After you’ve found the core why at the root of your goal, and have asked some questions to guide your roadmap, you need to come up with a plan. And when it comes to goal-setting, you want to make sure your goals are SMART.
As you know by now, we’re fond of acronyms here at Kwik Learning. They help you remember difficult and complicated concepts by breaking them down into short, digestible bites. As you think about the steps you need to build in order to achieve your goal, it’s helpful to keep each of these elements in mind. If you do, you’ll design a set of actions you can take that will help you succeed in your goals.
S — Specific
A good goal has a clear focus. You don’t just want a raise, you want a 3% raise. It’s important to keep your goals as specific as possible so that you keep them realistic. What does looking healthy actually mean? If you lose two pounds is your weight loss goal a success? Defining your exact goal helps make sure you are setting your sights on something that is actually achievable.
An easy way to test this step is to explain your goal to someone else. They should clearly understand what success looks like. Instead of telling your partner you want to get in shape, tell them you want to run a six-minute mile or complete a specific hike or routine. When you’re specific, they can’t tell you how great you already look or that you’re already in shape. It makes your goal easy for them to visualize and understand, which means it’s easier for you to do the same.
M — Measurable
It’s difficult to stay on track with a goal if you can’t measure it. In addition to being specific, you want to build in measurable steps. If you want to lose fifteen pounds, every ounce counts. It helps you see exactly what is working and what isn’t, and gives you tiny goals to celebrate.
Some of your goals might be more abstract, like getting a good end-of-year-review. You may not be able to say you were successful until the review happens. But there are probably very specific elements that go into that review. Maybe you need to be more responsive with emails, or close a certain number of sales calls. Those tasks are measurable. You can track the positive feedback you receive or keep a file of extra projects you’ve completed.
Every goal should have very clear objectives that you can track and measure. If it isn’t obvious, spend some time really thinking about each step that you need to take to be successful. This will ensure you stay focused and motivated on your goal no matter what obstacles come up along the way.
A — Actionable
Once you have a specific goal with measurable targets, you want to create your action steps. It might seem like that’s what you did when you made your goal measurable, but measuring your daily ounces lost isn’t actually an action step. What are you going to do every day to lose weight?
Maybe you will eat a certain amount of calories, drink a specific amount of water, and so specific exercises every day. For every action step you create, make sure you keep the first two elements in mind: are they specific and measurable. Even at this stage, saying walk every day is too vague to be effective, even if your overall goal is to lose five pounds.
This might feel like you’re creating smaller goals within your larger goal, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s how you can make progress and stay motivated at the same time. Each step should be realistic and achievable, and the more specific you can be not just on the action but how to measure success brings you closer to success.
R — Realistic
If you’ve gone through the above steps, you may have realized that your initial goal was just too big. That’s okay. You can still hold onto your stretch goals, or have a vision board filled with your big, audacious dreams. In fact, those are fantastic to strive towards. But in order to reach those giant goals, you have to break them down into smaller, more realistic goals. Remember, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.
You may one day dream of running a marathon, but if you have a hard time walking around the block, this goal is going to take time and smaller goals to reach. Same with wanting a raise. If your goal is 10% and your company has a 5% max, you’re only going to be frustrated and destined for failure.
Think about what a realistic goal is and work to achieve that in specific, measurable action steps. It’s good to push yourself, but building on success will actually lead to bigger success in the long-term. And you won’t get frustrated in the process.
T — Time-Based
While it’s true that over a long enough timeline, anything is achievable, that doesn’t work for sustaining motivation. If you want to keep progressing towards a goal, it’s important to create a time-line. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have long-term goals. You absolutely should. But understanding what a realistic timeline looks like will actually help you reach those goals.
Let’s say you want to reach a position of upper management in your company but you’re currently in an entry level position. As you go through the above steps, it’s going to be obvious that you won’t reach your goal in a year. Maybe not even five. But there’s a reason this is the last step. Because there are other goals within that gigantic goal that you can achieve in a year.
Building smaller goals with shorter timelines helps keep your reward system active and engaged, which is vital when it comes to successfully reaching your goals. It creates the daily habits you need to solidify that your goal requires, and helps constantly readjust your mindset to see success and progress instead of stagnation and failure.
When it comes to setting goals, the best approach is to make them SMART. When you break them down into manageable pieces that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based, you’re setting yourself up for success.
If you’re interested in how you can break down complicated goals—like your finances, watch this episode: