Well, it’s January so you know what that means: goal setting time! All around the world, at work and home, people are setting their goals for the year. Whether it’s New Years resolutions or the yearly business goals and objectives, odds are you’re probably setting goals this month.
Taking the time to prepare upfront is a smart investment when it comes to goal setting. It’s important to take the time to get clarity around what goals you want for the year and how you plan to achieve those goals. A goal without a plan is just a wish.
A great way to set goals is to focus on setting SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based goals. Going through the mental exercise of addressing each of these elements will help you create a better goal and set you up for success.
Our Bright Star Coaching theme for January 2020 is “Setting a Fitness Routine” so let’s use that as an example as we walk through each of these elements in creating a SMART goal. Even if a fitness routine isn’t your goal, you can use this framework for really any goal you have in mind. I use it every year when setting my goals at work.
Get specific about what you want to achieve. The more clarity you can bring to your goal, the better. Back in 2009, I wanted to get healthy. I was overweight, wasn’t eating right and my exercise routine just wasn’t cutting it. I made the goal to run my first 5k for my birthday and to lose 15lb. These are specific goals. I wanted to run the full 3.1 miles of the 5k without stopping and I had a specific target weight in mind. It’s important that you are specific with your goals. That will be hugely beneficial as you move to the next step and make a plan for hitting your goal.
Once you’ve got your specific goal in mind, it becomes so much easier to make it measurable. Take stock of where you are today and create a plan that will get you to your goal while taking measurements along the way to track your progress. I cannot overstate the importance of tracking your progress toward your goal. I have seen so many people fail at achieving their goals because they aren’t tracking their progress. In my case, I had a 5k race in mind: the Race for the Cure happened to be scheduled for just a few days before my birthday. I found a couch to 5k program that I followed and I took my weight every week as I worked toward my goal. When I started, I couldn’t even run more than five minutes but by measuring my progress, I was able to work my way up to the thirty minutes or so of running that was necessary to finish my race. For fitness goals, I love using events as motivation. There are tons of road races available to choose from and – if you want to focus not just on cardio but also on strength – then obstacle course racing is a great option as well! Last year, my goal was to achieve my first Spartan Trifecta. I had never completed a half-marathon distance before but – with training and measuring my progress, I was able to achieve my goal.
This step is perhaps the most difficult. Figuring out what is “achievable” for you, requires you to be honest about where you are currently and what goal would allow you to stretch but not break. This is why I started the January series this year with posts asking you to Start Where You Are and to understand What’s Stopping You. You must do this internal reflection first before getting choosing an appropriate goal. You need to be honest about where you really are currently which might not be where you wish you were. Back in 2009, I could barely run for five minutes so setting a goal to finish a 5k in about three months was something I could realistically achieve. Sure, it would be hard and would require me to push myself but it was achievable for me. I did the Trifecta in 2019, not 2009. I wasn’t ready for a half-marathon distance in 2009. How did I figure out what was achievable back then? I did a dry run. I figured that the 5k would take me about 30 to 45min to complete so I got on a treadmill and decided to see if I could keep moving for that amount of time. I was able to alternate walking and running for 30min so I knew that the 5k was an achievable goal for me. Be honest about where you are, don’t attempt to set your goal too high. Setting a goal too high can lead to discouragement when you realize you were reaching too high.
Choose a goal that is meaningful and relevant for you. Before I set my goals to lose the weight and run the 5k, I had learned that my body fat percentage with in the “obese” range. Getting in shape at the age of 25 was critically important to me. I have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses that can be prevented or at least managed with lifestyle changes. Getting a handle on my health was extremely relevant to me, I felt like my life depended on it. When a goal isn’t relevant to you, it isn’t important and it will be easy to lose motivation when the going gets tough. Growth is never easy, it always requires that we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Setting a goal that you love and that is extremely relevant to you is critical to success.
A quick side note for any middle-management leaders out there reading this post: you can still make a goal relevant to your team even when those goals are coming from above. If you lead a team working for a larger company, your team has a role to play in the success of the company, find a way to connect your team goals to the higher level goals – that will help make your goals more relevant to you and your team.
A goal without a timeline is an intention. Don’t get me wrong, setting an intention is great but that isn’t the same thing as a goal. A goal is something you want to achieve and having a timeline helps add to the specificity we discussed earlier. In my case, I had a specific race with a date in mind. The Race for the Cure was going to happen on that date, whether or not I was ready. This gave me a very specific date and helped me plan my training so that I could improve my cardio fitness in time for the race. Having a time-based goal helps to bring all of the other elements together: a goal that is time-based is more specific and easier to measure. Set a timeline that is achievable, something that will stretch you to improve without leading to failure and discouragement.
Set SMARTer Goals
Check out this template I created to helping me set SMARTer goals. No matter what goal you have, this framework is extremely helpful. Now, get out there and shine!