A goal is something we want to achieve. Setting goals is a powerful way to implement change in our lives. Without goals, we have no vision for where we are going. With them, we have a road map and a visible destination.
But setting goals isn’t as simple as stating our desire. There is an art to goal setting—master the art and you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
To experience success, set goals that are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.
Specific: A goal needs to be specific, otherwise how will you know what you are working toward or when you have attained it? Resist the temptation to set vague goals such as: “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape.” Instead, get specific: “I will lose five pounds by March 1st”; or, “I will be able to run five miles without stopping by April 1st.”
Measurable: A goal needs to be measurable so that you can track your progress and document your success. You can measure weight loss by tracking your weight, your clothing size, or inches lost. You can measure fitness by setting a target—such as 10 pull-ups. A goal such as “I want to get in shape” is neither specific nor measurable. How will you measure growth? Set a benchmark that you can track.
Attainable: Set yourself up for success by setting attainable goals. “I want to lose 20 pounds in a week” is not an attainable goal. A goal like that is a guarantee of failure, which leads to misery. Instead, set a goal to lose one pound a week for 20 weeks. That is an attainable goal that will leave you feeling successful.
Realistic: It’s fun to dream, but it’s also important to be realistic. If your goal is to complete an Ironman triathlon, but you have a full-time job, small children, and you don’t know how to swim, you’re probably not on track to work toward this goal right now. File it away for a later date and instead, focus on goals that are realistic for your current life. Perhaps your first goal could be to learn to swim and then complete a short, sprint triathlon.
Timely: In order to be useful, goals need to have a time frame. Without a time frame, we have no motivation to take action. Having a specific time frame will spur you into action and help you monitor your progress. If you’ve been saying, “I want to run a marathon” for years, it’s time to pick a race and start training.
So, get busy. Set smart goals and have fun working toward them. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel will be worth it!