I’m no expert; goodness knows I have made goals in the past that were never met. This experience of making a list of goals and going public with it has forced me examine my goal-making abilities, so naturally I sought some extra help via the almighty Google.
Right away, I found this article: http://topachievement.com/smart.html. The strategy here is one that I soon realized is prominent online, so I can’t even truthfully attribute it to only one source. It’s called the SMART strategy. After I had created a first draft of my 31 goals, I revisited them to see if they were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Here’s my two cents on this strategy:
- Specific – The goal needs to be focused in order to be achievable. I had originally written that I wanted to “grow a better garden” as one of my goals, but what the heck does that even mean? So I re-examined how I wanted to achieve a better garden and realized the key was keeping it well-fed and clean (last year’s cucumbers never stood a chance!). Now my goal is to “weed and water garden every week day in spring/summer/fall.” Maybe my little cucumber plants will survive this year!
- Measurable – Measurements, or standards, are the only way to indicate success or failure. My original goal of “maintain a blog” does not provide me with any real way of testing 3, 6 or 12 months from now whether the blog has actually been “maintained.” Instead, I’ve made it my goal to “blog 2 times weekly,” and I can track that progress.
- Attainable – I had to really think about this section initially because I was having a hard time differentiating Attainable from Realistic; then I realized the difference is inertia. As the cliché goes, “if you believe it you can achieve it,” and I think that applies here; we all have an easier time believing we can achieve the smaller goals than we do the big, life-changing mega-goals. So in addition to some tougher goals like “take swimming lessons,” I made a few smaller, simpler goals like “get my eyes checked,” and with any luck the inertia gathered from that first falling goal-pebble may just cause a goal-avalanche!
- Realistic – Can I really accomplish that goal? Putting fears and self-doubt aside, do I have the physical skills, the talents, the know-how to actually achieve it? This section is the logic test; my goal to “pay off both lines of credit” is either financially doable or it isn’t, and I need to be honest with myself about that. My husband and I agreed that we have the resources to make it work, so this is a realistic goal for us.
- Timely – Set a deadline. Just like in school, master procrastinator that I was, I sure managed to write some amazing essays the night before they were due! If the essays hadn’t actually been due at any specific time, I doubt I would have written a thing. We all need that ticking clock to spur us on and my goal clock is already ticking down to my 31st birthday!
Revising my goals to suit this strategy was a good experience, and I highly recommend it for any goal-setting you may choose to do!
On another note, my habit-changing goals, like “floss daily” or “take multivitamins daily,” are a work in progress. These habits are obviously not already engrained, so they cannot be adopted immediately. Instead, I’ll need to introduce these habits slowly so that I can form new habits. In thinking about this, I remembered some great advice from TED Talks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdKUJxjn-R8. If you’ve never watched a TED Talks, I highly recommend it. In this video, BJ Fogg suggests that the best way to learn a new habit is to break it down into tiny habits and tack these tiny habits on to another already-ingrained habit; for example, “Every time I do A, I’ll do B right after.” I’ve decided that every time I brush my teeth, I’ll floss right after. Even if I start with only flossing 1 tooth a day, small victories are still victories, and if BJ Fogg is correct, eventually the tiny habits will grow into long-term change. It’s an inspiring and enlightening talk that will take less than 20 minutes of your time.
I think with these strategies in mind, I’m well-placed to achieve my list of goals this year. Have you set any goals recently? Do the links I found inspire you to revisit your goal-setting process?