Get SMART – why people with goals succeed

Goals - SMART

Why have goals?

In 1979, the graduating Harvard MBA class was asked if they had set clear written goals for themselves and if so, did they have a plan to achieve them. Only 3% of the class had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was astounding: The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined.

Who can remember a year that they didn’t have any written goals, where they drifted and ended up in more or less the same spot a year later? I sure can, but then I got lucky – someone educated me as to the importance of writing down your goals when I was very early into my career. They said to me: “If you aim at nothing then you’re likely to hit it.” As a coach, I start with a goal setting exercise. I’ve been fortunate enough to go through this process literally hundreds of times. What I know is that the proof (or science) of goal setting is listed above, but the actual creation of goals is a real art. This key aspect is where most people go wrong and lose the real power of goal setting.

Going back to Harvard, and hopefully I’ve established the importance of goals, and as it’s basically the beginning of the year (3 weeks in is ideal, 2 minutes – i.e. the drunken resolution isn’t) I thought it may be useful to offer you my insights into creating powerful goals. This week I’ll outline the ‘how to’ of goal setting, next week I’ll tackle how to set about achieving them!

The first step is deciding in which area of your life you’d like to achieve something great or different.

When considering how the goal will become meaningful, I personally break them into five separate areas as they motivate me in different ways:

  1. Investment: Make an investment or perhaps achieve a number in the bank. For example buy an investment property. Build a $10,000 share portfolio.
  2. Skills and knowledge: Skills you would like to master or learn such as learning to swim, Spanish or shoot a pistol.
  3. Job/employment/business goals: Gain a promotion, achieve a certain level of income, or if it’s your own business – achieve a turnover or profit level.
  4. Family: What sort of Husband, friend, son, brother or father do you want to be?
  5. Health, fitness, and wellbeing:
    a. Emotional, spiritual or physical goals such as improving your strength.
    b. To go on a holiday – a dream location? An unusual adventure like snowboarding in Iran?
    c. What you would like to buy: a car – what sort? A European marque? Or buy a new home – in which suburb? How many bedrooms/bathrooms? What value? A holiday home – where? What features? Boat – how big? What purpose?
    d. Social Goals – philanthropy and giving. A dollar, time or outcome basis?
    e. Paying your debt off or joining KiwiSaver and accumulating a certain amount.

This should give you a starting point to work with. Then use the SMART rules of goal setting:

S Specific: Significant, Stretching, Simple.

M Measurable: Motivational, Manageable, Meaningful.

A Attainable: Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Adjustable, Ambitious, Aligned, Aspirational, Acceptable, Action-focused.

R Relevant: Result-Based, Results-oriented, Resourced, Resonant, Realistic.

T Timely: Time-oriented, Time framed, Timed, Time-based, Time-boxed, Time-bound, Time-Specific, Timetabled, Time limited, Trackable.

Hopefully, now you’ll have a considered area to work but make sure that the goal is aspirational (or positive). I’ll grab an example and work with you on it here… for example not ‘to lose 5kgs’, but instead ‘be 85kgs and ripped’ or ‘size 10 and sexy…’ The reason is that the brain is likely to stay focused on something stated positively far more so than something negative, plus you’ll conjure up many more strategies for achievement if the objective is stated in a good way.

If you’re convinced of the area but not the wording, finesse it. For example, suppose you set the goal to become a public speaker.

The first draft might read:
My goal is to “become an accomplished public speaker”.

Second draft:
My goal is to “be an enthusiastic speaker who gets an audience on its feet.”

Third draft:
My goal is to “be such an inspiring speaker I get a standing ovation every time.”

My last tip is the most valuable

You don’t need to know how you’re going to get there when you first chuck it down on paper. If it’s worthy, your goal should be a bit scary and exciting; if you aim for the stars – you’re likely to hit the top of the trees, if you aim for the top of the trees you’re likely to not get off the ground. Next week I’ll share strategies on how you can set yourself up for success and achieve your goals.