What are the SMART principles of goal setting? No one in their right mind plans to fail; however, many people fail to plan. If you want to be an achiever, then the best way to go about it is by setting goals.
People who love to plan and budget are usually good at setting goals. If you’re not a planner by nature, here are the SMART principles of goal setting.
What Does The Goal Setting Acronym Smart Stand For?
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific – Measurable – Activated – Realistic – Timely
Your goal should have the SMART technique built into it from the very start. If you have set goals in the past and have not managed to achieve them, you can use the SMART technique as a tool to see where you have been going wrong.
What Is Smart Criteria In Goal Setting?
Your goal must be Specific
This is the initial step in the goal-setting process. When you are setting your goals, you need to be specific by ensuring that you have a clear idea of what you want to attain. Here are some smart goals examples.
Ask yourself, “What it is that I need to achieve”
If it’s a house, what kind of house? If it’s a brand-new car, what make and model?
If it’s to clear your credit card bill, by when?
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of getting a college education. What college, how much will it cost, how long will it take? By being specific with each of these questions, you will find the answers.
When you’ve decided what you want to achieve, write it down. Now you need to plan how you’re going to achieve your goal.
If your goal is to clear your credit card bill, you may have to limit your spending and pay more than the minimum required each month.
Your Goal Must Be Specific – Example
Decide on what date you want the card cleared (Specific).
Calculate how much per month extra you will pay (Specific).
Now you know how much you will need to save per week (Specific).
Your Goal Must Be Measurable – Example
It is very important to know when you will actually attain your goal. If you want to gain a post-graduate degree to position yourself for a better job, you know that it will take you approximately two years, depending on the discipline. Each year that you complete takes you one step closer to attaining that goal.
When your goals can be measured, you are able to see the progress that you are making and that will help motivate you.
Your Goals Must Be Active (Activated ) – Example
Just like a verb, a goal is a doing word. Setting a goal is like getting a new credit card, you carry the new credit card around in your wallet, but if you do not call the credit card company to activate it, it is useless.
Regardless of how specific you are with your goal, it will be very hard to achieve it if you do nothing about it. As soon as you set your goal you need to start working on it. You need to become involved in some specific activity relating to your goal.
If your goal is to save a deposit to buy a house, you need to activate it by starting to save a specific amount for X number of years instead of hoping to win the lottery.
Your Goal Must Be Realistic – Example
If your goal is unrealistic, no amount of Specification, Measurability, or Activation will enable you to achieve it.
Why? Because the number one factor in achieving your goals is “realism”.
For example. If you continue to eat that tub of ice cream every weekend and have French fries and burgers for dinner each day, then setting a goal to lose 40 pounds within six months would not be realistic.
What you need to do, when you have set your goal to lose weight, is to adjust your diet by eating healthier foods and refuse to eat anything unhealthy or high in calories during that period.
Your Goal Must Be Timely – Example
Every goal needs to have a timeline in which it should be achieved. A timeline increases your responsibility and accountability in achieving your goal.
Not having a timeline makes you feel like you have all the time in the world, and what you might have been able to accomplish in two years may take you ten years to achieve.
To achieve success in anything, it is imperative that you set goals, and SMART technique will help you.
If you are serious about achieving your goals, and you apply SMART technique carefully, nothing can stand in your way. So be SMART when setting your goals.
More On The Smart Principles Of Goal Setting
More On Being Specific
If you want to be successful in achieving your goals, you will need to be very specific when you are setting them. It is extremely hard to achieve a goal that is not clearly defined. When you are setting your goals, ask yourself these five questions:
- What do you want to achieve? Now write down the answer.
- When do you want to accomplish it? Now write down the answer.
- How will you manage to accomplish it? Now write down the answer.
- Why is it important that you attain this goal? Now write down the answer.
- Who can help you in achieving this goal? Now write down the answer.
I know this sounds repetitive, but it is very important that you: WRITE THE ANSWERS DOWN
There are several very important reasons why you should write down your goals. The act of writing something down makes it concrete, makes it tangible. It is no longer just an idea in your head. It is there, in front of you, it is real. When you read what you have written down you understand it from a different perspective.
