This is the second post in my series about goals. If you haven’t read it already, make sure you are familiar with my introduction to goals.
Let’s take a look at what I mean by a goal in this context. I’m talking about a specific thing that you want to achieve. It should be a big thing. Something like ‘Own a House’, ‘Find Love’, ‘Earn more than £100k’, ‘Become a Published Author’, ‘Write a Top 10 Record’, ‘Get a Degree’, ‘Play in the Strictly Come Dancing band’, etc.
Smaller things like ‘buy a pint of milk’ are still technically goals, but they’re not going to be quite as life changing as the big things, so I’m ignoring them for now.
Goals are specific
A goal should be a very specific thing. Make sure it is specific enough that you will know when you achieve it. To use my example, once I am sitting in the chair playing in a live broadcast of Strictly Come Dancing I will have achieved my goal.
Avoid woolly terms. When I was younger I set a goal to become a ‘better’ guitarist. This was no good. I eventually realised I could never achieve it because there was never a specific point I could say it was finished. My second try, become a ‘great’ guitarist was no good either. By what standard would I measure that?
A good way to think is that the act of achieving your goal should be something you can video with a video camera. To use the examples from above, that could be: opening the front door of a house you own with your own key; having someone you love say they love you back; receiving a letter from HR saying your salary is over £100k; seeing your novel on the shelves of a bookshop; seeing your record in the top 10 of whichever chart you were targeting; buying a pint of milk, etc.
If you can imagine the physical scene after which you can say ‘I achieved what I set out to do’ then you are specific enough.
Goals have timescales
To be most effective, goals should have some kind of timescale attached to them. Otherwise they’re not a goal, just a vague intention to do something someday. Having a timescale motivates you to act now, not sometime, later, probably never.
My target for my Strictly goal is 10 years. I have a lot of practice to do and experience to gain before I’m at the necessary standard, plus a lot of networking to do to get myself in the position where I might be asked to do the job at all. I hope I can do it quicker, but I’m not counting on it.
Remember from the introduction though, that goals can change. If you have to alter the time frame, that’s fine. You haven’t ‘failed’, you’ve just made necessary adjustments.
Before you change the timescale you should definitely have a good hard think about what you might be able to do to achieve the goal without changing the deadline. But if you can’t think of anything then change the time frame. Don’t do it lightly, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to do it.
Goals are not SMART
If this all sounds a bit like the ‘SMART’ goals that you hear about, usually trotted out by management in annual job reviews, you’re not a million miles wrong. Except I think SMART goals are dreadful.
SMART is an unnecessarily complicated acronym to make box tickers feel they are ‘developing’ people without having any idea how to properly do that.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound. Most of these are redundant. Specific and Measurable are the same thing. If it’s not measurable it’s not specific enough, and vice versa.
Achievable is pointless. At best, it’s obvious – what would be the point of deciding to pursue an unachievable goal? At worst it’s limiting, because it might stop you from setting a goal which is ambitious, challenging, stretching, maybe even nearly impossible. And that’s not the point. Those are exactly the kind of goals you should be setting, if you want to achieve anything worthwhile.
The R in SMART seems to mean different things depending on what textbook you read – Relevant, Realistic, Result-based, amongst others. Realistic is the same as achievable. Result-based is the same as measurable, which is the same as specific. Relevant, in this instance, goes without saying, because if you decide something is your goal then it becomes relevant by definition. So the R is pointless too.
The T is for time-bound, which I do agree with. So basically we can boil the whole irritating acronym down to Specific and Time-Bound, which is what I’ve tried to get across above.
A Goal = A Specific, Time-bound Intention
Great, we’ve boiled it down to a goal being a specific time bound intention. Now I’ve spent all this time making sure you know what goals are, it’s time for me to tell you why they’re so effective. Sorry to leave you on a cliff-hanger, but that’ll be the next post…