If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
~Lawrence J. Peter
Just as when you are traveling to a destination it is helpful to know the best route, in driving toward your goals it is useful to know how to get there in the most expedient way. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends after a lot of tenacity and commitment to accomplish what you set out to do. In between there are some very well defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Following these road signs will allow you to realize your desired destination without taking too many detours.
We have, over the past couple of weeks, focused on why goals are important and preparing for the journey of personal goal setting. Now that we have prepared, it is time to embark on our journey of personal goal setting. Most of us are familiar with the SMART mnemonic for setting goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Unfortunately, few actually give much time and attention to the model. It is, however, a key difference between goals that are achieved and goals that are not.
S: Be Specific
First and foremost, goals need to be specific, clear and well defined. They should state exactly what you want to do in concrete terms. Vague or ambiguous goals are unhelpful because they won’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. This is the fundamental difference between a dream and a goal. Dreams get you nowhere if they do not become actionable, yet you would be surprised at how many leaders fail at this first, critical step. In order to succeed you should:
- Ask yourself exactly what it is you want to do
- Understand why you want to do it
- Ask yourself how you plan to do it
- Ask yourself who you will need to help you
- Ask yourself when you would like to achieve the goal
Being specific has a tremendous impact on your mind. Vague, generalized goals are likely to leave you bored and disinterested over time… specific, detailed goals should fuel your mind and energize your actions.
Being specific also means writing your goals down. Writing your goals out in complete detail provides the subconscious mind with a detailed set of instructions to work on – a roadmap for success. The more information you give it, the clearer the final outcome becomes. The more precise the outcome, the more efficient the mind can become. The simple mechanical act of writing makes your goals visible and tangible. Now they are no longer just thoughts – they are commitments!
M: Measure For Movement
What gets measured, gets done. Measurement can be inherent in the specifics of a goal, but not always. A clear and concise way of measuring your goals will help you to see your progress. Just as with any measure of success, you must start from a baseline and have the capability to measure movement from there. Otherwise, how will you know when you get there? Sometimes change happens so slowly it is hard to notice – with clear measures in place, you will be able to observe milestones that will let you know you are still on track and making progress toward your ultimate destination. Although some things may be difficult to measure, you must land on a means of measuring success that tracks over time. Include precise amounts, dates, etc in your goals that allow you to measure your degree of success. Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something!
*Note: Set regular, meaningful short and intermediate goals, also known as milestones, to keep you on time and on track with progress toward your final destination. Schedule milestones on your calendar to measure progress toward your goals, allowing you to make mid-course corrections that may be needed along the way – within the timelines you have set.
A: Achievable and Aligned Goals
Make sure the goals you set are achievable… with considerable effort. If you set goals that are beyond your ways and means, you are not likely to maintain the conviction and perseverance to pursue them relentlessly. Goals need to stretch you, yes, but the stretch must be reasonable and balanced with other priorities or goals. Self-awareness is critically important in goal setting. No amount of ,”I think I can…” will move you forward if you do not have the gifts, talents, capabilities and true grit to make it happen. Self-help motivation without the insight of self-awareness will fail you every time.
At the same time, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best – while preventing you achieving your potential at the other end of the spectrum. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you will find the balance you need. Seek goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they will bring you the greatest personal satisfaction.
R: Be Relevant and Realistic
Relevant goals are in alignment with your overall objectives. Relevance is the key to sustained goal fulfillment. You will not accomplish something over time that you are not internally committed to with all your heart and mind. Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. By keeping goals aligned with your overall values, you will develop a sense of focus that will take you where you want to go. Set inconsistent goals, and you will find yourself unfocused and limited in your ability to achieve your life’s mission. Remember, goals are your servant, not your master – they must serve the greater purpose of your values and priorities to be truly SMART.
If you do not have a timeline, you do not have a goal. The specifics of goal setting must answer the question, “By when?” By establishing deadlines, you will explicitly know when it is time to celebrate your success! Working on deadlines also increases your sense of urgency, helping you to arrive at your desired destination before you know it.
Although it may seem inconvenient to trek through the SMART model to create your personal goals – the payoff is BIG. By being specific, measurable, achievable and aligned, as well as relevant and time-bound, you will increase your likelihood of success substantially. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to discuss personal goal setting, as well as the process and maintenance plan behind achieving your goals. I hope this review of SMART goals has been useful and given you some guidelines for creating your personal goals and the plan to achieve them! This Thursday, I will post a methodology for operationalizing your goals.
Are you prepared to be SMART in setting your personal goals?
I would love for you to engage the discussion and let us know how you would use SMART to develop your personal goals. Always feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back Thursday for a special installment of Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.