S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Here’s an exercise for pretty much anyone who has aspirations to do…anything.  (That means you!)

You’ve probably heard of goals before, but this is another way to write them down.  I know there are a million ways out there, but it wasn’t until a Sales Engineering Club meeting survey that I realized how many people really don’t have (or can’t think of) goals to write down.

If they’re in your head, and you don’t have them written down, just take a post it note and stick it to your monitor.  Or wall.  Or notebook.  Or some place that you’ll see it or accidentally come across it at least once a season (why a season?  I don’t know, that part I just made up).  The power of a visual goal is more attainable than one in your head.

Moving on, if you’ve never thought of goals before and it seems intimidating, start thinking about the kind of person that you like (not who you “like” silly, but maybe you’ve always admired dancers, or club presidents, or people passionate about volunteering).  Then set your short-term goals to something like taking a dance lesson through <this company or club> for <this length of time> with <this budget>.  Or perhaps it’ll be attend a club meeting and ask if there are positions open (clubs love that…they always want more help even if they don’t advertise it).  Or write down that you’ll volunteer with <some organization here> and send an email to the coordinator by the end of the quarter.  Oh the possibilities are endless.   Just remember to write them down.  The mind does funny things to goals when it can manipulate it.  But once it’s written down, even if you cross it out, it’s still there for you to see.

Enough with the general stuff that you might’ve done and heard a million times.  (But if you haven’t, please do!)  What I want to bring to the post here is an actual exercise to help you write down your goals following a design recipe.  It’s called making “S.M.A.R.T” Goals…or more generally, “Smart Goals.”  [Someone else came up with this.  I just felt like regurgitating it.]

Your goals should be:

S pecific
M easurable
A ttainable
R ealistic
T imely

For instance, what’s a common goal that doesn’t fit this recipe?  Here’s one: “I want to own a business.”   It’s a good goal.  But you can make it better.

Be Specific. What kind of business and business model(s) are you looking at?  Technology?  Retail?  Consulting?  Combination of them?  This is a good area for the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why).  Or maybe it’s something like “I want to travel.”  Where to?  What budget?

Your goal should be Measurable. It’s hard to measure “I want to save money.”  If you saved a dollar in a sale for an item you didn’t need, does that count as saving money?  (oh the stereotypical phenomenon of women and sales haha).  It is better to say a variation of “I want to save $100 from each paycheck to contribute to my travel fund.”

Your goal should be Attainable. This is a good time to evaluate how big the gaps are in your goal step stones and then break it down to smaller, more attainable steps.  Wanting to read an entire world history text book in two weeks is quite daunting.  And the human mind (especially that of a young student) wants to put it off.  However, “Reading one chapter a day for two weeks” provides more mental commitment.

Your goal should be Realistic. Youth often feel invincibility against mortal aspects of life.  Your goal should be doable.  And it helps to know more background about your goal to make it realistic.  Eating one meal  a day isn’t realistic in losing weight, because as you starve your body during the rest of the day, it actually takes survival actions to store more fat in the future…which is why the quicky diets don’t normally work for keeping weight off after the dieting period.  However, eating maybe four smaller portions a day will probably give better effects and last longer.

Your goal should be Timely. Your goal should have a time sticker on the end of it.  Otherwise, you might not start the travel plans.  You might not finish reading that book.  Many times, when there is no sense of urgency, there is no motive to start when you can “do it later.”  ”Traveling <enter specific destinations> in Europe in Spring of 2010 between February and May for at least 2 weeks.” gives a better sense of the fact that I’d better start planning now!

If you know me and you’re laughing…it’s because nobody is perfect.  I’ve still got some work to do on making my SMART goals “smarter” myself!

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