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Setting Personal Goals the SMART Way

Denis Watley, the author of The Psychology of Winning said,

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.

Defining our goals means putting plan on paper. We need to write our our goals in order to make them real. Putting your goals on paper is making a contract with yourself.

If we want to get somewhere, we need to know what route we will be taking. We also want to know when we’ve arrived. So writing out our goals is our map for arriving at a destination. To do this, I recommend the SMART method, a strategy recommended by numerous life coaches and change experts.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. You will use these criteria to judge each the goals you set for yourself. If a goal does not meet each of these five criteria, it is rewritten or dropped.

Specific: A specific goal is one that clearly states what it is that you want to achieve. It is not “being healthy” or “making more money”. A specific goal addresses the who, what, when, where and why of your goal. Being healthy is now “I will lose 15 pounds by July 1st so I can be more active and enjoy activities with my children.” Making more money is “I will take on a part time job while in school in order to earn an additional $500 each month.” Keep it simple, but clear and specific.

Measurable: This is the most important aspect of any goal. It is how we know when we’ve arrived at our destination. Measurable means that you set a date for achievement and usually use numbers to set the specific measure of that achievement. Sometimes relationship goals are hard to put in measurable terms, but actions are not. So, if you want to improve your relationship with your mother, first determine the specific actions that will help you improve that relationship. A simple step might be calling her each week or taking her to dinner to discuss your relationship. Each of these actions is measurable; did I call each week or did I take her to dinner and talk.

Achievable: Many people define achievable in the same why they define realistic. I like to think of achievable as our perception of the goal. Do we believe that we can accomplish the tasks necessary for success? If our goal is set too far in the future, we can become discourages or lose site of the goal. Achievable means breaking a challenging goal into smaller parts, each one more easily achievable than the whole. Like the answer to the riddle, how do you each an elephant? One bite at a time.

Realistic: Sure, we all want to make big changes overnight. If you want to lose 30 pounds, you can’t expect to do it in 6 weeks (regardless of what the ad says). We have to be realistic about what we can accomplish. Do you know someone who has accomplished the goal you are setting? How long did it take them? What resources did they need to reach their goal? Do you have the resources and time to do the same? Most importantly, are you willing and able to make it happen?

Time-based: Your goals need to have a date for completion. Writing your resume doesn’t mean much if you allow six months to finish it. When you set your goal, pick a date for completion. This is also the date for the celebration! When you complete a goal, you need to celebrate your success. If your date is more than a few months away, consider breaking your goal into smaller parts. The more successes you have along the way, the easier it is to reach your ultimate goal.

Now, grab that pen and paper and start writing. Where do you want to be in three months? How will you get there? Who will help you? And how will you celebrate when you finish?

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