Would you like a “Setting SMART Goals Worksheet” that’s easy to use and you can download today? Then read on and you’ll find just that in this article along with some practical advice on the very best way to set your goals and keep your motivation.
Why Set Goals?
It’s an open secret that all successful people, elite athletes and top-calibre business people know: setting goals helps you achieve the things you want to.
And besides, you can’t hit something you can’t see.
Goals give you something to work towards, a dream if you like, of something that you will have, become or do in the future.
Whether it’s President John F. Kennedy in 1961 announcing that, before the end of the decade, America would put a person safely on the Moon, or Martin Luther King having a vision for human rights, it doesn’t matter what area you work in, or that you want to achieve something in, setting goals can really help.
If you’ve heard about the law of attraction then you will understand that what we think about is what we make in our reality. You can read more about the concept here, but just go with this for a moment. Everything begins first as a thought. Every car, house, job, article of clothing, has to begin as a thought in someones’ mind.
They then have to take steps and actions to bring that ‘thought’ into reality or manifestation. This can be spurred on by the energy and cooperative compenents of the universe, but it starts with the inspired thought.
But how do they get from the thought or dream, to the thing in their hand?
That’s where goals come in.
Research behind goal setting
Setting goals has been proven to:
- increase motivation
- improve achievement
Setting goals has been shown to increase motivation for achieving that goal. In 1982, Mitchell (Mitchell, 1982) defined motivation as:
“those psychological processes that cause the arousal, direction, and persistence of voluntary actions that are goal directed”
which is just a simple way of saying that motivation is what makes you get up and do something!
Later research into motivation showed that people’s motivation increases when they are given specific goals to do instead of just being told to ‘do their best‘. (Locke & Brian, 1966, 1967; and Locke & Latham, 2002).
There have been literally hundreds of experimental and correlational studies that have concluded that setting goals increases the success of the subjects in various settings. In education for example, a study by Morisano et al. in 2010 looked at whether a program of intensive, written, online goal setting could help struggling students improve their academic achievement.
They then led the students to set specific goals and more importantly, detailed strategies for achieving those goals. After only 4 months, there was a significant improvement (an average 30% increase) in the academic performance of the students who had successfully completed all the goal setting challenges set them.(Morisano et al., 2010)
And this is just the tip of the iceberg – goal setting and goal planning can help you achieve the results you want.
What Area of Your Life Do You Need to Set Goals In?
Setting goals is simple the process of defining an outcome you want to achieve and then breaking down how you will achieve it.
There are many areas of your life that you can set goals in and one of the first things I do when seeing a life coach client, is to prioritise the areas of their life that they want to work on.
In general, there are 8 areas that you can work on, which are:
- Family & Friends
- Personal Growth
- Fun & Recreation
- Physical Environment (i.e.. your home, where you live)
TASK – this simple task will help you prioritise which area of your life you want to focus on at this time.
- Print out or download the Wheel Of Life Exercise as shown above.
- Taking each section at a time, and starting at the centre, colour in the segment to show how satisfied you are with that area of your life. For example, if you are muddling along in your career, and would say you were 50% satisfied with that area, then colour or shade in 5 of the small segments from the centre towards the outside of the ‘career’ segment.
- Move on to the next segment and repeat the process for this segment. E.g.. If you are not very happy with your ‘Money’ situation, and would rate that 3/10, then only colour in the first 3 of the small segments in the ‘money’ section.
- When you have completed the whole wheel, you will get an idea of how balanced you think your life currently is.
When you have completed the task, you might end up with something a bit like this:
If you imagine the shaded areas are the ‘wheels’ of the car in which you are riding through life, you can see that you would be having a pretty bumpy ride at this time because your ‘wheel’ is unbalanced and there are areas of your life that you need to focus on.
Your aim is to smooth out the ride and get yourself to a place where you are more satisfied with all aspects of your life.
In this case, ‘intimate relationships’, ‘money’ and ‘physical environment’ are some areas where it would be helpful to focus and set some goals for these parts of your life.
How To Set SMART Goals
A long time ago, setting a goal meant saying “I’m going to win this”, or “I’m going to succeed“. The old “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better“, mantra.
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE THIS MANTRA and use it often simply because it is general and I don’t have any resistance to it.
However, in recent years, goals have become SMARTER and more focused. Nowadays, SMART goals are the way to not only motivate yourself but also to give you accountability and a timeline.
SMART is just an acronym that has a few different variations, but I’ve list the one I like below, in which SMART stands for:
S = SPECIFIC
This means that instead of being general with your goal (“I want to lose weight”, or “I want more money”), you create more specific goals which you can really focus on. In the examples above, you would specify how much weight you want to lose or how much more money you want, e.g. “I want to lose 30kgs” or “I want to earn £10,000 more a year”.
Focus is the key here because it is easier to focus on a specific target than to shoot into the air just hoping to hit something.
You should also write in the first person and present tense: that means saying “I will”. Don’t write wishy-washy things like “I hope to” or “I will try to“. Remember the first rule of being a Jedi accorinding to Yoda – “Do or do not, there is no try!” It may be a sci-fi film but there is truth there nonetheless.
