Select Page

Setting Smart Goals

A goal is a goal, and a roll is a roll. And if we don’t set no goals, then we don’t eat no rolls.

“A goal is a goal, and a roll is a roll.  And if we don’t set no goals, then we don’t eat no rolls.”

Goal setting was one of the first practical things I started doing that provided me with real life change in my attitude from simply existing to actively looking to improve my circumstance. I followed a cheesy acronym, but it worked for me so hear it out before you run from the corporate self-help lingo. I set SMART goals – yes, both smart and SMART goals, which stands for:

Specific.

When setting goals, avoid vague ideas: “I want to increase sales. I want to exercise more.” You need to tackle the W’s – who, what, where, when, and why, but the why is mainly for your soul, it serves more as motivation than anything else. Here are some examples with all the W’s, “By the end of 2017, I want to increase my property sales by 30% in order to bridge the gap towards financial independence! In six months, I want to be able to run a 5k in under 30 minutes, to be able to prove to my brother I am in better shape than him.” 

All the other letters in the acronym are supporting characters to help you build a very specific goal.

Measurable.

Did you accomplish your goal? Are going to just feel it in your bones, or are you going to definitively know by means of yardstick that you have crushed your objectives?  If you came up with a specific finish line, then it is likely there will be a measurable component. The measurement component is critical in developing a feedback loop. If you missed the mark, why? Measure the results, and look to re-align your targets.

Attainable.

You need to be in the driver seat.  Your goal shouldn’t be for another person, it should be for what you can control, and in most people’s lives, their own existence is the only thing in their total control. If most of the goal lies with outside forces, go back to the drawing board and make the goal about you.

Realistic.

Here’s where it gets sticky.  You need to find a balance. It has to be feasible, within the realm of possibility, but not so easy that you can bat an eye and be done with it, or worse, simply forget about the goal entirely. If you are 45 years old and want to be the starting point guard for the New York Knicks, enjoy your daydreams. There are some things that are just beyond our abilities, talents, or physical limitations. You want to play all four movements of Beethoven’s 9th without missing a note, on the flute in 2 months time, but have never played the flute, let alone read a note of music in your life…you are only kidding yourself.  

This isn’t to say you can’t have a big audacious goal. If you want to have a net worth of 100M, that certainly is attainable within the right timeline and set of actions. No one is stopping you from scaling your goals up or down or fragmenting them in intervals that make sense. The takeaway here is that you can’t make them super easy, nor impossible, they need to be hard enough to keep you motivated and impassioned to obtain them.

Timely.

By the time you get to timely (ha!) you are likely putting the bow on a well-presented goal. The deadline is crucial for developing a sense of urgency, measuring, attainability and realism.  

For example, my imaginary musical prodigy that wants to master Beethoven in 2 months, can become less prodigal and imaginary on a longer timeline. That timeline might have to break the goal down into fragments, but with years (maybe a decade), rather than months, the goal becomes realistic, albeit difficult.

Caution:

There is an important caveat to goal setting I’d like to discuss. Setting goals can be both an important part of your life and a dangerous detour. It is important because you are making a pact, a contract if you will, with yourself. You deliberately sit down and write/type out a document, that will set you on a course of action. If held accountable, this can be a magnificent tool for change.

The caution part: It is only fluff if you don’t follow through. You can fall in love with the feeling you have after setting goals. Completing the mechanics of goal setting is in itself an achievement. This very small achievement gives you a bit of euphoria, and that euphoria can give a false sense of success.  Don’t get me wrong, the self-awareness necessary to set the goal is critical, and an important first step, but it is only the very first step towards your goal. It necessitates further action, and feedback, and action. It is possible, as I have experienced myself, to mistake the completion of goal setting as the end. I have written down goals, SMART goals, patted myself on my back and walked away.  No action, and then returning 12, 18 months later, scratching my head why that goal fell by the wayside. Don’t get intoxicated with the initial feelings, be sure to do the final step of goal setting, which is the first step towards anything you want – ACTION!

-Dan