It is sometimes a good idea to put your list of goals aside and come back to it a few days later and read your list again. Doing this can set off a whole new train of thought. The goal that may have seemed most important to you may no longer take priority, and you may feel that another of your goals is more important.
This is because your subconscious has had time to mull over the choices that you consciously made.
What is it that you want to achieve? It is extremely important that you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Know what it is that you want to accomplish, and you’re halfway there.
When you have decided what you want, write it down. Why? Because writing down a goal is like signing a contract. It is more binding. So whatever your goal is, you need to write it down with a detailed, specific plan of how you will achieve it.
More On Measurability
Methods Of Measuring Your Progress
When we set a goal, it is very important that we are able to measure our progress. If you fail to measure your progress, you can’t figure out how far you have come, or how far you still have left to go.
Here are some methods of easily and consistently measuring your progress.
Any goal that you set yourself, no matter how small, must be important to you, or else you wouldn’t have set it in the first place. So no matter what methods you use, you must measure your progress.
If your goal is to quit smoking, for example, you can measure your progress by keeping track of the number of cigarettes you smoke on a daily basis.
If you used to smoke 20 per day, and by following your plan you are reducing that number by 1 per day, and each day you write down that you have smoked one less, every time you look at your plan you will see that you are making progress and sticking to your goal.
Stay within your Time Frame
An important aspect of any goal that you make is staying within the time you allotted yourself to achieve the goal. A time frame acts as a marker for your progress. A time frame is what makes your plan, measurable.
If you initially set a goal to acquire a house in five years, stay within that time frame as much as possible. It is also helpful to know that time frames are not shackles and should be flexible.
If you find that you are unable to save the amount of money that you need to stay within your time frame, you can adjust it by adding an extra year or making a decision to save up more money.
If you are extending your time frame, ensure that it is realistic. The last thing you want is to continually extend your time frame. Doing that will push your goal further and further away and perhaps make it unachievable.
Draw A Line Through It
Whenever you achieve something on the way to your goal, whenever you clear another stepping stone, draw a line through it.
This is a super idea when applied to small daily goals. You can record your daily goals in your diary or journal or whatever method of measuring that you’ve chosen, and as soon as you’ve accomplished a specific step you can draw a line through it.
A series of lines marked in your diary on a daily basis will give you a great deal of satisfaction and motivation to push on.
More On Being Active
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Q. How do you eat an Elephant? A. One piece at a time.
The goal that you set for yourself may seem huge and somewhat overwhelming, but here’s the trick, get active and simply break your overall goal down into smaller pieces, into smaller goals, and achieve them one piece at a time.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”
When breaking your goals down into stages, set targets that are attainable. This method is like making small goals to achieve your large goal. Each stage in the process must be something that you know you can accomplish and that also brings you closer to your ultimate goal.
Each small goal you achieve will boost your confidence. Each stage that you accomplish brings you closer to your goal.
While you are on the journey to reaching your goal, monitor your progress to see how far you’ve come and how far you have left to go. Doing this helps you to focus and also provides you with the motivation needed to complete the task.
If you have the right attitude, employ the right strategy, and actively pursue, you can achieve any goal!
For example. If your goal is to start a small business, you could break it down into stages as follows:
- The first stage Writing a business plan
- The second stage Securing a loan from the bank
- The third stage Purchase tools and equipment for the business
- The fourth stage Business established – Goal achieved!
As soon as you have carried out your market research, you will have sufficient information to write a well-informed business plan.
- Your business plan will provide you with the ammunition needed to secure a loan from the bank.
- The money secured from the bank will assist you in purchasing the tools and equipment needed to start your business.
- Once you have the tools needed, then you are ready to launch your business, and therefore you will have achieved your goal.
Did you notice that actively pursuing each of the stages outlined brought us closer to the final outcome?
Of course, each of the above stages can be broken down into smaller stages. The more steps there are in your plan, the more active you will be.
