Achieving your goals is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, whether they are small daily goals or bigger life-long goals. Sometimes it is easy to just live life in auto mode and go through life reacting to events, instead of choosing what you want to accomplish each day, month, or year. It’s almost like you are sleepwalking through your day until it is time to actually go to sleep. How much of your day do you allow to be controlled by external things, instead of by your conscious thoughts and choices?
A good place to start with setting goals if you are not already doing so, is the how. How does one set goals that they can achieve? I took a class in college called Stress Management and one of the topics I learned about was goal setting. The elements of goal setting suggested in this handbook from class was: To be specific with the goals you want to achieve, measurable so that you can track your progress, attainable goals that you are able to achieve, realistic goals that are within your reach to put into practice, and finally time-oriented so you have an end date of when you want to achieve this goal. They called this acronym SMART for short. Even though this is a well-known method for setting goals, it was new to me and I would like to share it for those who may need a reminder and for those who also had never heard these simple suggestions that make a world of difference.
Let’s start with S or Specific. By choosing a specific goal to work with, you are defining a clearer picture of that goal in terms that are defined. In my opinion, if you have a desire to do something, that is merely an idea; but by writing down specific details to that idea, this helps make that dream a reality.
Secondly, let’s look at what M or Measurable means in this acronym. This is when you can keep track of your goal on a regular basis in order to show your progress. Variables within this section would be quantity, frequency, or duration, for example.
Then, A or Attainable is as it sounds. You want to choose goals that you know you can reach. By setting smaller more achievable goals, you are more encouraged to keep going and excited for your progress. If goals are set too high, it would be very discouraging and more tempting to give up and quit.
Next is for R or Realistic. Are you setting goals within a reasonable time frame as well as something that is doable? It goes hand-in-hand with being Attainable.
Finally, we get to T or Time-based. This is where you set a deadline for the goal of when you would it to be completed by. This way it is less tempting to procrastinate and can also help motivate you to go after it more if you are eager to have it done by a certain date or time.
Now that you know the SMART guide for setting goals and objectives, let’s put it to practice. Let’s say that a vague goal of mine is to ride my bicycle longer distances. My SMART goal that I want to achieve may look like this: Next year, June 10-12, 2016, I will ride my bike in the MS 150 in Minnesota, from Duluth to the Twin Cities. This example is showing the date I will have this goal completed by, the distance I will be traveling on my bike (150 miles), and where it will be taking place. It answers the who, what, when, and where. Right now that goal may seem very lofty if I only ride my bicycle once or twice a week and go between 5-10 miles per trip. It may take time to build up to long distance trips. But I can also break this larger goal down into smaller more achievable goals. Maybe next weekend I will ride 15 miles each day. Then the following month, I will increase that mileage to 30 miles, and so on and so forth.
You can apply SMART goals to your work or personal life. I used this method during my class to build my savings account, when I wasn’t previously very good at setting goals or saving money. I now set aside a specific amount each month into my savings in order to achieve my larger goal of having a set amount in my savings at all times. The most important thing here is to get real with what you want, stay dedicated, and know that you can get it. Believing in yourself may just take practice. After setting goals and accomplishing your smaller goals, you will start to realize how easy it can be to work your way up to a larger goal. I hope this information was helpful and that goal setting will become an effective skill in your life, as well. Remember, you can do great things!