your energy into motivating yourself to put in the required work instead of trying to convince yourself that you will be able to reach some extremely ambitious goal.
Goals that are attainable are usually realistic, as well. You should make goals that some might think are impossible… just make sure that you believe they are possible. Also, be sure that your goals stretch your limits, but remember that if you know there is no way you can reach a goal then it probably is not realistic.
If you really want to reach a goal, you have to make a plan. Anyone who has ever reached a goal will be able to tell you exactly how they got there. Write it down. Whatever your goal may be, make sure that you think about it every day. If you see it written down, it will stay at the forefront of your thoughts and will give direction to your daily life. Depending on the goal, you might need one post-it note or an entire notebook to make sure you stay on track to reach your goal. Different goals have different timelines, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Based on this model, here are a few other things to consider when making SMART goals:
Figure out what truly motivates you, both intrinsically and extrinsically. Intrinsic motivation is driven by only one person: you. This motivation comes from a deep desire to reach a goal and can only be created by you. Extrinsic motivation comes in many forms, and can range from simple quotes to extravagant speeches. Extrinsic motivation is much easier to find, but its role in defining the path towards a goal is just as important as intrinsic motivation. Once you discover what it is that truly motivates you, you will be able to stick with your goals through all of the doubts, obstacles, and uncertainties.
Organize and prioritize your goals. Goals are sometimes grouped as either short-term or long-term. While this can be helpful, it is also a very general way of organizing goals. If these generalizations work for you, great! If not, then try organizing them differently. For example, I currently organize my goals based on different areas of my life: academic, physical, spiritual, and family/friends. With this structure, I am able to focus on one small goal within each area for a day or week while I continue to work towards a loftier goal for the month or year. While this might not work for everyone, I encourage you to try organizing your goals according to different areas of your life.
Stop dreaming and start working. The sooner you turn your thoughts into actions, the sooner you will reach your goals. When you reach your goal, you will be able to look back on all of your hard work, setbacks, failures, lucky breaks, and sweet opportunities that were all part of the path that led you towards your goal.
The next time you set a goal, remember to make it a SMART one!