Let’s talk about goals. Oh boy – the ‘G’ Word. I know. It’s that thing that every life-improvement guru, manager, “life-coach”, and 5th grade guidance counselor in your life has been pushing since you were old enough to recognize the difference between present and future. I’m right there with you. I struggle with goals. I’m great at making goals that sound shiny in the present, but they almost never have the staying power to really change anything in my life.
But let’s be real. You and I both have things to take care of. And it doesn’t take a guru for us to know that meaningful change is best accomplished through small, incremental, daily action.
So let’s get to it.
Right now, I’m using a goal planner to help me get organized and motivated. This particular planner uses the SMARTER goal framework. That is, a goal should be:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Actionable
R – Risky
T – Timed
E – Exciting
R – Relevant
I was familiar with SMART goals before, but the last two letters are new to me. For those that aren’t familiar with either, I’ll catch you up. Your goals should be specific – so a vague desire about an area of your life doesn’t qualify as a specific goal, but it’s a good place to start. For instance, “I want to be more energized” is too vague to be effective, but “I want to stay awake in the afternoon without needing a nap” is more helpful.
The ‘M’ for measurable is important as well. In the last statement, “I want to stay awake in the afternoon without needing a nap,” you’ve identified your measuring stick for whether or not you feel energized. In this scenario, you define a lack of energy as needing a nap in the afternoons. If we wanted to take this goal to the next level – and I do, because that’s how I roll – we’d add a specific number to our measurement. For instance, “I want to stay awake without needing a nap 90% of afternoons.” And then, to find out if we’re meeting our goal, we’d track the days that meet that criteria.
Our goals should be actionable – that is, they shouldn’t be “to be” statements. Our very first example, “I want to be more energized” is more like a wish without a clear idea of what that looks like for us. By changing our goal to, “I want to stay awake in the afternoon without needing a nap,” we have made our goal a clear, actionable statement. We know exactly what we need to do to accomplish our goal.
Our goals should be a little bit risky. They should challenge us, and make us a little uncomfortable and unsure if we can meet it. Research shows that we are more likely to meet the goals that are just out of comfort zone. When there’s potential for failure, we are motivated to put effort in for the win.
When goal-setting, consider the time-frame you want to accomplish it in. The planner I’m using is divided into quarters – four, thirteen-week quarters per year, which makes for a good medium-level time-frame for me to accomplish most of goals in. It’s just long enough that I can accomplish some pretty weighty projects, but short enough that I can see the end – and that’s motivating. In our example, this might look like, “I want to stay awake without needing a nap 90% of afternoons by October 29th, 2020.”
Your goal should be exciting to you. Does it motivate you? Is it something that you’re passionate about? This is completely individual. For instance, one of my current goals is to load the dishwasher and sweep the kitchen floor 90% of the time by October 28th, 2020. Is this exciting for most people? Heck no. But I get a special little buzz every time I wake up in the morning and the kitchen is tidy and ready to go. I find excitement in a clean kitchen, so I know this is a sustainable goal for me.
Finally, is your goal relevant? Does it make sense to your season of life? Maybe staying awake all day without a nap is a monumental task at present, and you’d find more quality of life in consuming more nutritious food or spending more time connecting with others. Or maybe, staying awake all day is effortless for you – in that case, you’ll probably be best served by finding a goal that speaks to your level of health. Does it make more sense for you to target a new level of fitness, or a new intellectual pursuit?
One other resource I have found invaluable in goal setting is Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework. I’ll share a little more on this next week!