On the other side of the whiz and sparkle of the Independence Day weekend is the promise of a mid-year start. Setting patiently right there next to your New Year’s Resolutions. And, like any savvy boss babe of the now, you probably put pen to paper back in January to hammer out a few SMART goals for 2018. Goals that may have begun to gather a little dust.
Now’s the perfect time to get your 2018 goals back on track. Let's whip them into a sweet little cocktail of wild dreams and efficient productivity.
Are SMART goals really the way to go?
I have a little problem, though. I really hate SMART goals. Maybe it’s too many cardboard dry business professors of yore. Maybe it’s my Aquarian vulnerability to shiny objects. And, it’s definitely a healthy dose of previous disappointments. In short, they just don’t work for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with the basic premise and see the value of creating a strategic goal that is SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (and other similar variations to the acronym). I just think it’s a little overly simplistic. Leaving some big gaps that are crucial to goal achievement.
So, if you’d like to try a little different approach this year and take a gamble on a completely unproven goal setting strategy. Well, I’d be happy for the company.
Time for a little SMART goal surgery.
Let’s keep what works: Specific, Measurable and Time-Bound. And, slice out what’s not needed: Achievable and Realistic. Why ditch the “AR”? To be honest, I could never draw a conclusion as to the exact difference in deciding if a goal “achievable” vs. “realistic”. Additionally, both terms feel a little judgy. For the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to trust that you know whether a given objective is realistic.
For now, I’m going to leave our little snippets of goal setting rules here on the cutting room floor and get down to the business of choosing what goals to set.
In the beginning … there is a gap between where I currently am in a given area of life and where I would like to be. You see, I feel the major way in which SMART goals are failing us is that they leave out the feels. Ultimately, it’s the emotional connection that is going to keep you pushing towards the finish line.
Thus, I begin my goal setting strategy by journaling a bit about how I’m currently feeling in life. Areas where I’m uncomfortable with my current situations, and where I think I’d like to see myself. Feel free to let the sentiments flow. Take as much time with this initial step as you feel is needed.
Goals cannot be created in a vacuum. Taking this time to sincerely understand what goals you need to set and why is critical to being able to achieve those goals. No matter how SMART a goal is, if you want to increase your income by 25% by December 31, 2018, you’ll need to dig deep into your motivational resources to make the required sacrifices when they pop up. Sincerely knowing your story, priorities and desires will be the difference in spending the cash on continuing education and skipping your pedicures for the next three months or staying late at the office during project crunch time on your niece's birthday.
Doing this work now helps you make those tough decisions in the moment because you’re asking yourself a different question. Does staying late to work on this project tonight move me closer to increasing my income by 25% by the end of this year? Yes. Does staying late to work on this project tonight make me feel more confident and secure in my ability to contribute to my family? Probably not if I’m missing out on valuable time with my family.
Take away: You may achieve your goal of increased income, but do you feel better and happier than you did previously? Did you set the right goal?
Now that you’ve spent a good amount of time figuring out precisely where you, where you want to be AND how all of that makes you feel. It’s time for a little strategic goal math. Figure the difference between those two places, measured in the accomplishments you need to get there.
This is where we get SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE in describing those desired accomplishments. Ultimately getting to the guts of setting your goals. Let’s say I want to feel confident in meeting with clients next year while out at the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas. To get there I’m going to need to have my business in order, be healthy and fit, wearing a size of clothing that feels great and having a selection of looks that I love. That's a list of the differences between where I am today and where I need to be by December of 2018. Specifically, my goals will be: have successfully executed my business plan and acquired 3 new dream clients, making healthy food and fitness choices on a daily basis that result in my being a healthy size 4, saving $2,500.00 for clothing items and stylist fees for this event.
Finally, without a specific time frame, you really are just setting yourself up to cut corners and not achieve your goals. Be honest. Most of us tend to wait right up until the deadline to start getting shit done. Whether it’s that thesis paper from college or losing five pounds. Without a due date, the chances of digging in and doing the work to get the job done, diminish drastically. Seriously, you know it’s not going to happen.
Here’s a kicker, though. There is a generally accepted premise(feel free to google if you’d like the specifics) that we drastically OVERestimate what we can accomplish in the short term and UNDERestimate what we can accomplish in the long term. For this reason, I recommend creating three time categories for all goals. One month, one quarter and one year.
Take a look at each of your desired of accomplishments and think about how far you could get in a single month, in three months and in twelve months. Set a goal within each accomplishment for each time frame. Some will be best broken down into smaller chunks. Others will require building on one another over time. By breaking out your goals across these three time frames, you’ll have a better handle of exactly how much you can accomplish within the year. Thus, the success key of consistent progress will be an inherent part of your goal. Nifty!
Finally, take a few big step backs and look at the big picture. Once all of your accomplishments have been distilled down into specific and measurable objectives. Then spread over reasonably defined time frames. Step away. You’ll see a path of checkmarks that will lead you across the gap from where you are today to where you want to be this time next year.
Remember: goals are NOT strategies. That’s the next step. Goal ACCOMPLISHING is the tough part. However, it’s facilitated by a goal SETTING strategy that makes the actions needed for accomplishment easy to see.
A quick recap and recipe for not-SMART goal setting:
Write a few sentences about the discomfort you currently have with where you are and the way it will feel when you reach the place you want to be.
Determine what accomplishments will need to be made to be in that place where you feel like a rockstar. Describe them in specific and measurable terms.
Take each goal as you have defined it and drop it into a reasonable time frame category. One month, one quarter, or one year.
Write out all of your goals along with each timeline to create an outline for action.