Creating S-M-A-R-T Goals

by Cameron Schaefer on November 26, 2007

Climbing at Garden of the GodsOne of the keys to living well is setting goals for yourself. Its not a new idea, yet so few of us do it well. I think the reason for this is simple: failure. All of us have set goals before and fallen short. Every New Years millions of people resolve to lose weight, watch less television, spend more time with loved ones and by mid-Spring 99% of those goals have gone by the wayside. What’s wrong with this picture? Are some people just lazy? Absolutely, but I think many times the problem lies in the goals themselves rather than the people trying to achieve them. When its unclear exactly what you’re striving for it is much easier to give up when things get hard.

During my time at the Air Force Academy I once heard a lecture that explained a way to set SMART(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) goals. The principle was being explained in the context of setting quality objectives at the start of a war, but I believe it translates well into ordinary life. An explanation:

Specific – something that can be easily observed, linked to a unit, percentage, time, etc. For example, “Lose weight” = BAD “Lose 50lbs” = GOOD

Measurable – Will you be able to track your progress toward the goal and know when you’ve achieved it? It must be possible to monitor and measure your goal. “Lose 50 lbs” is good because you can easily step on a scale each week to measure your progress.

Achievable – Is the goal something that can reasonably be achieved? If not, scale it down a bit. This does not mean it has to be easy, but an impossible goal motivates no one.

Relevant – Will achieving this goal bring you closer to where you want to be? Your goals should tie into a larger objective for your life. For example, if you are trying to spend more time with your family, a goal of taking on more clients at work may take you further from where you want to be.

Timebound – Every goal must have a specific time frame. Time motivates you by giving you a clear target and a sense of urgency. Without a time frame goals tend to be pushed back, put off and eventually forgotten. Ask any runner, if you have a goal to run a marathon, you have to sign up for one or you’ll never do it. The approaching race date acts as an incredible motivator during the training process. Without it, you may run, but chances are you’ll never reach your ultimate goal.

In the next month I plan on taking a closer look at goals, objectives and how to place systems in your life that will help you live your best, the high life as I like to call it. Stay tuned and please leave comments on your successes and failures in the realm of goal-setting.

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