Now You Can Write SMART Goals That Work!

By Ellesse

Do you set any work goals? Here’s a story of probably why you should! A few years ago, a group of Business School university graduates who had left college for about 10 years were surveyed on their goal plans. 83% of those polled stated that due to tight schedules and busy work commitments, they did not set any SMART goals at all and had no plan to do so. The other 14% answered “Yes” to having set any work goals but did not have the habit of writing them down. You know what? On an average basis, this same 14% was earning 3 times more than the group who had no goals at all.

What about the final 3%?

You’ve guessed it right. The final 3% was made up of a cluster of elite folks who had written SMART goals. And do you know how much they were earning?

A whopping 10 times more than the 83%!

If the statistics had any correlation to achieving success at all, it does seem obvious isn’t? The more you’re willing to take charge of your life using a set of clear, well directed goals, the more you’re able to tap from life itself. A quote from Steve Pavlina, that I’m utterly impressed with states “If you don’t take the time to get really clear about exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish, then you’re forever doomed to spend your life achieving the goals of those who do.” Extremely well put! How many times have you commuted aimlessly to the office, unconsciously completing projects that make your boss wealthier, instead of setting goals that work on your own financial abundance? Or were you a doctor, lawyer, accountant because your mum has groomed you to become one and not due to your own conscious decision? In short, are you losing out by not setting goals?

I guess a lot of times in life, we’re merely following where the tide brings us to. And if things doesn’t work out, we’ll throw our hands into the air and grumble “It’s my destiny!”. Little do we realize, by simply constructing a path of clearly marked red flags leading to the life we want, we can control what we want to achieve. SMART goals are like these red flags. The more you plant, the clearer the path appears.

What are SMART goals?

You may be asking, what is a SMART goal? Basically, the word SMART is an acronym for
Specific, Measurable, Achievable Yet Challenging, Realistic and contains a Targeted Completion Date. I must admit when I first found out about SMART goals, I was thinking “Gosh, I hope it’s not a technique that only smart people can comprehend!”. The truth is, understanding the concept is a no-brainer. It’s the application that requires conscious effort.

Let’s practice with an example.

A friend who’d not seen you for a few years commented that you’d grown plumper. Now, instead of being scornful and angry over his remarks, you’ve resolved to do something. You’ve decided to go on a weight loss plan by first writing a SMART goal for it. Here’s what you did.

On a piece of white paper, you wrote “I will lose weight”.

Is your goal statement SMART?

Nope, It’s not Specific & Detailed Enough

As mentioned, one of the important characteristic of SMART goals is that it must be specific. Specific doesn’t mean writing every single action. We’ll leave that for the goal action plan. Instead, it means describing as much detail as possible on the “whats”, without drilling into the nitty gritty of the “hows” in the present tense. Now, what was wrong with your initial statement? It was in the future tense.

Writing the goals in future tense give the subconscious the impression that the action that you intend is a future activity and that’s where it should be, in the future, unknown and out of reach. So whenever you’re writing a SMART goal, always imagine as if you’re already achieving the goal, so that it’ll drive the right message to your subconscious. Therefore, instead of saying “I will lose weight”, you should rewrite it as “I lose weight”.

So, is it perfect now?

Not really. Saying “I lose weight” is simply not detailed enough, isn’t it? What are the ways you will go through with losing weight? Through natural methods such as exercising or having healthy meals. Or signing up with a slimming agency? If you chose the former, you should include that into your goal statement as well, by reconstructing the statement as “I lose weight naturally through exercise and maintaining a healthy diet”

How do you know if Your Goal is Achieved?

I’m relating to the measurability of your goal. If you are able to say, “Ok, it must be xx before I can deem my goal to attained.”, then the xx is the clause you should add to your goal to add a level of measurability. In your case, if you must lose 10 pounds before you would consider your outcome of “losing weight” done, it would be reasonable to rewrite your goal as “I lose 10 pounds of weight naturally through exercise and maintaining a healthy diet”

Knowing the exact number of weight to lose, amount of money to earn or whatever benchmark that you deem your goal achieved is important as it gives you the power to track. It lets you know exactly where you’re with the goal so that you can motivate when you’re behind schedule or reward when you’re reach or exceeded your expectations.

