Another New Year is almost here. Have you thought about what you want to accomplish starting January 1st? Have you set any new goals? Updated any of last year’s goals? Set ANY goals at all? If you haven’t, now’s the time to start.
Why? Because if you don’t decide where you want to go, any road will take you there. Because if you don’t set goals, you’ll just float along life with no direction. Because if you don’t set your sights on something, you won’t have a compelling reason to get up early and stay up late. Because if you don’t set goals, you’ve already failed.
“Failed? Failed at what?” If you don’t set any goals at all, you’ve already failed to accomplish all the great things you’re capable of. It could be losing weight, building muscle, earning extra money, building a relationship, really anything you can imagine. Anything – you can really have and achieve anything – if you’ll only set a goal and consistently work towards it.
Every great journey begins with the first step and every great accomplishment, whether it’s finding the cure for the cancer or putting a man on the moon, begins with a goal. But how do you set goals? The best way I’ve found to explain the process is by using the acronym S-M-A-R-T. Here’s what it means:
S – Set SPECIFIC Goals
Make sure your goals are as specific as you can possibly make them. Saying “I just want to be happy” is not going to cut it. “I just want to lose some weight” isn’t effective either. In both cases, you’ve got to be specific. What exactly would it take to make you happy? Exactly how much weight do you want to lose?
Setting a nonspecific goal like “I want to make some extra money” may prove very disappointing. You might find a discarded penny on the sidewalk and stop to pick it up. Boom, you just completed your goal! You just made some “extra” money. You see how important it is to be specific?
The first key to effective goals is to be specific, specific, specific. If you can’t clearly see the outcome of your goal when you close your eyes at night, it’s not specific enough.
M – Make Your Goals MEASUREABLE
Now that you’ve made your goals as specific as you can, you need to find a way to measure your progress. You might think that making your goals measurable is simply an extension of making them specific but it’s much more than that. Making them measurable is like putting a ladder under an apple tree that allows you to climb up, step by step, to reach the best pieces of fruit the tree has to offer. Making your goals measurable provides a step-by-step road map to their accomplishment.
If I ask you how your weight loss goal is coming along, you should be able to tell me exactly how much weight you’ve lost as well as exactly how much further you have to go and how long you think it will take you to get there. All specific, measurable steps.
Once you specifically define what it is you want, figure out a way to measure your progress. It could be dollars, days, pounds, inches, boxes shipped, whatever. Just find a way to measure your progress.
A – Make Your Goals ACTIONABLE
Like all the others, this one is key. Your goals should be something that you can DO, WORK TOWARDS, or ACT ON. Here’s the difference: if you say “I want to make a million dollars” and don’t add any actionable steps, it’s a wish, not a goal. On the other hand, saying “I want to make a million dollars through affiliate marketing (or product creation, or by writing a novel, or whatever you want to do),” then you’ve got something you can actually work on. This puts you in control.
Every January 1st, most people set “I want to lose some weight” as one of their New Year’s goals. Can you see why 99.9% of people that set this kind of goal never accomplish it? It’s not specific. It’s not measurable. It’s not actionable.
Now, the person that says “I want to lose 15 pounds by the end of March through better diet choices and exercise” has got a much better chance of reaching their goal. Their goal is specific, measurable, and actionable. They’ve got something specific to work on.
Note: some people list the “A” in SMART as “Attainable” as in “your goals should be Attainable.” I like “Actionable” because I think it better describes the fact that YOU HAVE TO WORK ON YOUR GOALS. They don’t come true all by themselves.
R – Your Goals Should be REALISTIC
Time for a gut-check: is your goal realistic? Can you really see yourself achieving it? If you can’t, you need to work on 2 things: your self confidence and your goal. Once you become practiced at goal setting and have accomplished a few, your self confidence will explode and you’ll automatically begin setting bigger and bigger goals. However, at the beginning, make sure you don’t set your goals so high that they end up discouraging you instead of inspiring you. Make them realistic.
Also, make sure your goals are congruent with your life in general. In other words, don’t work towards a goal that is actually going to create problems in other areas of your life. For example, don’t set a weight loss goal that is so aggressive that you damage your overall health in the process.
T – Make Your Goals TIME BASED
Set a time limit on your goals. Otherwise, you’ll always procrastinate and put off working on them for another week, another month, another year. Set a deadline and stick to it. Saying “I want to lose 5 pounds by the end of the month” has a lot more power than just saying “I’d like to lose some weight.”
Putting a time limit on your goals is another way to measure your progress. You tell yourself, “I’ve got until the end of the month to reach my goal and it’s already the 15th. I’ve got to get moving!” There’s massive power in that. It creates a momentum that propels you forward and keeps you moving.
Reaching Your Goals
Is it really this easy? Well, yes and no. Setting effective goals is a straightforward process. However, you still have to DO THE WORK and that part isn’t so easy. But setting up the right process, making your goals specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time based will provide a framework where you can see exactly how much progress your work is producing. Your work will have purpose – and that will inspire you to maintain the pace.
You see, if you can’t measure where you are and you’re not sure where you’re going, it’s difficult to find a compelling reason to do the work. If you can’t see the “big payoff” at the end and see yourself moving closer to it, there’s no incentive to put in the extra effort and you’ll quickly find reasons to procrastinate.
So be SMART about setting your goals this New Year. Stack the deck in your favor but making your goals specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!