Friday, November 11, 2011

SMART Goals

S.M.A.R.T. GoalsImage by profaniti via FlickrBy Lori D.

You have made some great decisions for your life - congratulations! Now - how do you bring them to reality?

First you need to set some goals. Setting goals can be tricky business. Many of us set goals only to later abandon them and never really understand why. Others set goals, abandon them, and then feel like they have failed. This feeling of failure often prevents us from trying again.

When people fail to achieve their goals it is often because the goals were never achievable in the first place - they just didn't know it. That's why we need a set of standards to help us set goals in a meaningful and achievable way. One set of these standards is the SMART standards used in setting goals.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound. The concept was first introduced in 1981 by George Doran. I think it is a great set of standards to use when setting goals - I use these standards myself. In using these standards a goal must fit into each category in order to be considered achievable. If your goal is not achievable it really isn't worth your valuable time, don't you agree?

Specific - The goal must be clearly stated with no room for interpretation. The goal is easily understood. There is no doubt what you are trying to achieve.

Measurable - Progress in achieving the goal must be easily quantified. If you can't tell where you are in the process how will you know if you have gotten anywhere?

Attainable - Achieving the goal must be possible. Setting goals that are not attainable can at first seem noble - but they are in fact misplaced. If you want to achieve something that is unattainable at this time then you must first gather the skill set or assets necessary to attain it. This means the unattainable goal needs to be broken down into smaller attainable pieces - if not you will never achieve a thing.

Relevant - The goal must support a decision or choice you have made. Pursuing a goal for no reason is pointless. Why expend the effort?

Time bound - The goal must have a clear time period in which it is to be achieved. If you allow yourself too much time to achieve the goal you likely will not focus on its achievement. Achieving the goal can easily be put off until it is abandoned altogether.

An example of a goal in which these standards could easily apply is related directly to our health. It is common knowledge that most people in the United States are overweight to some degree and that their physical health will suffer for it. Let's pretend that I have made the decision to improve my health. One of the goals I would like to set for myself is to lose 10 pounds. This is how I will make certain the SMART standards apply before I go any further:

Specific: I will lose 10 pounds - check! I know specifically what I am to do.
Measurable: I can weigh myself - check! I will be able to track my progress.
Attainable: I am physically able to take on the challenge - check! I have my doctors' okay to move forward with the weight loss.
Relevant: My health will improve by my losing 10 pounds - check! This goal does support my decision to improve my health.
Time bound: I will lose the 10 pounds within 5 months from today - check! The clock is ticking and there is a concrete date to which I am holding myself accountable to.

This weight loss goal fits all the standards so I am ready to move forward in achieving my goal. The next step is to plan. Plans carry us from where we are today to the achievement of our goals one step at a time. We will discuss planning next .....

What do you think of the SMART standards for setting goals? Do you think this could work for you? Do you think you could utilize coaching to help you get started?

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