Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Goal Setting’

SMART Goals

I haven’t felt the need for resolutions this New Years, perhaps because the last seven months have been a time of focused change for me. But I know lots of other people are making goals, some for the first time in their lives. This post is for them.

As with everything, there are no hard and fast rules for setting goals, but there ARE some tricks and tips that could help you set goals that last beyond January 15th! One of my favorites, that I have used for years and taught to many other, revolves around the acronym SMART.

I mentioned SMART goals in a past post, but I really didn’t elaborate aside from linking to this summary website, which is an excellent resource! A SMART goal has these five characteristics:

* It is Specific.
* It is Measurable.
* It is Attainable or Achievable.
* It is Realistic or Relevant.
* It is Time-Bound or Tangible.

SPECIFIC – What do you REALLY want to do? Lets say your goal is to lose 50 pounds. That’s a great start! But WHEN do you want to do this? A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a vague one.

Make sure you can answer the 5 W’s: who (you), what (lose 50 pounds), when (by 12/31/2009), where (from my body!), why (hmmm…) Sometimes the “why” ‘s the hardest, but most critical one to answer! When you hit the wall and feel like giving up on the goal, remembering your “why” can get you back on track.

MEASURABLE – How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? How will you measure success? When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continue the effort required to reach your goal.

Some goals are inherently more concrete than others (“lose 505 pounds” versus “learn to ski” for example). But all goals can be measured in one way or another. “Learn to ski” might mean being good enough to make it down a certain run in control without falling or it might mean completing 5 ski lessons.

ATTAINABLE or ACHIEVABLE – When you tap into your true inner goals, the things you truly most want to accomplish, you find ways to make them happen. Your desire to accomplish creates your ability to accomplish. You start to discover the means to achieve your goals.

In other words, attainability or achievability is largely determined by your true inner perception. Change the little voice inside your head that tells you that you can’t, believe that you are not only able, but deserve to accomplish your goal, and you can accomplish anything!

REALISTIC OR RELEVANT – In general, goal attainment doesn’t just happen by chance. You have to be both willing and able to work toward it. This takes motivation and focus.

Why do most New Years resolutions fade away after a few weeks? Our motivation, which was strong when we were on vacation and feeling the clean slate of a new year, fades when we lose focus within life’s daily distractions.

Don’t plan to do things if you are unlikely to follow through. Better to plan only a few things and be successful rather than many things and be unsuccessful. Start small, with what you can do, experience the joys of meeting your goal, and only then gradually increase the amount of work that you ask of yourself. Setting goals in which every minute of your day or every penny of your money are accounted for is unrealistic; unplanned events will crop up and wreak havoc with your schedule. Give yourself some flexibility so that you continue to experience success through unpredictable change (this is hardest but probably most critical for us type-A perfectionists who want ti done perfectly or not at all!).

TIME BOUND or TANGIBLE – Setting a time-frame for a goal, as discussed under “specific” up above, is so critical that it deserves to be re-iterated here. I have heard it stated that a goal is a dream with a time-frame! The time-frame can also impact the attainability and realism of a goal. Trying to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks is a far different and more achievable goal than trying to lose 50 pounds in 5 days.

But a good goal should also be tangible, meaning able to be experienced with one of your 5 senses (taste, touch, hearing, smell, or sight). When you lose 50 pounds, you will FEEL your clothes fit better and SEE a healthier person in the mirror. A tangible goal is more likely to specific and measurable, which means a greater likelihood of attainability.

So – what are your SMART goals right now? I can’t wait to hear how you are achieving them!!

Life Lists

Even though my personal life list of things to do before I die has been around since the mid-1980’s, apparently the trend of creating such a list is catching on nation-wide! There was an entire story on NPR’s Talk of the Nation this past Tuesday about life lists and there is even a movie coming out about life lists called “The Bucket List” (things to do before you kick the bucket!) starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

It was interesting to hear people’s opinions in the story (one person called the entire idea of a life list “pathetic and sad”) and to read the blog comments on this story. Some people truly find the idea of a life list appalling, though I really don’t understand why. Perhaps these are the people – and I have known some – what think that if you never have expectations, then you can never be disappointed. But I believe they are also missing out on some of life’s highs trying to avoid the lows.

Some were puzzled by the fact that there are actually professional life coaches to help people accomplish their goals. But really, EVERYONE needs someone to be a cheerleader and support person in his or her life. I am blessed to have a spouse who serves that role for me and saddened for my friends whose spouses treat their dreams as unimportant.

Some people were like me and had been maintaining a list like this for years. Personally, making a life list helped me identify and clarify my heart desires, the things I really wanted to do with my life. Having had an 8 year old sibling die suddenly when I was just 12, I certainly understood sooner than most that life is fleeting. I wanted to be sure to focus in on the activities I truly wanted to accomplish. As I became a parent and my focus shifted away from myself, the list helped to keep me grounded in my own desires so that my personal identify wasn’t subsumed in my children.

In general, I believe goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. (Read more about that here).   In contrast, my life list items are more like dreams than goals: they may or may not be attainable and definitely are NOT bound by realism – the point is to dream and dream big! Many of my items aren’t time bound, either, although some are time-related (like earning enough money for John to retire at age 52).

Do you have a life list? What is the most wild, far out thing on it? Do you believe in your heart that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to? That kind of belief in myself is perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to me by my parents – and one of the greatest gifts I hope to pass on to my children.

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