Setting goals and actually achieving those objectives can be a real challenge for many individuals. It’s easy to procrastinate or to set goals that leave you set up for failure before you’ve even gotten started.
The “SMART” goal setting technique provides you with a formula that sets you up for success.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound
Let’s look at these different elements as they relate to goal setting and how using this method can increase your chances of success.
Setting Specific Goals
It’s important to be specific in your goals so you know exactly what you’re striving to achieve. Saying you want to be “successful” is too vague. It’s better to aim for something more specific, like striving to get a particular job or increasing your earnings to a particular dollar amount, for instance.
Setting Measurable Goals
Goals must be measurable. Striving to feel better about yourself, for instance, isn’t really measurable, so you never really know if you’ve succeeded in achieving it! So instead of setting a goal to feel better about yourself, think of what “feeling better” actually means to you; define what it would take to “feel better.” Perhaps it means losing 10 pounds or sticking to a daily skin care regime to clear your skin or getting 8 hours of sleep per night. Make it something measurable so you’ll know whether you’ve succeeded!
Setting Achievable Goals
Your goals need to be achievable. For instance, it’s impractical to seek a job as a veterinarian if you don’t have a degree in veterinary medicine. And earning that degree in veterinary medicine involves achieving lots of smaller goals first. Therefore, it’s more practical to set a goal to apply to 3 veterinary schools by the end of the week. Your next goal might be to achieve all As in your first semester of veterinary school. Then you might strive to complete veterinary school by a particular date. Only once you have your degree can you seek out a job as a veterinarian.
So set a goal that’s achievable in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, if you set a goal that’s beyond your reach or requires lots of work over the long term to succeed, it can be discouraging and you’re less apt to achieve your objective. Always keep sight of the long-term goals and the big picture, but place your primary focus on the here and now as you work toward achieving your short-term goals. You can’t win the race if you stumble at the starting line.
Setting Realistic Goals
It’s great to dream, but you’ve got to be sure that you’re realistic in your objectives. Aiming to run a 3-minute mile, losing 20 pounds in a week or traveling to Mars are three examples of goals that you’re very unlikely to achieve. They’re simply not realistic. It’s good to aim high, but don’t aim for a goal that’s virtually impossible to reach. Avoid a situation where you’re most likely to fail and find yourself disappointed.
Of course, that’s not to say a goal that’s unrealistic today will always be so. Perhaps in 20 years travel to Mars will be commonplace and new scientific advances will make it possible to lose 20 pounds in a week and run a 3-minute mile. But today, chances of achieving these goals is quite slim, so be a realist and set goals that you can actually achieve.
Setting Time-Bound Goals
Your goals must be time-bound in some way, shape or form. Saying you’ll go back to school “someday” allows you to procrastinate indefinitely. You must set your goals in a way that prevents procrastination, as procrastinating is a primary obstacle that prevents success.
Set a deadline for your goals. Instead of saying you’ll go to back to college “someday,” make a commitment to fill out 5 college applications by the end of next week.
Goal setting is a key element of personal development. When you take a “SMART” approach to goal setting, you’re setting yourself up to succeed.
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