Dream S.M.A.R.T.


Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.

For the last few days, I’ve been contemplating what to post on the blog. It’s a new year, and last year I did a whole piece on resolutions. I didn’t want to repeat myself, didn’t want to say the same thing over and over again. So what now? What’s new this year? We’re all going to go through the motion of setting resolutions and then breaking each one of them. It’s a never-ending cycle. It’s redundant and sort of annoying. I think I’m beginning to hate new years – they’re just reminders of what we said we’d do but never did. How can 2011 be any different?

I reached out to a friend, as I often do, for new year blog ideas. And she suggested I write about ‘attainable’ goals. She said people always set goals that are out of reach or take short cuts that lead to nowhere. So that gave me the idea to talk about SMART goals.

Goal setting is a powerful way of motivating people. Goals provide a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve. Goals allow us to measure our progress. We are able to plan what we need to do to achieve these goals. Setting goals is more than making vague statements like, “I will find a new job” or “I will lose weight.” It means creating a written plan that includes reasonable and measurable long-term and short-term objectives. It means setting SMART goals.

Although SMART goal-setting is primarily a tool or resource often used by project managers, consultants and other technical professionals, I think setting SMART goals should work for personal goals and dreams. The whole point of setting a goal is you want to attain the goal. If you don’t, no problem, but if you do, hopefully this is it. Hopefully.

When I set personal goals, I usually don’t weigh them against any criteria. I just pick up my writing pad and write. And I set goals all the time! I set goals/tasks for each day of the week and for weekends. I think I’ve said it before, but I’m a goal-setting freak. The concept of applying SMART goals to my personal lists is new for me though, but I think it’s time to give it a try. Who knows? It might be the one thing I do that will differentiate 2011 from the past 10 years.

If you’re willing to give it a try – if you’re willing to make 2011 different, and actually begin to achieve your goals and dreams, I suggest you give this a try too. Something has to give eventually!

Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. Most often we set goals that are loosely defined, it’s unclear if they’re attainable or not. Statements like; lose weight, work hard and be successful, are too vague and general. If you’re working against that, you have to be a little more specific and exact. It’s much better to say; lose 5 lbs a month, develop better reports and presentations, get a promotion by mid-year, etc.

Measurable – For each goal you set, include concrete criteria you will use to determine that the results or outcomes expected have been achieved. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the joy of achievement, which motivates you to continue working towards your goals.

Attainable – Your goal should be aspirational and should challenge you to do your best, but they also need to be achievable and reasonable. Your success or failure depends on setting practical goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are out of reach. Just be real.

Realistic – Goals have to be realistic. We’re no longer kids. When you’re young, you want to do everything. You think it’s possible to be a doctor, fireman, policeman and fighter pilot all at once. That was then, and this is now. You can’t do everything. It’s important to honestly evaluate yourself. Do you have the ability and commitment to make your dream come true? Or does it need a little adjustment?

Timely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency and you’ll be writing the same goal in 365 days. Be careful not to push yourself too hard or too fast.

Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do. It involves figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to go. And how long it will take you to get there. Your goals are only your roadmap, you first need to know where you want to go. Determine your future and then set your goals. I wish you the very best in 2011!