Do you know the difference between a dream and a goal?
A goal is just a dream with a deadline. When it comes to reaching and attaining goals, writing them down is very important (see our previous article), but defining them is even more so. Properly defining your goal goes a long way to actually reaching it, and when you have defined and attained goals again and again, your life gets better and better.
Everyone should have real solid goals at every stage of their life. It’s not important to know what your goals will be when you’re 80. What are your goals now? Consider the method of making SMART goals.
Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. A general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a gym and workout 3 days every week.” A general goal would be “I will buy a car,” but a specific goal is “I will buy a used green Ford F-150 pick up truck.” Make your goals as specific as possible, and you increase the likelihood of actually attaining them.
Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goal. That is, if it is a real goal, you should be able to measure something about it. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask yourself one question – “How can I measure my success?” If you can’t measure it, you can’t attain it.
Attainable – This means that the goal is possible or do-able by you. A man may want to climb Mt. McKinley, but if he is paralyzed from the neck down, this is not a realistic, attainable goal. You can attain most any goal you set when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow you to possess them. Make sure they are attainable.
Relevant – This means personally meaningful to you. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals. This means the goal you set must have some personal importance to you. It must be meaningful to you – not someone else.
Time-Determined – A goal without a deadline is just a dream. A goal should have a deadline. With no deadline, there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a time-frame, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal. Every dream with a deadline is a goal. Every goal without a deadline… is dead.
Finally, there is the idea of commitment and motivation. How will you keep yourself motivated to attain your goal. One of my favorite true stories is about a college aged man who wanted to lose a certain amount of weight by a particular date. He wanted to be sure he would attain it. So what did he do? He gathered his buddies together (always dangerous), produced a can of dog food declaring that if he did not reach his goal weight by the deadline, he would eat the can of dog food, and he expected his friends to keep him to it. Now THAT’s commitment to a goal.
Suffice it to say, he reached his goal in plenty of time.
Do you need some motivation? Commit SMART goals to writing, and if you know you need the help with commitment and motivation, introduce some unfavorable consequences in the presence of those friends who you can trust to keep you honest.