Monday, August 13, 2012

What Is a SMART Goal?

English: Diagram of a hierarchy of purposes. T...
Diagram of a hierarchy of purposes. The idea is that a person should organize less important activities in a way to support a larger goal. In this example, activities such as buying gas and clothes are necessary steps for the larger (more important) goal of being a nature photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Teresa Meehan Ph.D.

SMART goals were all the rage a few years ago in the corporate world.

For those of you not familiar with business jargon, you might ask: "What is a SMART goal?"

SMART goals have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

This approach is a great start to effective goal-setting, but it can be made better by adding Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques.

The sensory-specific information you include (e.g., what you see, what you hear, what you feel), can help you make your goals even more specific, more meaningful to you, and assist you in modifying your behavior in order to achieve your goals.

If you want SMART goals that are even smarter, you need to work out what you want by using a well-informed outcome process. The first step is to pick an area of your life for which you want to set a goal.

  • Family
  • Relationship
  • Career
  • Health
  • Spirituality

Remember, keep it simple, specific and realistic. Applying NLP techniques requires that you use all your senses to design a SMART goal. You will need to answer a series of questions which will allow you to understand your true motivations for wanting to achieve your goals and so that you can weigh the pros and cons of success versus failure.

7 Steps for Creating NLP SMART Goals

Is the goal stated in the positive?

You must know clearly what your desired outcome is because you will need to maintain focus on that direction in order to achieve it. If you choose a vague goal like "I want to be healthier" or "I want to be richer" these goals will be too easy to be satisfied.

If you go for a walk then you are healthier than if you didn't and so your subconscious could be that the goal has been accomplished. Or if you find a $10 note then you are wealthier. However you are unlikely to be totally satisfied with either of these outcomes.

Instead you need to be more specific such as "I want to have $100,000 by August 1st 2013" This is a measurable goal written in the positive form.The problem with putting goals in the negative form can be disempowering.

And remember your subconscious mind reads all statements that you feed it as being positive. So if you state "I don't want to be fat" your subconscious mind hears "I want to be fat".

Is the goal self-initiated, maintained and within my control?

If you want to achieve your outcome then it has to come from you. This means, is the goal something that you want to achieve? A student might feel that her parents want her to enter law school. But when she comes to sit for the entrance exam she fails miserably.

The reason can be found in the fact that it wasn't ever her goal to enter law school. Also is the goal in your control? A goal like "I want to be a millionaire" is not a bad goal but a better one might be a more specific goal that you can definitely control. For example work out how many sales calls you would have to make in order for you to achieve that specific financial goal.

Ask these questions:
- Am I doing it for myself or someone else?
- Does the outcome rely solely on me or will I need to work with someone else to achieve it? If the answer is the latter, go back to the main question: Is the goal within my control?
- Does the goal describe the evidence procedure? The Evidence Procedure is another way of asking: "When do I know that I've achieved my goal?

The following questions can help you find out if your goals are too vague, or if your desired outcome is clearly stated.

  • How do I know that I'm getting the desired outcome?
  • What sill I be doing when I get it?
  • What will I see, hear, and feel when I have it?

Is the context of the goal clearly defined?

Clearly identify where, when, why, how, and with whom you want to achieve your goal? This question will help you fine-tune what you want by eliminating what you don't want. Sound backward? It's not really.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in what we don't want that we have a hard time articulating what we do want. By defining when you want something, you may in the process identify steps that need to be taken before you can have it.

Does the goal identify the necessary resources?

Resources are the people, knowledge, and tools you need to help you accomplish a particular task. The following questions will help you identify what you need, to achieve your outcome. A good resource may even be past experiences that will help you identify the resources you need for this new undertaking.

  • What resources do I have now?
  • What resources to I need to acquire?

Is the goal ecological?

A goal being ecological means that the outcome fits in with all aspects of your life. If the outcome conflicts with another outcome or belief that you hold, you will find it hard to achieve?

Does the goal identify the first step you need to take?

In addition to your self-identified steps, keep these in mind as well as they will help you along your path.

Take action

Nothing happens without this step. Once you take the first step, the others will follow.

Develop sensory awareness

If you have the awareness to see, hear and feel what isn't working, you will more easily be able to modify your behavior toward your desired behavior (NOTE: Don't underestimate the power of this step!).

Maintain behavioral flexibility

One of the presuppositions of NLP is referred to as The Law of Requisite Variety. This presupposition has to do with flexibility. The person with the most flexibility will control the environment. The Law of Requisite Variety originates in the field of cybernetics, control, and systems theory. More simply put, it means a flexible system with many options is better able to cope with change.

In our complex society, we all know change happens all the time, and it can happen rapidly. So those individuals, who are more flexible in their approach to life, will adapt better and experience less stress. The theory can also be applied to the business world. A company that is too rigid faces potential danger if its market changes or even disappears.

Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Change often comes not through a huge breakthrough but through cumulative action.

Teresa Meehan, Ph.D. Go to and subscribe to my blog to get regular updates and other free stuff.

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