How you set goals can be even more important than how you go about achieving them. If you set yourself up for success from the beginning, you will be much more likely to actually achieve what you want and remain motivated throughout the process.
Developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in 1981, the SMART system for creating goals and objectives provides a framework for setting goals that are more achievable, clear, trackable, and motivating. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based, which are all adjectives that should describe each of your goals. Let’s dive into the details of each letter of this acronym.
First, your goals should be specific. This means they should not only inform you of what you want to accomplish, but also how you are going to work towards doing so. Don’t start with a broad goal that doesn’t capture exactly what you want to do, like “get in shape.” Instead, narrow it down to make sure you know the steps you need to take to get there, like deciding to take a walk every morning before work, attending a weekly yoga class, or completing a certain number of workout videos a week. The more you know about your goal, the more you can set yourself up for success and break down long-term goals into approachable chunks.
Setting goals that are measurable helps you stay on track as you will be able to track your progress and stay motivated by checking off tasks as you complete them. Before starting, define what evidence you will use to ensure you are making progress towards your goal.
For example, if your goal is to write a novel, set up deadlines and milestones for yourself that you can celebrate. Give yourself a number of words you want to have written every week, such as one or two thousand, and every time you reach that goal, reward yourself. Setting up milestones will also help you reconfigure your goals if needed.
Keeping this aspect of the goal-setting process in mind will help you make sure your goals are not too unrealistic or difficult to accomplish. Create a goal that you are confident you can work to accomplish right now that also challenges you and keeps you on your toes. Remember, goals should be ambitious but not impossible.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting to lose 20 pounds after a week of exercise. Not only is this impossible, but you will also end up feeling unmotivated when you aren’t able to do so. Instead, use research to come up with a healthy and attainable amount of weight to lose.
While setting goals, keep in mind that they should also be inspiring and relevant to your other desires and lifestyle and have personal importance. You should feel motivated enough to achieve them that you are willing to work through roadblocks without giving up, and they should reflect your wishes, not someone else’s.
If your doctor or parent tells you that you need to take control of your mental health, but you don’t feel inspired by that statement, your goals are not going to last very long. Redefine their expectations in a way that makes sense to you, such as the objective to feel more confident in yourself.
The last aspect of this acronym asserts that your goals should be timely, which essentially means you should have a target date for completion as well as regular steps you can take to accomplish them every day. This will help ensure that your long-term goals are not swallowed up by more immediate daily tasks and deadlines.
Make sure your goal answers the questions of when you expect to accomplish it, what you can do within a month or two months from then, and what you can do today to achieve it.
By following the SMART acronym, you’ll set yourself up for success from the beginning. When your goals are more specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based, you will be much more likely to achieve them. Now, go out there and set some goals!