M = MEASURABLE
Having a goal that is measurable means that you can chart your progress and see how close you are to your target. It also lets you know when you reach it.
In our examples above, the goals would be measured by how much weight you actually lost or how much more money you made in a year.
If your goal is not about things you can easily measure (such as having more fun in your life for example), then you can make it measurable by saying things like: “I will go out with my friends at least twice a week” or “I will take my children to the park at least once a week“.
It’s important here to keep a record so that you can indeed ‘measure’ what you have, or have not achieved.
A = ACHIEVABLE/AGREED
This means that it has to be within your current abilities to achieve your goal or that it is something that is agreed you can achieve. It’s important because it means that you are setting yourself something that you have the potential to achieve.
I am never going to be able to win an ‘under 25’ swimming contest for example, not because I’m not a fast swimmer, but because I’m more than twice that age now, but I could enter a veteran contest if I so desired.
The trick here is to know what is outside your comfort zone and what is outside your potential abilities. The two are different.
Sometimes the things we want to achieve lay well outside our comfort zone, but definitely within our ability. Our job then is to break through our own limitations to reach the goal.
R = REALISTIC/RELEVANT
This is a similar to something that is achievable and I like to think of this one as being something that you really want or need to do which is not just a far-flung dream.
There is nothing wrong with having dreams, In fact, I actively encourage it, but when it comes to setting your goals, they need to be relevant and realistic. That means breaking down your larger dreams into smaller, relevant and realistic steps.
You must have your dreams, and your SMART goals then become the steps on the way to that dream.
So if your dream is to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and you are currently unfit and have not worked out in a while, then you will need to break your training down into smaller steps. So your first goal might be to “go for a walk of at least 30 minutes, every day”. This would be relevant and realistic in your current position. As you get fitter, you can adjust the goals and extend them to make them more challenging.
T = TIMED
This just means that you add a time frame to your goal, which will help make it measurable. So you could give yourself 2 months to lose 10kgs or one year to make an additional £10,000, but the main thing is that you set a deadline.
The time frame for each goal will depend on where you start, how many steps you need to take and your current resources and abilities. There are no set rules so you can be flexible and realistic here. You can always review and reassess the time lines in the light of your progress elsewhere.
You may have goals that are 5 year’s ahead but you can break these down into smaller steps and tackle each one independently. They could be one year goals, 3 month goals, monthly, weekly, or even daily, to-do list goals. But treat each one in the same way and you will make massive strides towards the things you really want.
It is set up to help you create SMART goals, so you can make sure that you are fulfilling the best criteria when you set your goals.
Add in Your Reasons To Increase Your Motivation
Having set your SMART goals, you also need to remind yourself daily the reason WHY you want to achieve them.
One of the best motivational speakers I have found is Anthony Robbins and he, among others, advocates a system of goal setting that includes adding a section to your goal-setting about what you will personally gain, when you achieve your goal.
That might be nothing to do with the actual goal itself, but it is the thing that keeps you going and keeps you motivated.
For example, you might want to lose weight, but what you will gain when you do might be:
- greater health
- better self-esteem
- more confidence
- the ability to play with your children or grand-children.
These things may be more difficult to measure, but if you keep them at the forefront of your mind, they can help keep you motivated.
What resources do you need and how will you get them?
The next thing to ascertain in your goal-setting process, is if you need any resources such as more information, money, education or people to help you achieve your goals.
Analysing what you need to get to where you want to go, is vital. If you’re climbing a mountain, you need the right gear; if you want to earn more money, you may need extra training or qualifications; and if you want to lose weight, you might decide to join a group or seek support from your doctor.
Whatever you need, make a list and then set about getting them. Your first goal might even be to locate or secure the resouces you need.
What next? Read and Revise
Finally, you need to read through your goals EVERY DAY.
Yes, your read that correctly. If you want to stay motivated, reading through your goals (and especially the WHY part of what you stand to gain), is important. It will remind you and help you to battle through the doubt times.
And you will need to revise your goals regularly in the light of your progress.
You can do this as you start your day, and set yourself up to have a goal-focused day, or you can do this before you go to bed. Focus on the things you have done, rather than things you have not. But learn the lessons if there are lessons to be learned and start afresh the next day.
No one gets to their goal without making mistakes and without learning lessons. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day, just start again and keep going one step at a time.
And remember to break your larger goals down into smaller steps.
Every mountain can be climbed if you approach it one step at a time.
Other Things You Can Do To Help You Achieve Your Goals
There is a lot of information about how other things can help you stay focused and reach your goals as well, including using:
- Audio and audiovisual programs (Subliminal or Binaural)
- Vision boards
- Law of Attraction
- Positive Thinking
I refer you to my other site at How To Create Your Own Life, which goes into more detail about the law of attraction, and different ways you can use positive thinking and NLP techniques to increase your chance of achieving your goals.
I hope you have found this article and download useful. Please leave a comment to let me know how you get on.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.
Locke , E.A., & Bryan, J.F. (1966). Cognitive aspects of psychomotor performance: The effects of performance goals on level of performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 50, 417420.
Mitchell, T.R. (1982). Motivation: new direction for theory and research. Academy of Management Review,7(1), 808.