Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply press a button on our smart phone and ask Siri for the directions for our 2015 journey? We plug in our destination, tell her to route it from where we are now and hit start. Within seconds our journey is laid out before us. We can zoom in on the details; what path to take, when to take it and how long we will be on it. We can zoom out to check our progress throughout the year; gauging how far we’ve come and how far we have left before we arrive at our destination.
Unfortunately no such GPS exists. The only reliable map is the one that resides in us.
Many of us start off the year with hopes and dreams for the coming days, weeks and months. Perhaps there is a goal that you’ve set for yourself such as get healthy, establish financial stability, or get that new job. Unfortunately, Siri isn’t equipped to handle these types of requests. If you ask Siri to get you to your utopia she can send you to Utopia, Ohio or Utopia, Texas both of which I’m sure are great places to live and visit. However, neither is likely to get you closer to achieving your goal. The best way to achieve success is to start SMART.
S = Specific: When it comes to laying out the roadmap for your goal the most important aspect is being very clear about what the outcomes should be. Being specific about your destination is the first step in enabling your success. I like to write goals as a positive outcome. For example if you want to get healthy as a goal for this year instead of writing the goal as “lose weight” you might write it as “fit into a smaller dress size.” Losing weight is a fine goal but buying new clothes that make me feel and look great is even better.
M = Measurable: How will you know when you get there? Being clear about when you’ve arrived is crucial to knowing if the goal has been met. If you ask Siri to get you to Utopia but don’t give her an exact address she is just as likely to drop you off at the city jail as a road side park. As a result our get healthy goal gets improved on by modifying it to “fit into a size 10 dress.”
A = Action Oriented: What route are you going to take to get there? Are you walking or driving to your destination? Like Siri you can plot your path by selecting a number of ways to reach your destination. Are you planning on flying? At which point your get healthy destination is most likely going to involve a trip to a spa or plastic surgeon with all the tools and techniques available to them. Driving may involve enrolling in a weight loss program or gym membership. Walking will likely be the old fashioned do-it-yourself diet and exercise routines. Each path leads to the same outcome – it’s simply a matter of choosing the path that is right for you. For instance a friend of mine recently lost a lot of weight by employing the services of a trainer twice a week. In that situation our goal now reads “fit into a size 10 dress by working with a trainer twice a week.”
R = Realistic: How far away from the destination are you today? Is this something that can be achieved based on the resources available to you? I’m a big believer in setting stretch goals and pushing myself to achieve them. However, setting goals that are not realistic tend to create a self-defeating energy that makes it too easy to give up part way along the journey. In our get healthy example we have to look at the person’s current size to determine how much stretch is in the goal. If you are at a size 12 the task is very realistic; if you are currently a size 22 the goal may be too great a stretch. Find the stretch that makes the goal realistic for you.
T = Time Oriented: When do I need to be at my destination? Do I have some flexibility in my timeline if a detour occurs, which invariably will happen? Establishing a timeline is critical to the goal otherwise the goal can go on without end or without any sense of urgency. When creating a SMART goal I like to establish the timeline for the overall destination and then break that down into smaller time allotments. I find for me that time periods of roughly 6 weeks is the length of my natural attention span. If a project or goal is going to take me longer than that I need to break it into smaller components each with their own SMART goal that leads to the final destination.
Once we put all the pieces together our goal should come out like this “Fit into a size 10 dress by November 1 by working out with a personal trainer twice a week.”
A clear destination is step 1 but by no means the end of the process. Next post we'll talk about laying out the action steps to ensure you achieve your destination on time and on budget.