Smart goal setting will help you achieve success
Smart goal setting is an essential skill to have for anyone who wish to rise above their circumstances. Numerous studies have shown that the people who set goals consistently achieve more in life than those who do not. It is just one tool in the toolbox for success, but a very important one that everyone should master. So what are the steps in the process of smart goal setting (see what the SMART goals acronym stands for)?
Most of us have so many things we want or wish for that it is hard to know where to start. Get a piece of paper and start brainstorming the things you want, wish for or dream about. Don't censor yourself - this is your chance to get everything you ever wanted on black and white. It is useful to brainstorm different areas of your life as well. For example:
Once you have a huge list of things you want it is time to start finding the things that really matter to you. Next to each item on your list mark it with an A, B or C to indicate how important it is for you to achieve this.
Smart goal setting is about knowing what you need, what you want and what would be really nice, and knowing the difference. This prioritizing helps us to identify which is which.
Determine time frames
Next up we need to determine how long it will take. At this stage it is just a broad time frame of short-, medium- or long term goals. Short term goals are those that can be done in the next 6 months. Medium term goals are 6 months to 2 years. And long term goals are more than 2 years. Some people advise time frames of 1 year, 2 to 5 years, and 5+ years for the short, medium and long time frames, but I'd like to think only as far as I can foresee.
Only focus on the A's of your goal list - we don't want too many things on our plates, so it doesn't discourage us. For each goal, list the action steps you need to take to achieve it. Be very specific. Break the large goal into smaller bite sized chunks - the action steps - that will help the goal and actions to be manageable. They do say the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
Set milestones and deadlines. Milestones are the big intermediary steps to completing the big goals. If one of your goals is to complete the Ironman triathlon, the first milestone might be to join the gym; with other milestones like completing a Sprint distance triathlon by a certain date; and an Olympic distance triathlon by a further date (see Wikipedia). With the full Ironman being the final milestone and ultimate goal.
During the smart goal setting planning phase it is also important to specify how you will you measure progress and achievement of the goal. If you can measure it, you can know whether or not it has been achieved. Setting a goal to build muscle, for example, is a bit vague since you can't objectively measure whether it has been achieved or not. It might be more suitable to set the goal in a way that is measurable, for example, having muscle measurements of 42cm for biceps, and 42" for the chest.
Determine Obstacles & Visualize the outcome
By this point you have specified your goals, set actions that will get you there and be all excited. Most likely though there is still a small voice in your head that is asking whether this is for real or not and wondering if it is possible. This is normal. What this step does is to help identify anything that might hold you back and determine how you are going to overcome the obstacle. Visualise how you overcome say your procrastination, by telling your dad to check up on you every day (the obstacle being 'my procrastination' and the way you determined to overcome it is by 'asking dad to hold me accountable').
The most fun part of the whole smart goal setting process is to visualize what your life would look like already having achieved your goal. One way to do this visualization is using a vision board. Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed for a while. Close your eyes and start imagining what the future with the goal achieved holds. Focus on what you experience with each of the senses: sight, sounds, smell, touch, taste and especially how you feel emotionally having achieved it. Fill out the picture as much as you can. This is what it is going to feel like to achieve your goals. You should be very excited and ready for the next step.
You've specified what you want. You've planned the path of how you are going to get it. Now is the time to take action. A lot of people get to this point only to flounder. A key for successfully acting on your stated goals is to have someone hold you accountable. Find someone you trust and respect and give them a copy of your goal plan. Ask them to hold you to account for progress on the goal.
Smart goal setting is about turning your dreams into reality. What started out as a dream, now has a concrete plan for achievement. You've got the blueprint, and it is up to you to act. Go and achieve your dreams!
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