Is it Achievable yet Challenging?

If you are someone who likes to take things slow, the target of losing 10 pounds would be difficult to achieve even though it is realistic. Therefore, you might want to review and adjust the expectations based on its achievability.

One good way that I’ve personally experienced is to share your draft SMART goal statement with your friends and family, or someone who had worked on similar goals. Get them to provide feedback. If they don’t think you’ve got the mettle to lose 10 pounds within a certain date, ask them why. “Oh, because I don’t think you can stick to an exercise regime for more than 2 days”. “10 pounds is simply too much to lose within that short a time!” If you think what they say is true, perhaps it makes sense to modify your SMART goal.

During this process, you’re also eliminating unrealistic expectations that may result in a large amount of grief and de-motivation if you do not achieve them.

Slap it with a Deadline, for Goodness Sake!

Remember, any goal without a deadline is just a dream. Time frames give a point of reference for comparison, and comes hand in hand with measurability to determine if you have attained your goal and tells you when you ought to stop. After all, if you don’t know when to stop, you may not have the motivation to start, knowing that there’s probably no end to the race.

A lot of people stumble at this point by thinking that they can be flexible by keeping the dates open or using terms like “someday”, “sometimes”. The truth is, you’ll end up sabotaging yourself to failure resting assured that whatever you’ve planned to do will never happen, just like what happened to me 2 weeks ago. That day, I ran into my long time University hostel mate on my way back home from the office. We causally updated each other of our developments and she said “It’s been donkey years since we gather. We should really meet up someday!” You’ve guessed it right again, there was no meet up at all.

Therefore, drive a strong message to your subconscious by adding a target completion date to your goal to reduce that ambiguity. So, assuming you’ve decided the timeline for you to lose that weight is by the end of February this year, you should rewrite the goal as “I lose 10 pounds of weight naturally through exercise and maintaining a healthy diet by 28 February 2007″

Viola! Done, what should I do next?

Well, I’ve always encourage people who completed their SMART goals to do something immediately that’s related to your objective. Design a goal action plan or call a friend to tell him about your goal. You can even signup for a gym membership or buy a healthy recipes cookbook.

The purpose of doing something immediately is to garner the momentum to get started. Remember, writing SMART goals is easy, it’s the continuous effort to apply, persist and motivate yourself that determines who’s the winner. It is a mistake to expect that you will achieve any goal because you deserve it or because there is something in your past that entitles you to it. The “deserving” element is only true in you have worked hard through planning and control via your goal plan (be it work goals or personal goals) to achieve them.


4 Responses to “Now You Can Write SMART Goals That Work!”

  1. StevenRay Petersen at 4:56 pm

    Where’s the reference for the study mentioned ?

  2. Ellesse at 3:25 pm

    I read about the reference to this Yale University study in “The Magic Lamp: Goal Setting for People Who Hate Setting Goals”. Can’t remember the page though :)

  3. Bob Stocking at 10:10 pm

    Goals have always been a challenge for me. Sure, I understand the importance and have books on the subject. Weight loss is a good example. S.M.A.R.T goal set which includes exercise. Do the “e” word for a few days then stop. The whole goal goes out the window. It’s as if there is no connection with it. It is important and there should be a good enough “why” linked to it, but the commitment just isn’t there. I’ve been through a number of goal setting workshops from Anthony Robbins to Zig Ziglar. Looking forward to reading everything on this site and hopefully glean some new information that might help.

  4. Ellesse at 7:40 am

    @Bob Try getting an accountability partner to work the goals together, you’ll be surprised how that increases the commitment levels. And I hope there’s really something you’ll gain through reading Goal Setting College :)


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