More On Being Realistic
Time for a reality check
One of the main reasons people fail to achieve their goal is that it was not realistic in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, dreaming big, or wanting to accomplish great things. I applaud you for it, but make sure that when you’re setting your goals, you don’t overreach yourself. In other words, make absolutely sure that your goal is realistic. An unrealistic goal is almost impossible to achieve.
The other side of the coin of course is not to “underachieve”. A goal may seem unrealistic to you because of its magnitude; however, the truth is, if it is broken down into small stages, and acted upon, it can be achieved.
If after breaking your goal down into smaller steps it still seems difficult to achieve, break it down even further. If it still seems impossible, it may mean that your goal truly is unrealistic.
If you decide that the goal is unrealistic, walk away from it. Never try to make an unrealistic goal work; it will only lower your self-confidence.
For example: If your goal is to be an accountant, but you’re really lousy with numbers and failed all your math tests at school, becoming an accountant may be an unrealistic goal. On the other hand, you could set a new goal to improve your math to the degree needed to study to become an accountant.
Now you have made your original goal realistic.
How to Test if Your Goals are Unrealistic
You can have anything you want in life if you set your goals and actively work hard to achieve them. To avoid frustration and lack of interest in your goal, it is important that it is realistic. When you apply planning, commitment, discipline, and determination to a realistic goal, there is nothing in the world that can prevent you from accomplishing it.
Assess Your Talents And Skills
Your goal can be achieved easily if you have the corresponding talents and skills required. If, for example, your goal is to become a best-selling fiction author, you will need to evaluate your skills in relation to the achievement of this goal.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this goal realistic?
- Do I have a knack for writing?
- Do I have a creative mind?
- Am I a good storyteller?
- Do I have good grammar?
- Do I have an extensive vocabulary?
If you do not possess any of these skills, then this goal is not realistic. It doesn’t mean that becoming a best-selling author is impossible; it means that you will first need to work on your grammar and storytelling skills.
It also means that you should probably consider enrolling in a creative writing class to develop your writing skills. You could also practice telling stories verbally to your friends to test whether you have the skills to hold an audience.
You can set a goal or goals to master any of the skills that might be lacking in order to make your original goal realistic.
What resources do you need?
The right skills are very important in achieving your goal, but being in possession of or being able to access the proper resources are also a vital factor and have a bearing on whether your goal is realistic or not.
If your goal is to get to a specific weight, you will need to determine whether you have the right resources to achieve your goal.
For example. Whilst dieting is an important aspect of weight control, exercise is also important and if you can’t afford to hire a private trainer, and you don’t already have exercise equipment; you may, for example, need to purchase items such as a workout DVD, dumbbells, treadmill, bicycle, a skipping rope, and an exercise mat.
Obstacles To Your Success
If you take your eyes off your goal, all you will see are obstacles.
When planning your goals, you should try and plan for any obstacles you may encounter. However, if obstacles do put themselves in your way to success, there’s no need to throw your hands in the air and give up.
All you need to do is take a detour – you may find that you have to crawl underneath, jump over, or walk around the obstacle.
A foolish man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes. To avoid taking a detour, research the possible obstacles that you are likely to come up against during the planning stages of your goal. Learn from the mistakes of others and be better equipped.
If you want to become a nurse, talk to nursing students and find out what the nursing syllabus is like. It might also be useful to speak with nursing professionals to find out what the job is like on a day-to-day basis and what challenges you may face within the field of nursing.
This kind of research is important, as it helps you to avoid obstacles and helps to prepare you for what is to come. Speaking to people who have already achieved what you aspire to achieve can also help you determine whether your goal is truly realistic for you to achieve.
Testing whether your goal is realistic is important if you wish to avoid failure. Being specific, assessing your talents and skills, researching, and considering the timeframe required to achieve your goal are all keys to determining whether your goal is realistic.
An excellent way of assessing your talents and skills as well as your strengths and weaknesses is to avail yourself of the system known as SWOT analyses.
More On Being Timely
Timeline Your Goals and Watch them Come to Fruition
As you have already learned, the SMART technique is employed by many people in order for them to achieve their goals. Here’s a reminder of what SMART stands for:
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific – Measurable – Active – Realistic – Timely
Your goal should be: Specific – Measurable – Active – Realistic and Timely
Each part of the SMART technique is very important in helping you to achieve your goals; but being “Timely”, is the most important of all.
