The Secret Sauce of Goal Achievement
Have you ever set a goal and not achieved it? I have. Many times. Often due to setting the goal in an ineffective manner. In order to set goals with the highest chance of success, we need to set S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals. Using this acronym to set goals will improve the odds of success. If the goal is important enough to set, it’s important enough to do in the way that is most likely to be successful.
Since we are now going to make our goals a reality, we should begin speaking of our goals in the past tense, as if they have already been achieved. Let’s use losing weight as an example. The goal is to lose 25 pounds. First, we must write down the goal in the past tense, as if we have already lost the 25 pounds. Next we apply S.M.A.R.T.E.R to our goal.
Specific: Vague goals are hard to reach, so we must create terms for the goal that are very specific, otherwise how will we know when we have achieved success. In this case, we don’t want to say “I have lost some weight.” To make it specific, we will write down our goal as “I have lost 25 pounds.” Now we have a specific target to hit.
Measurable: If it can’t be measured, it can’t tracked. Imagine lining up at the start of a foot race without knowing where the finish line is? In our example, we can follow our progress by weighing ourselves each week as we march toward the completion of our goal, losing 25 pounds.
Attainable: Our goals must be realistic or they will be doomed to failure. Losing 25 pounds by this Friday is not going to happen. It’s impossible, a pipe dream, not a goal. We must pick a reasonable goal, one we know is achievable. Maybe even one that has already been accomplished by others. If they can do it, so can we. In this case, we will set a pace of losing one pound per week. Lots of other people have achieved one pound per week weight loss so there is no reason we can’t duplicate it.
Results Oriented: A goal must have a powerful why behind it, the true result we are seeking. If the why is not strong enough, we will not have the motivation to continue on the hard days. We know there will be hard days when we just don’t feel like working toward our goal. Write down the true motivation behind the goal. In our example, the reason we want to lose 25 pounds is not to be lighter. The real reason might be one or more of the following; the ablity to play soccer in the yard with the kids, not feel winded walking upstairs, live longer in retirement, fit in our jeans, or to enjoy life more along the way. The true result we are after is not the weight loss itself, it is how losing 25 pounds will improve our life. A strong why is a great motivator.
Timed: Every goal must have a target date or a finish line. Without a deadline, it is not really a goal, it is just a dream. There is nothing wrong with having dreams, but if we want our dreams to become a reality, we must attach a deadline. A reasonably sustainable rate of weight loss is one pound a week. Look on the calendar to find what date your goal will be achieved. Add a little time to cover a bad week or two along the journey, where sickness or vacation might create a setback, and set the date. Our goal now becomes, on September 1st I’ve lost 25 pounds.
Every day: In order to make this goal a reality, we must do something every day that will get us one step closer to achieving our goal. Most of us have a list of the things we need to do each day. Every day we must write something on that list that will take us one step closer to achieving our goal. Some examples are; weight lift for 30 minutes, buy a pair of running shoes, set up a weekly exercise chart, purchase some cute exercise clothes, or order a heart rate monitor. If the to do list doesn’t include at least one thing to bring us closer to our goal, one more day will pass without making any progress. Momentum is easy to lose. We need to cut through all the noise in life and make our goals a priority. If every day we take only one step towards our goals, we will certainly get there. Every day that passes without taking a step closer was a wasted opportunity. Don’t let time march on without moving closer to what we want in life. If attaining this goal became illegal, could someone look at our activities and find enough evidence to convict us of trying to lose weight? Do something every day to move closer to the goal and success will be waiting just around the corner.
Rewarded: Achieving a goal needs to be rewarded. A celebration is in order for all the time and effort used to reach our goal. There are two ways people can be motivated, a carrot or a stick. We must have a great carrot to keep us going on the hard days, the ones when we don’t feel like working toward our goal. The reward must be something that is truly motivating, something we really want. A carrot, for instance, won’t motivate a lion the same as it would a horse. What would motivate you to complete your goal? Maybe you want a new truck and you have the cash to buy it. Your reward might be to buy the 4 x 4 only after reaching your goal.
Now we have the method to make S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, Timed, Every day, and Rewarded. When we use this acronym to set up our goals, our success rate will sky rocket. So our goal in this instance is: On September 1st, when I step on the scales, I have lost 25 pounds so I can have fun playing soccer with my kids. Then, I will reward myself for a job well done by buying the new 4 x 4 I have on my screen saver.
There are three other things that will boost our success rate. I already mentioned the first and third:
1. Speak of goals as if they have already been attained.
2. Have an accountability partner. Working toward a goal with someone who keeps us accountable is motivating on the days we don’t feel like working toward our goal.
For example, when I was racing on a mountain bike team, I had lots of teammates who also wanted to perform well. I would frequently get a call from a teammate inviting me to join them on a training ride. Even on days I didn’t feel like riding, their enthusiasm would motivate me to get on the bike and enjoy a ride with my friend. When the team disbanded, those motivating calls stopped coming and my riding fitness declined as my waist began to expand. Having someone else to take on a journey increases the chance of success.
3. Write down the goal. People with written goals are more likely to achieve them, compared to those who only think about their goals. The process of actually writing down goals makes a huge difference in the success rate.
There you have it. It’s not that difficult. Have you ever set a S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal and hit your target? How did it feel to succeed? Write a comment on my blog to tell us all about your success. Hearing others achieve their goals is a great motivator to help us work toward achieving our goals, in turn, taking our lives to the next level of success.
If conquering debt is one of your goals, pick up a copy of my book The Doctors Guide to Eliminating Debt to help you get started today. Get another copy for your buddy and tackle the goal together.