Note: This is an edited extract from The Complete Guide To Setting Smart Goals.
I’ve been using SMART goals for 20 years or so. That’s a long time!
But recently I was reminded of just how powerful this little approach is.
I had a pair of leather pants that had been a couple of sizes too small for many years. About 6 months before my 43rd birthday, I decided that I really, really, wanted to fit into those pants again. And I wanted to do it by my birthday.
I wanted to lose weight – but ‘lose weight’ is a pretty poor goal. It’s vague; it has no end-point; therefore it isn’t practical; and it has no deadline.
So I created a SMART goal – one that’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed:
I fit comfortably into my leather pants – that is, I can zip them all the way up, walk around, and sit down – by my 43rd birthday.
Unlike ‘lose weight’, this goal was:
Specific: It spelled out exactly what I wanted – fitting into the pants, rather than vague objectives like getting slimmer or losing weight.
Measurable: It told me how I’d know when it was achieved – zipping up and walking around in a particular pair of pants.
Achievable: I had 6 months to go and I was prepared to work out and make changes to my diet – so going down a couple of sizes seemed reasonable.
Relevant: I love wearing cute clothes, and for some reason 43 felt like the age that I really wanted to reach this goal – so getting into those pants was relevant for me, and not at odds with other priorities.
Time-framed: I had a clear date for reaching my goal – my 43rd birthday.
When you compare my SMART goal with the goal ‘I want to lose weight’, you can see how the SMART goal has a lot more power behind it.
And because my goal was so well-defined, I had a ready-made process for achieving it…
• By making the goal specific and measurable, I had a built-in way of monitoring myself. Every night I tried on the leather pants. That way, I could see if I was moving in the right direction, and tweak my approach as needed. (Should I try a different kind of exercise? Eat more vegetables? Drink more water?) It was extremely motivating to see the gradual change as the pants started to fit me again.
• In checking the goal was achievable, I made sure I knew what I had to do – exercising a little more and eating a little more healthfully – and was prepared to do it. I knew it was possible to reach my goal; it wasn’t absurd or outlandish. That knowledge helped to keep me motivated. It wasn’t a fantasy. I knew I could do it!
• By checking the goal was relevant, I pre-empted self-sabotage. I checked that I was doing it for me (I was!) and that it wasn’t at odds with other priorities in my life.
• And because my goal was time-framed, there was a sense of urgency. I couldn’t procrastinate too much; I had to stay reasonably focussed. Of course I wasn’t perfect, but the deadline reminded me, after the inevitable mishaps and back-slides, that I had to get back on the right track.
By my 43rd birthday I was walking around in my leather pants. 🙂
SMART goals can work for you too. They provide an excellent, step-by-step process for turning vague desires into clear objectives that overcome self-sabotage and work with your natural motivation.