With the New Year starting, everybody has the same question – what’s my New Year’s resolution? Unfortunately, many resolutions go unresolved due to a lack of effective goal-setting. Truly achieving smarter goals requires a clear, attainable path to success, often not included when initially forming the goal.
Below, we’ll explore how to set goals that can help transform your aspirations into action. Whether you’re looking to advance in your career, improve personal skills, or achieve a long-held dream, understanding how to set achievable goals is the first step toward turning your visions into reality.
The Importance of Goal Setting
In life, we’re meant to grow, not stand still. But growing is tough, especially when you’re already hardwired or set in your ways. It requires habit-building and courage to step outside your comfort zone.
The best way to start growing begins with practical goal setting. Setting a goal acts as your guide, directing your focus to achieve what you set out to. Instead of simply saying what you want to achieve, a good goal details how you get there.
Goals are powerful motivators and can push you to take action. If you have strong desires to change something in your life, setting smarter goals can help you succeed. But how do you set strong goals? We’ll talk about that next.
What are SMART Goals?
When setting a simple goal, people often ask, “What is it that I want to accomplish?” However, this neglects how those goals can be met. For example, instead of saying, “I will lose 10 pounds,” follow a SMART goal.
SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By following SMART goal templates, you can set attainable goals that guide you toward success.
Specific goals help you know exactly what you’re trying to do. By avoiding any vagueness, you have explicit focus and direction for your goal. A specific goal typically addresses the standard “W” questions – who, what, when, where, and why.
Who: Who is involved in achieving your goal? Is it a solo goal, or are there other people involved?
What: What do you want to accomplish? This is the meat and potatoes of your goal.
When: When do you start accomplishing your goal? Is it time-limited? Does your goal require intervals, such as exercising “every day?”
Where: Where will your goal take place? Is there a particular setting in which it must be done?
Why: What’s your purpose for wanting to complete the goal? This can tug at your heartstrings and add the emotional aspect that reminds you to keep going, even when times get tough.
Putting these parts together, a specific goal may look something like: “I (who) will run (what) once every other day (when) at the park (where) so I can feel stronger and push myself out of my comfort zone (why).
Setting a goal requires tracking your progress to see if you meet your standards. It’s best to find a way to consistently track your efforts, such as using a free 30-day ProTracker. This way, if you find you aren’t meeting your goal, you can make changes to improve your progress. But what does it mean for a goal to be measurable? It means it should have some metric to track success.
Continuing with the same running example above, you can measure how many days per week you run. Alternatively, you can track your run mileage and times if you aim to run a certain distance or speed.
It won’t be easy to meet if your goal isn’t realistic. For example, expecting to grow wings and fly is simply not attainable. When you set a goal that isn’t achievable, you set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, ensure your goal is possible in your life and within a given timeframe.
If you’ve never run before, expecting to become a marathon runner in 6 months is unlikely. Instead, try running a few days per week to build up your stamina. Then, once you reach your goal, you can set a new one to push yourself further.
You want your goal to relate to your ultimate life plan. It would make little sense to set a goal that is outside your values. To ensure relevancy, choose goals that will propel you to the greater good in your life.
If your ultimate goal is to become more fit, then running every few days might help you reach that. Similarly, if you hope to find peace in life, running can have this impact. However, if your long-term plan is unrelated, such as making more time in your life to spend with family, including running every other day might take away from that ultimate goal.
Sticking to your goal is difficult if you don’t have a particular time frame in which it will be completed. As humans, we all procrastinate when we don’t have deadlines. To improve your productivity, set goals!
Every goal you set should have a target date to help you work towards the “end.” In the same running example, this can be running every other day for six months.
Putting it Together
Now that you have your SMART goal templates laid out, it’s time to put them together. Though the SMART goals are often longer than a simple goal, they’re more specific and allow you to have guidelines to implement when reaching your objective.
In the running example we’ve been using, a complete SMART goal could look something like:
I will run once every other day at the park for six months to feel stronger and push myself out of my comfort zone.
By applying the SMART framework, you can create goals that are more structured, trackable, and likely to be achieved.
Staying on track and motivated when attempting to reach a goal takes a lot of dedication. It’s important to start with a good mindset.
Instead of approaching your daily goals like, “Ugh, I have so much to do today,” try turning it into a positive, like “Wow, I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to do this today.” A positive mindset goes a long way.
It’s helpful to break down overwhelming goals into smaller, more attainable ones. Also, surround yourself with supportive people who can encourage and inspire you when times get tough. Remember why you started this journey and remind yourself of the bigger picture!
Measuring Success and Making Adjustments
In your journey to set goals and achieve them, measuring success and making adjustments as needed can help you achieve your dream. You can see how well your progress is occurring using the measurements you take of your SMART goal.
For example, if I’m only running once per week but my goal says to run every other day, there’s clearly something interfering with my progress. Whether my own stress or physical discomfort, these can be addressed by adjusting mindsets, length of time running per session, or any other factor contributing to the plateau.
Celebrate your successes, even if you don’t fully meet your goal. Making long-term life changes takes time, and you should be proud to be working toward them.
Remember, if you find yourself off track, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals, too. Life is unpredictable, so embrace the learning process and let it guide you to your end outcome. You got this!