What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
You may or may not have heard of SMART Goals before. If you have, then you’ve probably heard other people’s take on how to create SMART goals, what each of the letters stands for, and examples of SMART goals vs. any other type of goal. If you haven’t then you should definitely check out my Goal Definition Worksheets and get my particular take on how to create them. One of the things that you may find is missing from these hot takes is the WHY? What’s the big deal about SMART goals and why does everyone say you must create them? Well, I’ll tell you, they are super important and I would say fundamental to your goal accomplishment journey. I’m also going to outline 5 reasons why this is so.
Sprint vs. Marathon mentality
If you have ever run track or ask anyone who has ever run track, they would tell you that they train very differently for one type of race than another. The way you train and mentally adjust for a marathon is definitely different than what you’d do for a 100 yard dash.
I mean, can you imagine pushing off the block at full power and speed for a 10K race? You’d burn out much sooner than your competitors which would probably cause you to lose the overall race no matter how much distance you gained early on. Athleticism and achievement are much more about managing your mental state vs. your physical capability anyway. Even worse, imagine you’re at the starting block of a race and no one tells you what type of race it is…you don’t know if it’s a 100 yard dash or a 5K, a relay or an individual event. You would have no way to prepare your mind and body to accommodate the type of race you’re about to experience.
SMART goals help you to clarify and define what type of journey you’re taking. You know whether to prepare yourself for the short term or the long haul. You clearly understand where the finish line is and what success looks like so that your mentality is appropriate at every stage.
Know what success looks like
Have you ever made the “I want to get into shape” goal or the “I want to make more money goal”? If you have, I’m sure you may have been disappointed with your level of achievement because you didn’t have a clue whether or not you’ve succeeded. For the most part, we are notoriously hard on ourselves. Even when you’ve made progress, sometimes you’ve felt that it wasn’t “enough”? So, if you gain $1 more than what you had before, is that what you were initially striving for? Likely not…it’s likely that you wanted to achieve a more significant financial glow up than $1. Or if you go from a shape of round to a shape of rounder, do you count that as a win?… You did get into a shape. I expect not. I expect that if you thought about it, there were some more tangible weight loss, nutrition or fitness habits that you wanted to create a lifelong habit around. In other words, all you have to show for your trial and effort is disappointment.
SMART goals allow you to see exactly what success looks like. You no longer have to guess when or whether you’ve reached your goals because you’ve made that milestone apparent right in the definition.
Know when to course correct
Whenever you venture out on an unfamiliar trip, you typically punch the destination into your GPS or draw the trip out on a map to find the most effective way to get there. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t always follow the GPS/map to the letter (because I be thinking I know better). Sometimes, I benefit from those decisions and sometimes I don’t. Most times, I wouldn’t know until I reached my destination whether I had shot myself in the foot or not. Certainly, if I looked at the landmarks around me and compared that to the GPS, I could tell that I was going out of the way from my destination, which would cause me to pay better attention and get myself on the right path.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
In every journey, there will be some rocks and obstacles in the road. You may not have a good view of the destination so you could get confused about whether you’re on the right track. This could happen even with the best defined goals but it’s a near inevitably if you don’t have your goals defined in a SMART manner. Because you have such a clear vantage point when you define SMART goals, you can see which landmarks you should be hitting along the way to make sure you stay on track. If you’re not hitting those milestones, then you can make adjustments in order to get yourself pointed in the right direction. You don’t have to wait until you’re supposed to have arrived to realize that you’re not where you’re supposed to be.
SMART goals give you the perspective to be able to identify landmarks along the way and to course correct if you find you’re about to miss the destination completely.
Stay focused on your goal
Oh the distractions, the shiny objects, the “expert” advice, the chatter…SQUIRELL!!! There is no shortage of WAYS to achieve any one thing in life. Let’s take health improvements as an example. If you just say “I want to get healthier” then all of a sudden, you’re inundated by this diet, and that diet…this exercise plan or that one…this pill, that procedure…freeze your fat off…stop eating carbs…no…just stop eating meat…eat for your blood type…yoga…HIIT…the list goes on and on. You can spend a countless number of hours chasing one method or another, while never making any true progress at all. On top of that, you feel like you’ve been doing sooooo much and trying sooooo hard and still you’re virtually in the same spot you started at. It’s enough to cozy up in some sweats with a big spoon and a pint of ice cream and say “Screw it! I’ll try again next year.”
SMART goals allow you to focus on the key tools and method you’re going to use to achieve them and minimizes the distractions from all the other shiny objects that try to get in the way.
Keep you from confusing activity with results
This is one of my FAVORITE sayings ever! Don’t confuse activity with results! So often in life, we feel like we’re hamsters running on a wheel. No matter how hard you run or how much you sweat, that doesn’t mean you’re actually going anywhere. You’ve expended a lot of energy on activity but don’t really have any results to show for it. This is one of the traps I find myself and those around me fall into so easily. It’s also one of the most frustrating things to deal with. In fact, this issue often goes hand in hand with the lack of focus spoken of above.
The reason that confusing activity with results is so easy is that there are so many great ideas out there that are kinda sorta like what you think you want to do. If we’re not clear on exactly what we want to do, then all of these ideas seem to be a decent fit. We’ve also been convinced by society at large that multitasking is the key to working efficiently. I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as multitasking. The brain is actually not capable of doing two things simultaneously. There is only rapid switching and if you do any research on the matter, you’ll find that we are significantly less efficient and effective when we rapid-switch. So trying this thing, that thing, and the other creates a vicious cycle of poor productivity, confusion, and disappointment.
When you define SMART goals, you also define exactly what you’re going to do to achieve them. When you find yourself taking a particular course of action, you have a clear framework to check if your activities are really aligned with what you’ve defined. You can ask yourself “is what I’m trying to do now, really going to move me closer to my endpoint or is it just busy work that’s distracting me from my goal?”
One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.
No matter what, achieving goals is a challenge (if they’re not, then you’re not doing it right). It’s a challenge because we often have to change our behavior. We have to step out of our comfort zones and adjust our mentality to fit the newly upgraded state of being we’re striving for. What you don’t want to do is set yourself up for assured failure by coming off the racing block as if you’re running a marathon when you really should be in a sprint (or vice versa). Defining your goals properly is the key to success and by doing so you will find that:
- You have clarity on whether you’re in a sprint or a marathon
- You know what success looks like
- You know how to course correct along the way
- You stay focused on your goal
- You stop confusing activity with results
SMART Goals are the key to experiencing these benefits and I’ve even discovered a twist to the traditional definition of SMART that I think you will truly benefit from. If you haven’t done so already, download my Goal Definition Worksheets. Not only will you get a made-for-you framework for defining your SMART goals, but you will have access to video training where you can get a front row seat to how I am defining my goals for 2019. With this Freebie, I’ll show you what to do AND how to do it so you won’t be alone on your journey to achieving all of your goals, each and every time!
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