Without setting goals, we may never achieve what it is we dream. Dreams are an endpoint and don’t include the steps to take to get there. The goals we decide to work on take thought and planning to increase the chances for success. This is where SMART goal setting comes in. Writing SMART goals will increase your ability to translate thought into action and help you make the goals effective and realistic. Setting SMART goals is an effective way to start achieving your dreams.
Remember that dreams are the destination, not the journey. Goals are the process we take to get there.
Download your free SMART goals worksheet to follow along with this post.
The first article in this series talked about dreams and how to translate them into a goal that is worthwhile for you. After going through this post hopefully, you have some good ideas for goals to get started with and dreams you want to head towards. If you haven’t read this post check it out HERE.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Instead of creating vague resolutions, SMART goals have a framework with a clear trajectory towards your objective.
SMART goals can be used for any dreams you may have whether it’s personal, professional, business, academic, health, or fitness. We all have dreams and bucket lists, (and if you don’t take some time to create one!) but to help them come true we need to create a plan so the dream doesn’t remain a vague vision.
It’s time to turn thought into action!
SMART goal setting help to:
- Clarify ideas,
- Assess readiness for change,
- Focus efforts,
- Use time and resources productively,
- Increase your chances to achieve what you want in life.
Let’s walk through setting SMART goals and how to make an effective plan for achieving your dreams
Setting SMART goals: Specific
The more general or vague goals are, the less likely they will be achieved. It is much more effective to say “I’m going to go walking with my friend during our lunch break 3 times per week” than set a general goal like “I am going to get in shape”.
Define your goals thoughtfully with specific and achievable plans that you write down. Breaking goals into manageable steps makes them less intimidating to tackle. If a goal is focused on the outcome, but not the actions to get you there, it can be too overwhelming to even start.
Your goal should be clear so you can focus your efforts and be motivated to achieve them.
A specific plan includes the questions:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Why do I want to reach this goal?
- Where is it located?
- When do you want to do this?
- Who needs to be involved?
These questions help to clarify and focus your ideas and give you a clear path forward.
Part of the fun of working towards a goal is tracking progress and meeting milestones. This keeps us motivated and focused. Set specific milestones so that you can celebrate along the way and reevaluate/reset if needed.
Make goals measurable like “quit smoking”, “go to spin class 2x/week”, or “eat a veggie every day” and not vague goals like “be happy” or “be less stressed”.
Don’t write “clean out the closet”. Instead, try to list to-do items separately: “Get rid of 5 shirts I don’t wear”, “Pick up shoes and put them on the shelf”.
- How much?
- How many?
Don’t set an impossible goal. Goals are going to be challenging but need to be achievable. If they were easy you would have already done them!
Start with a plan that helps you feel successful.
Break a big goal into smaller goals and tackle the steps one at a time. Build confidence as you meet these steps. If you make a goal too daunting it can feel overwhelming and hard to start.
For example, if your overall goal is to “join my friends on their weekly hikes”, but you don’t yet have the stamina or strength to do this, the plan would not start with an action step to climb Mount Washington.
Instead, try smaller, more achievable targets:
- Can you commit to walking up and down your stairs for 5 minutes a day?
- Walking outside for 10 minutes 3 times each week?
- Can you exercise with a coworker at lunch for 15 minutes twice a week?
- Will you park at the far end of the parking lot at work and at stores?
Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Don’t decide your goal is to start to run and complete a marathon all in the same year. Even if you start to run (success!) you may feel discouraged if you don’t progress to marathon distance and give up running completely. This negative cycle gets internalized: “I hate running”, “Running is too hard and I’ll never be good at it”, “I’m not strong enough to run a marathon”.
What about the other things that can get in the way of a goal?
Do you have the skills, time, or finances needed to reach your goal? If you don’t, what is the plan to get them? Can you take a course? Hire someone? Are the financial and time costs understood?
Saying YES to a goal may mean saying NO to something else in your life. Make sure it is worth it.
Remember that when you put energy into achieving a new goal you have less energy or time to put elsewhere. This may be insignificant and mean you have less time doing things that aren’t fulfilling…but it could mean you have less time for self-care and spending time with your children. If the cost/benefit balance does not work for you the goal may not make sense at this time of your life.
Your goal should be meaningful to you, set by you, and be inspiring enough to motivate you to succeed.
- It is important to ask yourself what the motive is behind the goal.
- How sure are you that the goal will achieve your objective and be relevant in your overall life plan.
- Will it have positive benefits?
- Why are you setting this goal now?
If the goal doesn’t inspire you it may take reframing. For example, if your goal is to “lose weight” and that seems like drudgery maybe the goal could shift to “I want to have more energy to play tag with my kids”.
Find your reason!
Deadlines are motivating! They get people to move from thought to action. Setting appropriate timelines is an important motivator on the path to a new goal and prevent daily tasks from taking priority over long-term goals.
Make sure to keep deadlines realistic or they serve to add stress and frustration and kill morale.
Set deadlines for the actions steps that lead to achieving your ultimate goal. Make your goal “Week 1-2: Walk for 10 minutes 5 times each week. Week 3-4: Walk for 20 minutes 5 times each week.” rather than “get in shape” which has no measurable steps or time goals.
Next steps for achieving your dreams:
Your dreams have now been translated into goals with action steps. You are ready to start! The next post will help you put systems in place to stay on track and increase the chance you will see your goal through to the end.
Download your free SMART goals worksheet to help you set and achieve all your goals effectively!
Have you used the SMART goal system before? Was it helpful?
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