One evening, on a subway train in New York City, I met an old man. After some conversation he revealed his regret for never doing some things in his life that he always wanted to do.
“I was always a dreamer, but I never followed through. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re making grand plans for it.”
I think it’s something that most of us can relate to. We’ve all got hopes and dreams, but what about goals and aspirations? Furthermore, how can we differentiate between the two?
Hopes and dreams are nice, but they are often vague and have no real focus on being accomplished. Goals and aspirations on the other hand, when approached with the right mindset can be powerful tools in getting to where we want to be.
Enter the SMART method of goal setting:
First off, when setting goals we need to avoid being vague. Be specific as possible about your goals. Think about the following things when goal setting:
Who: who is involved?
What: what do I aim to accomplish?
Where: identify a location.
Why: reasons or benefits for accomplishing the goal.
Which: identify requirements and constraints.
Vague – Get in shape.
Specific – Join a gym, workout 3 times a week, clean up my diet and lose 15 pounds.
In order for goals to be effective, they need to have some criteria for measuring progress or completion. Measuring progress is the most effective way of completing goals, it creates a positive feedback loop to help you stay on course.
To ensure a goal is measurable, ask your self these questions: How much? How many? How will I know if this goal is accomplished?
Goal – Join a gym, workout 3 times a week and lose 15 pounds.
Criteria for progress: Have you joined a gym yet? How often are you working out? What are you eating? What are your results?
In making goals measurable this way, we can also chunk them down into mini goals, making each piece of the goal like a step in a ladder.
Our goals must be realistic and attainable, or we might as well not even bother. This goes for both ends of the spectrum. We want to set goals that are realistically within our grasp, but also that challenge us enough to be worth focusing on. By setting goals that are attainable, yet challenging, we begin to come up with ways to make them a reality.
Attainable goals can usually answer the question – How can this goal be accomplished?
Setting goals that are relevant to the bigger picture is an absolute must to use our time effectively and stay focused on that which matters. If your goal doesn’t seem to add to your personal growth or long term outlook, then it’s time to reassess that goal. For example, if your ultimate goal is Join a gym, workout 3 times a week, eat cleaner and lose 15 pounds, then beating the final level in Halo is by no means relevant.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is this the right time?
Does this seem worthwhile?
Does this match my other efforts or needs?
Open ended goals don’t have enough importance to ever become a priority. By setting deadlines with our goals, we create something to strive towards, and a concrete rubric by which to measure whether or not the goal was accomplished.
Having a sense of urgency creates more motivation to complete the goal. We can also look at the goal in terms of a timeline. What can I do right now? What can I do today? What can I do tomorrow? What can I do next week? Write it down, and make those things on your to do list.
By goal setting with these guidelines, we can make sure we are being effective and not just shooting the moon.