We’re all working toward something in life, be it that promotion at work, shifting holiday weight (from three Christmases ago!), or getting into a hobby. If you’re finding it tricky to achieve your goals, it could be time to take a new, SMARTER approach.
Setting goals can seem pretty simple – you just write down what you want to achieve, right?
There’s actually a lot more to it!
By using the SMARTER approach, you can start to form goals that make more sense, are more achievable, and will offer up real results.
It might take a bit of extra time in the planning stages, but if your goal is important to you, you need to treat it as such.
Remember that this goal should be a long-term investment, so you’ll need to be willing to put in the time and energy to achieve it.
A SMARTER goal needs to be…
“I want to get fit” or “I want a promotion” are perfectly good things to aim for, but they’re quite vague.
To help maintain focus, come up with a goal that’s succinct and easy to express and remember.
Think about what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, which obstacles need to be overcome or which requirements need to be satisfied, and who you might need to help you.
The what and the why are vital aspects of your goal, while the which and the who might not always be applicable.
For example, “I want to pass my driving test with the help of a driving instructor in order to be road-ready when I finish college and start applying for jobs.”
By having a clear intention from the very beginning, you’re more likely to be able to stick to the actions/practice it takes to achieve your goal.
One of the main problems with goal-setting is that we often forget to add a measurable aspect to what we want to achieve.
“I want to start running,” is all well and good, but when have you achieved your goal – after your first slow jog or after a half-marathon?
Rather than being vague, add measurable elements to your goal, such as, “I want to run a marathon in under 4 hours.” In this example the marathon and the 4 hours are both measurable parts of the goal.
Make your goal more powerful by adding in extra detail, such as the amount of weight you want to lose, the amount of money you wish to earn, the piano grade you want to achieve, the number of countries you wish to visit, or some other way to define precisely when you have achieved your goal.
Be realistic! While being a daydreamer is something wonderful, your life goals need to be grounded in the real world.
It’s easy to get carried away and start making extravagant goals that sound fancy but are a little bit too far-fetched. Aim for something that you really want, but that’s realistic at the same time.
What’s realistic? Well, building a business worth $10 million isn’t totally out of the question, but only if you are genuinely prepared to put in the serious hard graft to make that a reality.
And I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re not going to be a professional basketball player if you’re only 150cm tall.
The key is in understanding your limits, knowing how far you’re prepared to go, and setting a goal that reflects this.
And remember, you can always stack goals on top of one another and build up steadily toward something bigger.
This will help you stay motivated and means that you’re more likely to achieve your goal than if you aim for something unattainable.
Your goals should matter to you – sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a step we often pass by when making plans.
Set a goal that has relevance to you and your life, as being personally invested will really help you push yourself toward achieving it.
Choose something that will still matter to you at the end of your time frame, too, in order to avoid losing interest halfway through.
By tailoring your goal to suit you, you’re more likely to put your full effort into achieving it, and you can be realistic about finding the time and energy to pursue it.
If you know that you’re not a morning person, set a goal that you can work on when you get home from work – there’s no point scheduling in exercise classes or reading time at 6am if you know you’re useless before 11am and a bucket of coffee!
And unless you’re passionate about languages or you intend to travel to China in the not-too-distant future, learning Mandarin is hardly a relevant or appropriate goal to set.
We all have long-term, ‘pipe-dream’ aspirations in life – you know, the things that we’ll get round to ‘someday.’
The problem with these ‘someday’ goals is that there’s not really an end date to them, so it’s hard to motivate yourself to actually put in the necessary work to achieve them.
If you’re not working within a timeline, it can be tricky to push yourself. Put yourself under a bit of pressure and give yourself a deadline to work toward.
By scheduling in a date that you want things finished by, you’ll be able to plan your days, or weeks, around working toward your goal.
See your aspiration as you would a work project or presentation – it will take some planning, effort, and dedication, so having to get things sorted by a specific date will really help you push yourself.
So, instead of saying, “I want to renovate my house,” say “I want to renovate one room in my house every 3 months.” This breaks things down into manageable chunks and gives a time frame for each one.
This is a more important step for some than others, but is worth bearing in mind regardless.
If you’re someone who thrives on feedback, evaluations, and reassurance, take note! Set a goal that is open to evaluation every so often and give yourself feedback on how you’re doing.
Rather than just winging it and hoping that you’ve done enough to achieve your goal by its end date, have regular check-ins with yourself to make sure you’re still on track.
If you’re planning on saving a certain amount of money by the end of a six-month period, consider checking your bank balance every month – this will help you stay motivated and will help you make contingency plans if you’re falling behind a bit.
Rather than getting to the end of the six months and realizing you couldn’t actually afford that weekend away in month three, regular evaluation will help to keep you on track.
Sometimes, it’s wise to be flexible with your goals in order to react to changing circumstances in your life.
If we work with the idea of saving a certain amount of money, we can really see how having revisable goals can be useful.
If you face an unexpected and large outlay half way through your given time frame such as a major home repair, or your income changes due to fewer shifts being available to you, it’s okay to either reduce your goal amount or extend the deadline by which you wish to save it.
Life does not always go as planned. Things happen that we cannot fully prepare for, and it’s only fair that we give ourselves a little wiggle room with our goals so as to avoid losing all motivation and hope of achieving them.
But goals should only be revised when absolutely necessary. This element of goal-setting is designed to help you achieve your aspirations in spite of what life throws at you; it is not to be used as a cop-out when you get tired or bored.
Remember, all goals require hard work, resources, time, and the right attitude. There’s no point setting a goal that you aren’t prepared to fight for. Laziness and complacency are not good reasons to revise your goal.
Another situation in which it is permissible to revise your goals is where the time frame is long and you have grown and evolved as a person before the goal is achieved.
Perhaps you wanted to become a partner in a law firm and you’ve been slowly moving up the ranks for the past 7 years.
But during this period, you have grown weary of the long hours and stress, and you now value time spent with your family far more than the acclaim and financial rewards of achieving partner status.
In this case, you should not cling on to a goal merely because you once set it. Either give it up altogether, or revise it to something that now resonates with your new outlook on life.
So, there we have it – a SMARTER way to set and achieve your goals. Remember to choose something that matters to you, that is achievable, and that you’ve set within a time frame relevant to your resources and lifestyle.
Whatever you’re working toward, take the time to make your goals SMARTER and you’ll be well on your way to achieving them.
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.