Setting Realistic, SMART Goals

A successful person doesn’t quit trying once a goal is reached, but sets a new one and keeps going.

I saw this quote the other day and it made me think about goals, dreams and hopes.

It’s easy to talk about setting goals, we might even contemplate actually putting something to paper, but few of us take the next step which is writing them down and making them real. When we commit them to paper, they are no longer random thoughts rattling around in our head but something in black and white that challenges us to step up and make it happen.

Writing down your goals is a good way to make that transition from dream to reality. The follow up to that would be to devise a set of actionable steps that will help you carry out your plans.

SMART goals are a good way to move from thinking about doing something to getting it done. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

To reach a specific goal ask yourself the who, what, where, when and why questions. Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where will this take place? When will it take place? Why do I want this to happen?

A goal that is measurable is one that can be tracked by progress.  When you measure progress, track results and meet deadlines, it spurs you on toward greater accomplishment. Ask yourself questions like “How many?” “How much?”  “How will I know the goal is accomplished?”

Attainable goals help you identify what is most important to you. Once you do that, you can figure out step by step how to make it happen. You will develop the attitude, skill and ability to reach that goal.  This part of goal setting requires planning. You need to think out each step of action you need to take to make the goal happen and the time frame in which you’d like to see the results. Even goals that are a stretch (ones that get you beyond your comfort zone) are attainable when you grow to reach them. If your goal is to get out the door on time in the morning, what specific steps can you take to make sure it happens?

To be realistic, a goal must represent an end result you are willing and able to achieve. You can have a stretch goal that is up there in the stars and still have it be realistic. You are the only one who can decide how lofty your goal should be. Just make sure it represents progress. Some of the highest goals accomplished didn’t seem that difficult because they were a labor of love or evolved from a deep passion. If you honest-to-goodness believe your goal can be accomplished, then it is probably realistic. You can also determine if a goal is realistic by looking at past accomplishments or determining what conditions or factors need to exist for the goal to be realized.

A goal is timely when it is tied to a time frame and has a sense of urgency. The steps leading to the accomplishment of your goal will also be time-based.

So let’s look at a goal. You might set a goal  that states   “I will publish my first novel this year!”

While that is a good start, when you make it SMART you make it doable and provide the basis to hold yourself accountable.  “I will see my book available for purchase on Amazon by 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 2012.” Anyone could go to Amazon’s website  at 5 p.m. Dec. 20, 2012 and see if you in fact have your book published there.

This is where you will also create your action steps. You might write down something like:

To achieve this goal I will …

• Finish writing my book by August 31, 2012.

• Find Beta Readers and Proofreaders.

• Design a cover (or hire a designer).

• Research the steps involved in self-publishing.

• Check in weekly with Susie and Jane to h0ld me accountable to my goals.

You get the idea.

When you share this goal with at least two other people, it will hold you accountable and help keep you on track.

The last part of the goal is setting a reward for yourself when you achieve it. Put it in writing and hold yourself to it. What realistic thing would you award yourself for meeting the goal? A pedicure?  A spa day? Dinner at a favorite restaurant? Think of something that will give you some inspiration to keep going when you feel yourself dragging.

Set those goals and see what fantastic things you can achieve when you plan it out step by step.

As my auntie used to say “plan your work and work your plan!”

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