It’s time to get SMART and turn your ideas into reality. Do you have a commitment written down that you are ready to turn into five actionable goals? If not, you might want to read my last post “Leap into Action! Get Started on Your Life Goals” to write a commitment that you can use now, as I walk you through how to write SMART goals.
A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. SMART criteria are commonly attributed to Peter Ducker’s management by objectives concept. The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issues of Management Review by George T. Doran.* The principle advantage of SMART goals is that they are easier to understand, to do, and then be reassured that they have been done. While there are plenty of variants (some of which we’ve included in parentheses), I use SMART to stand for:
Aspirational (And Action-oriented)
Relevant (and Results-based)
Time-bound (or Trackable)
Here’s an example of how I turned one of my sample goals from my last post, “Leap into Action: Get Started on Your Life Goals,” into a SMART goal.
Sample Goal: I am committed to being in the best shape of my life.
SPECIFIC: Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. A vague goal, “get in shape” is too general. You can get in shape in so many different ways. Do you want to build strength? Lose unwanted fat? Eat better? Break your goal down and it will be easier to manage.
So, let’s pick strength training and make a SMART goal out of it together. For example, “I will get stronger.”
MEASURABLE: A goal “get stronger” is not enough. How will you track your progress and how will you know when you are stronger? You need to add a number to make your goal measurable.
ASPIRATIONAL: Before you can add a number, you have to know your limits. It’s good to have big dreams, but don’t be too extreme or you will set yourself up for failure. Likewise, a goal that is too easy is also not very motivating.
For example, if you can currently do 5 full push-ups without stopping, an aspirational (yet, attainable goal) would be: “I will be able to do 20 full push-ups in a row without stopping.”
RELEVANT: You should set goals that are important to you and where you are in your life right now. If you are not concerned about getting stronger or this is not a good time in your life to focus on that, choose something else that is motivating to you.
TIME-BOUND: Include an end point. A deadline is very motivating and will get you started and keep you on track.
Since you can already do 5 push-ups and you can realistically add in another full push up every few days, a realistic goal would be 45 days. For example, “I will be able to do 20 full push-ups in a row without stopping in 45 days.”
Whether you write one sentence on your big commitment page or you fill the page with a dozen ideas and goals, the important part is that you write it down. If you do not write it down, you will not make the idea happen. If you have more than one idea you want to fulfill, you may have multiple pages/sections, each with a separate idea commitment and goals.
Review Your Commitments
As you build your strength, you will be able to keep more and more ideas going at once. Right now, I have 144 Big Ideas I will make happen in my lifetime, so I have 144 written commitments in my journal. I review each commitment on a monthly basis. During the review I:
- Confirm priorities
- Review which ones I should be working on to make sure I’m taking action
- Decide if any that are waiting need to be put in motion.
As a bonus to help keep your idea energy flowing, make it a point every week to share the idea you’re working on with one new person. You will be amazed at the resources that show up just from sharing it with people, who then know people, who then can help you get where you want to go.
*Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.