Setting goals is pivotal for success. This is true in your personal and professional life. If you want to go far in your career, you need to have goals. If you want to manage your finances well, you need to have money goals. The list goes on.
Goals can be this fluffy thing people struggle with because they are not always easy to make them strong and sticky. Especially if they're long-term. You never know what might happen tomorrow. I struggle with this as well which is why my goals tend to be short to mid-term especially when it comes to my career development. I'm the type of person who looks for the next opportunity to make an impact. Business environments change so I prefer to be agile and adapt to the needs of the market rather than stick to a 5 or 10-year goals plan.
However, even short-term goal setting can be difficult.
Many of you are familiar with the SMART framework for goal-setting but have you heard of another version called SMARTER?
I recently read a book called "Your Best Year Ever" by Michael Hyatt. It's a self-help book that offers a 5-step plan to help people achieve their most important goals and make significant progress in their personal and professional lives. The book focuses on providing practical strategies and actionable advice to set and accomplish goals effectively to lead a purposeful and fulfilling life. I think we all know this but the challenge is putting it into practice.
What I found most useful was the book's spin on the SMART framework into SMARTER with a couple of important changes.
How to Set SMARTER Goals
The book's SMARTER framework stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-Keyed, Exciting, and Relevant. Most of these we know (with an adjusted to the R from Reasonable to Risky); it's the addition of Exciting that I find very important in today's world and business environment. It's what allows people to create more compelling goals that are more relevant to our reality nowadays and to their individual passions.
Let's look at the complete framework.
S for Specific
Making goals specific makes them more exciting and sticky so you can recall them during the day and make better and faster decisions. If your goal is to “Read more," you may constantly wonder "What should I be reading and when?". But if make your goal “Read more biographies of great leaders” you have a much better direction to focus on.
M for Measurable
This one is all about your percentage of completeness. If your goal is “Read more biographies of great leaders” you can’t provide a clear answer. But if change your goal to “Read one biography of a great leader each month” you could say "I'm about 60% complete on my reading goal this month."
A for Actionable
Does your goal invoke a concrete action? Start your goal with a concrete verb rather than “Have” or “Be.” In our example, “Read one biography a month” instead of “Be an avid reader”. Doing this ensures you have a direction from one place to another in your goal.
R for Risky
The usual SMART framework suggests setting reasonable goals. But if a goal doesn't invoke a bit of fear, uncertainty or doubt, you’re not maximising your potential. Whatever your goal, try stretching it. Instead of “Read one biography a month” can you “Read two biographies a month?” When you stretch your goal, you're bound to encounter a limiting belief. You might think, "I can't do two books a month. I'm a slow reader." Replace that limiting belief with a liberating truth by adding the word “yet” to the end of your limiting belief. For example, “I’m a slow reader” becomes "I'm not a fast reader yet." Replacing limiting beliefs with liberating truths will knock down internal obstacles, and you can achieve more than you initially thought.
T for Time-Keyed
When you set a specific time to complete your goal, like “Read two biographies of great leaders each month,” you create a sense of urgency, which dramatically increases your chances of completing your goal. You should also establish a reliable trigger (a specific time or existing habit) to ensure you take consistent action towards your goals. For example, "I will read two biographies of great leaders each month by reading every night at 9 PM.”
E for Exciting
When you stop making progress and feel like quitting, it's important to remember why you were excited about your goal in the first place. Before starting to execute your goal, write down at least two meaningful reasons why you're excited and motivated to accomplish this goal. For example, "I'm reading leadership books to learn inspiring stories, which I can use to get through tough times, be better at my job and inspire others."
R for Relevant
If you’ve just had a child and you’re leading a big project at work, is now a good time in your life to set a new marathon goal as well? Taking on too many goals (more than two major goals every three months) will significantly reduce the odds of accomplishing any goal. If a goal is not relevant to your current phase of life, you should wait for a better time and pencil this goal in your calendar to revisit.
Setting goals is the first step but where the real work begins is going after them with purpose and a plan.
To me, planning how you execute your goals is simple: find a quiet space, look at each one of your goals and break it into small actions you need to do at a certain point in time and make them clear and specific, including the support you will need and from who. Write all of this down, take all the time you need to just think about this. This is where most of us fail - in NOT taking the time to think and put an action plan on paper.
So take the time to set your goals using the SMARTER framework and to create a clear action plan for the next 6-12 months to help you achieve your goals. This all depends on you and your determination of how much this matters to you.