I don't know about you, but now that's it's a new month, it's time for me to identify new priorities and then set some specific goals for their accomplishment. I know the value of having specific goals in each area of my life, and by becoming clear on exactly where I want to be by the end of each year, I can begin feeling good now as I imagine myself as already having achieved them. It's an empowering way to live!
So many people still ask me what the secret to successful goal setting is, so I thought I'd share with you one of the basic principles of goal setting. The most effective way to set goals is to start by using the SMART principles of goal setting. SMART goals give you a proven format and a much better chance of following through and achieving them.
By the way, these SMART principles of goal setting also work extremely well when setting goals within a company, department, or sales team. Here they are:
- Specific: Goals must be specific. You can't say that you want more money, because if you did I'd hand you a dollar and BAM - you'd have more money! How much more money? Know all the details like: Where will it be kept? (Bank account? Mutual Fund? Stock Fund? CD earning 4%?) Where will it come from? (Salary + Overtime? Commission? Bonus? Sales Contest winnings?)
Knowing the specifics about your goal (in any area) helps you envision it more clearly, and anything you hold clearly in your mind you move towards that much faster. Plus, having specific goals have the added benefit of being measurable.
- Measurable: The most important thing about a measurable goal is that it keeps you motivated. If you weren't able to track your progress, you'd lose interest real quick. Imagine a race without a finish line. Or a sales contest without an end or way of telling who was winning.
By making your goals measurable, you'll be able to get excited, stay motivated, and even reward yourself each time a new milestone is reached.
- Attainable: Not only must your goals be attainable, but they must be believable. The number one rule for all goal setting is that you must set a goal that deep down you believe you can accomplish. If not, then you'll end up quitting as soon as the going gets tough.
In other words, you want to set a goal that is going to make you stretch a bit to achieve it, but don't make it extreme. Think about what would really excite you if you achieved it, and then think about what you are willing to do to actually to reach it. Once you've identified something you really want and you believe is within your reach, then set it and go to work.
- Relevant: To be effective, especially in the long term, your goals should be relevant to your values and to what you consider to be meaningful. Many goals get tossed by the wayside because in the course of working for them, people find they just aren't willing to give up certain behaviors because the payoff of those behaviors is more important than the goals.
For example, if earning an additional $20,000 in the next six months is a goal you have, but it will require overtime every day, and working weekends, then you may quickly find that spending time with your family and watching football on Sunday are more important to you than the additional money. If so, then ask yourself: What is a relevant goal in terms of money and your lifestyle?
In other words, what is really important to you, and what are you willing to do to reach a goal?
- Time-bound: Goals must have a starting point, a completion date, and even fixed durations (especially in work related situations). Without specific deadlines, many goals get overtaken by the day to day activities and the demands of life. If you set a goal in January to take an awesome vacation, then I'll bet you're still waiting to plan it. Whereas if you set a goal to visit England and France before the kids go back to school, I'll bet you're leaving next week!
Now a word of clarification: While I believe some goals are more effective when they have a time line (especially goals that involve other people's participation or contribution), I also believe that time lines on personal improvement goals can be counterproductive. In these areas it's best work on changing your self-image or picture first, because behavior and goal achievement will always follow. But more on that later...
The bottom line is that SMART goals have a much higher chance for success than goals that don't contain these time proven principles. If you want to finish your year strong, then do yourself a favor and come up with 5, 8, or even 10 or more specific goals that you're committed to achieving by the end of this year.
After you have them, make them SMART and you'll be well on your way to a successful year.