Goals are great. They can give you direction, a sense of purpose, and something to shoot for. I highly recommend that anyone and everyone should always have some sort of goal to keep their life heading in the right direction. Your goals could be related to your finances, personal life, professional life, fitness level, overall health, or maybe just personal growth and improvement. The options for your goals are endless and the type of goal really doesn't matter, as they are all accomplished by implementing the same basic principals.
So you've set a goal for yourself, awesome. Now what? All you have to do now is just go and do the darn thing right? Well, not really. If it were that easy, you'd be crushing your goals all day, every day. You'd already have everything you wanted and be exactly where you want to be in life. You'd have that dream car, dream home, dream body, dream job, or dream life that you've always fantasized about. So how do you do it then? How do you take a goal you have in your head and make it become your reality? What if it's such a big, outlandish goal that you're afraid to even tell anyone about it for fear of being laughed at or mocked? Your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Let's briefly walk through each step of this process and use the example of an individual wanting to lose weight as an example.
Specific - When someone says "I want to lose some weight.", it's a very broad and general statement. Your goals need to be very specific. Instead of using such broad and general language to describe your goal, you need to be very specific and intentional when describing your goals. Basically, say EXACTLY what it is you want. A much better goal than just losing weight would be "I want to lose 100 pounds." Now we have a specific goal to set our sights on.
Measurable - If your goal can't be measured, how will you ever know if you're getting any closer to reaching it? You have to be able to have some sort of measurable progress to determine if you are getting closer to your goal, farther away from it, or if you've just become stagnant. In our example, losing 100 pounds can be measured by documenting and recording every pound lost. And with each pound lost, the individual is now one pound closer to their goal.
Attainable - You have to make sure your goals are attainable, that it's something you can achieve. In our example of losing 100 pounds, this goal would be perfectly attainable for some that weighs 300 pounds because they have 100 pounds available to lose. However, for an individual that weighs 190 pounds, wanting to lose 100 pounds would not be an attainable goal because doing so would probably cost them their life, or at the very least their health. As with most everything else in life, you've got to throw some common sense on it.
Realistic - Closely tied to your goals being attainable, they need to be realistic. For a considerably overweight or obese individual, losing 100 pounds is definitely realistic. If however, the individual wanted to lose 100 pounds in 60 days, this would not be a realistic goal. Setting big goals and shooting for the stars is awesome, but you also have to make sure you're not setting yourself up for failure by starting with a goal that's not realistic. In other words, make sure your goal is possible.
Timely - Your goals need to be timely. In other words, they need to be accompanied by a timeline that keeps you on track but that is also realistic. Setting the goal of becoming a millionaire is great. Setting the goal of waking up a millionaire tomorrow is stupid. In our example of losing 100 pounds, setting this goal in the timeline of one year is timely. It will be tough, but not impossible. This is exactly how goals should be. Tough enough to challenge you and bring out your best, but not on such an unreasonable timeline that you'll never be able to accomplish it.
No matter how big or small the goal may be, you accomplish them the same way you would eat something as big as an elephant. One bite at a time. Losing 100 pounds would be a SMART goal, as long as you apply the SMART principles discussed above. Just like you would eat an elephant one bite at a time, you would lose 100 pounds one pound at a time. If you wanted to make one million dollars, you'd do it one dollar at a time. Before you lose 100 pounds, you have to lose 90 pounds. Before you lose 90 pounds, you have to lose 50 pounds. Before you lose 50 pounds, you have to lose 10 pounds. And before you lose 10 pounds, you have to lose one pound. When you start working toward your goal, don't focus on the end goal that seems so far away and impossible to reach. Focus on the goal that's right in front of you, that's just within reach if you work hard enough. In our example, you wouldn't start out on day one trying to lose 100 pounds. You would start out trying to lose five pounds. Once you accomplish that, move on to the next five pounds. Before you know it, those 100 pounds are now just five pounds away.
Set your goal. Write it down. Make it SMART. Get to work.
- Andy Chapman