Setting SMART goals – creating and achieving better goals
Coach Ryan recently spoke about the benefits of writing down your goals and having accountability. Both these things are incredibly important! However, his message got me thinking about the difficulty people sometimes have in actually writing and formatting their goals.
Sometimes, we create goals with great intention, but they don’t set us up for success. So, to help you set goals and stay motivated, I wanted to talk about SMART goals. This is a technique to help you set better goals and reach them! It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but does take some explaining.
Let’s take a look!
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Alterable, Realistic, and Time-bound. I spent two years in college teaching students how to set goals. The goal setting theory is simple, yet it can be challenging.
Despite the simplicity of this format, I found that time again I saw students struggle writing goals this way. I think the issue is that these goals require reflection and accountability. We also need to be realistic about where we may struggle.
Finally, a challenge to these goals is that it’s very obvious when we fail! Failure is okay, and it’s necessary to improve. But I think that’s why people shy away from writing SMART goals. Let’s break down this format to understand it more!
An example of a non-specific goal is “I want to eat healthier”. While this is a great goal (don’t get me wrong!) it is not formatted in a way that will help us be successful. Specificity relates to how we start writing this goal, but it will also relate to the rest of the letters in the acronym.
Specific, in this example, would be “I want to eat healthier by eating more vegetables.” We’re getting closer to a SMART goal! We’ve made “eating healthier” more specific by choosing to do this by eating more veggies.
But how many more veggies? (As a vegetarian, I would say all the veggies).
The next aspect to a SMART goal is formatting it in a way where we can measure progress towards our goals and objectives. This is one of the two steps that will make it possible to fail, but conversely, it also makes it so that we can achieve the goal! Think about how you can quantify your goal.
Maybe it’s writing or reading a certain number of words per day. Maybe you’re an athlete and want to improve your times by so many minutes. Maybe you want to go out for a walk 20 minutes per day. Whatever it is, find a number to attach to your goal.
Let’s develop our healthy eating example: “I’m going to eat healthier by eating one cup of vegetables per day, five days a week.” I can look back on my day and say, yes or no, did I eat a cup of vegetables per day? Did I eat two cups? Did I eat one spoonful?
Attaching measurable numbers to our goals helps us stay focused.
We are all human, and we make poor estimations of our intentions. Maybe you are a vegetable eating machine and you didn’t realize it! Or maybe eating vegetables is on par with pulling teeth. Either way, by making our goals measurable, we also make them adjustable.
If you’re eating vegetables constantly, maybe raise your goal to 2 cups a day, or eating them every day of the week! Make sure to write down when you make these adjustments, and maybe even jot down why you made the adjustment. This will help you in future goal setting.
You may have noticed that we restricted ourselves to only 5 days of healthy vegetable eating per week. This is with an eye towards ensuring that your goal is realistic. If you are starting from a place of no vegetables in your diet, it’s not going to be realistic to expect you to suddenly become a vegetarian.
Keep in mind the adjustability aspect, though. If you set off into your healthy eating goal and you are finding it easier than you expected to eat a cup of vegetables 5 days a week, you can adjust that goal to every day, or more vegetables.
Same with other types of goal. If it’s too hard, maybe you only read for 30 minutes, five days a week. Remember to challenge yourself and not go to low initially, but keep track of how your goal is going on a weekly basis and make adjustments based on what is realistic for you.
It is important to set a target date for your goal to give yourself some boundaries. It is a good thing to read, or eat vegetables, or exercise, and you should want to keep doing it afterwards. However, you still want to give yourself a time frame for your goal. A time limit will let you look back on your progress or lack thereof, determine if you’ve been successful or not, and then go forward from there.
“I want to eat healthier by eating one cup of leafy green vegetables five days a week for 3 months.” This is a well crafted SMART goal. Since a goal such as “I want to eat healthier”, where we started, can and should be somewhat open ended, adding a time limit creates a sense of urgency which will help us actually reach our goal.
Hopefully, by the time you get to your goal, you’ll want to keep working at it and maybe even make it harder! But, in the mean time, it is important to give yourself a finish line so that you can look back and consider the progress you did or didn’t make towards achieving your goal.
Setting and Achieving Goals
Practice putting these goals into practice and it will help you make better sense of your goals. Remember, though, that you should not try to change too many things at once.
Try to keep a good balance, and remember that even setting goals themselves takes practice! Over time, you’ll get better at it. I hope this is helpful as you work to set and achieve new goals!