Setting goals is essential for our self-growth as human beings. It gives our mind direction, and subsequently it gives our daily activities meaning. Everybody set goals. Whether these are conscience goals or subconsciousness decisions that we don’t notice that we make.
Thomas Carlyle, The Scottish philosopher once said:
A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.
Like Carlyle said, if we do not have a goal to shoot at, we can soon find ourselves drifting in life. Without goals, we don’t control the circumstances around us, and we instead let the circumstances control us. This can lead to frustration very easily.
Setting goals is something that all of us can do. Most of us usually think of goals in the relation to the corporate world, where there are defined goals that the company aims to reach, but setting goals can be applied just as easily to our personal life.
There is no right or wrong way to set goals, but goals that are not properly defined can very easily be compared to a dream. A goal that is not well defined might lack the signs that tell us when the goal has been reached, or miss the information that tells us what is the first step to take in direction of that goal. Since it’s not really clear when we will know the goal has been reached, or what is it that we need to do in order for us to start achieving the goal, the chances for us of reaching the goal are very small. Goals like these are ineffective goals since they don’t really serve our self-growth, and in some cases might even do the opposite. If on the one hand, we feel that we try to achieve the goal, but on the other hand we don’t feel that we are moving towards its realization, we can create frustration in our lives that is caused because there is a gap between what we think we do, and what we actually achieve. This is one of the symptoms that SMART goal setting can handle.
SMART goal setting is a way to make sure that the goal we set is an effective goal. An effective goal is a goal that helps us get more out of ourselves. It will be defined in a way that will be clear if we are making headway into its realization. An effective goal will present challenges that will make us grow and understand ourselves better in the process.
So let’s understand what is SMART goal setting exactly.
A good goal is something specific. It describes exactly what needs to be achieved, and defines clear indicators as to when we achieved that thing. A specific goal is: “I will become an astronaut in order to reach the moon by the age of 31″. An unspecific goal is: “I will one day reach the moon”. A specific goal enables us to figure out the steps which we need to do in order to accomplish it. A specific goal will answer the five ‘W’ questions:
- What: What do we want to do – reach the moon
- Who: Who will reach goal – I will
- When: When will the goal be accomplished – By the age of 31
- Which: Which needs need to be addressed in order to achieve the goal – Learning to become an astronaut
- Why: Why do we want to achieve the goal – curiosity, pleasure, challenge, fame…. (place your favorite personal gain here)
A measurable goal means that we can determine the progress of the goal achievement process. If we can’t measure the progress of the goal-reaching process, we won’t know if we are going in the right direction. In the example above the measuring can take place if we decide that in order to reach the moon, we will need to become and an astronaut by the age of 29. If we have finished the astronaut training by that age, then we are making progress towards our goal, otherwise, we may need to check our progress. The questions that a measurable goal should answer are:
- How will I know the goal is accomplished?
- How much?
Checking whether a goal is attainable means checking with yourself if you are prepared to make the sacrifices which are needed to reach the goal. Do you even want to start spending resources to achieve it? A large goal will require more effort and resources like time and money, while a smaller goal will probably be easier to accomplish, but the reward will be less gratifying as well.
When thinking if a goal is attainable, you don’t need to think of the current resources you have, but think about whether you accept the path and the demands that the goal will present to you. If you currently don’t have enough resources to perform the steps required to achieve the goal, rest assured that by striving to reach the goal, you will be presented with opportunities that will enable you to acquire the resources you need.
A relevant goal is a goal that matters to you. Do you really want to reach the moon? Does your personality really fit the hardships in the astronaut’s training? Is the gain even worth the trouble? An irrelevant goal might be making 100 paper airplanes by noon. This might be a specific, measurable and attainable goal, but does it really add any value to your life?
Some of the questions that a relevant goal might answer are:
- Does the goal suit me?
- Is it worth it?
- Am I the right person to do it?
- Is it the right time for me to do it?
If you answered “yes” to all of these, then the goal is relevant to your life.
It’s important that a goal is relevant to your life since the relevance and its direct relation to your life are what keeps the motivation high, and bring it back up again when it’s low. An irrelevant goal might look great at first, but it will be hard keeping sustainable effort to accomplish it.
Giving your goal a time frame is vital to its completion. When you put a time frame on the goal, you can then set time frames to the elements that compose the goal and focus the efforts in order to complete the task.
The question that a time-bound goal should answer is “When”
As you can see SMART goal setting is something that anyone can do. If you’ll use SMART goal setting you will see how the goals you set become clearer and easier to achieve. If you still feel you need help with defining or fulfilling your goals, you can always hire a coach that can help you with this.