Why? Because if you don’t set an amount of time in which you want to achieve your goal, you could take ten years to achieve something that otherwise might have taken you one year.
Having a timeline helps create a sense of urgency and importance and increases your desire to achieve your goal.
Not including a timeline when setting your goal would not be very SMART.
Set a Deadline
Do you remember when you were in school and your teacher gave you a deadline to bring in an assignment? Sometimes that deadline came in the form of a day, a week, or even a month.
In order to meet the deadline for your assignment, you may have had to sacrifice some things, like hanging out with friends, going to the movies, or playing video games. Well, setting your goal is just like that.
Be Specific With Your Timeline
When setting your goals, you need to be very specific. The more specific your goals, the more measurable they are. For example, it is not good enough to say that you “want to stop smoking”. If you say that, you may find that you are still trying to stop the habit 20 years from now.
Instead, your goal should be something like this:
I will stop smoking within the next twelve months.
Or better still; write down a specific date exactly 12 months from when you make the decision to become a non-smoker.
You may have noticed that in the last paragraph I referred to “stop smoking” as “become a non-smoker”. To stop something, to quit something, to lose something. All these phrases contain negative meanings.
It’s much better to say: I will become a non-smoker. I will attain (a specific) weight etc.
Example: If your goal is to save $15000 by your 35th birthday in order to make a deposit on a house, you will have to forego some luxuries such as an exotic vacation in the Caribbean, going to the movies, and buying designer outfits.
Sacrificing those things will help you to save more money for your deposit and enable you to achieve your goal by your deadline, your 35th birthday. To make the achievement of your goal easier, you can break it down into stages. Each stage should be a clearly defined task that is achievable and which takes you closer to your overall goal.
For example, to achieve your goal of saving $15000 for a deposit on a house by your 35th birthday, you could break the total amount down in the following way:
“I will save $5000, by my 32nd birthday, $8,000 by 33rd birthday, $12,000 by 34th birthday, and $15,000 by 35th birthday”. From here, you could go on to plan how much you would need to save each month, etc.
Did you notice how each stage takes you closer to the ultimate goal of $15,000? This is what breaking your goal down into smaller stages will achieve.
Creating An Effective Deadline
If you want to make your deadline work for you, you must be realistic. Assess each stage that you’ve written down to see if it’s really achievable. Stages should work for you, not against you.
Unless you possess the talent of seeing into the future, there really is no way to tell if you will be able to achieve your goal within the deadline that you’ve set. To be on the safe side, you can add some extra time for unforeseen circumstances that may delay your plans.
If you’ve set yourself a short-term goal, you can add some hours or days. If it’s a long-term goal, you can add a few months or a year.
Another way to check if your goal is realistic is to monitor your progress regularly to see if you’re on track. Don’t wait until a month before your 32nd birthday to check if you are almost at the $5,000 mark.
Instead, check every three months.
Doing this will help you to make adjustments if you are lagging behind. If you are lagging behind, you can probably add a few months more to acquire your five grand or try to save a little more.
Don’t Be Rigid Like An Oak, Bend Like a Palm Tree
Did you know that regardless of the pressure of the wind during a storm or hurricane, a palm tree never breaks? Instead of standing firm like an oak tree, the palm tree bends and sways in whatever direction the wind is blowing.
Although a timeline and a deadline will help you to achieve your goal, you should never feel as though you’re restricted or hemmed in. Like the palm tree, you need to be flexible.
If you do not allow flexibility within your timeline you may become frustrated and annoyed with yourself when you realize that time is winding down, and you are still nowhere close to achieving your goal.
If, after completing the assessment of your progress you are not pleased with what you’ve achieved so far, regroup and make the necessary adjustments needed to get back on course.
Remember that setbacks pave the way for comebacks. Therefore, if this happens to you, use them as stepping-stones to gather more inspiration, use the SMART principles of goal setting and move forward more aggressively to achieve your goal.
Wishing you Health, Wealth, and Happiness