Friday, January 15, 2010

Resolutions to Results V: Get SMARTY!

So now that you've brainstormed some great ideas, you've prioritized those ideas, identified success, and visualized yourself achieving those goals, it’s time to get writing!

Writing out your goals makes it much more likely to achieve them. How much more likely? 900% (No, I'm kidding I made that up. I actually have no idea.) But from my personal experience, I can say that writing your goals down make them more real, more concrete, and therefore, more achievable.

(This doesn’t mean you can just write them and walk away, however!)

You've probably seen the goal-setting acronym "SMART" before. Lots of different people use these letters to mean lots of different things, and I think that, in general, any way you combine them they're right. The jist of all of them are the same.

However, I take SMART one step further, and encourage you to set goals for a SMARTY(pants), because it incorporates an element of goal setting that is missing from a lot of other approaches; the YES! factor.

Read on, dear reader, read on.

S: Keep it simple.
Your brain wants to remember as little as possible. Focus on the heart of what you want, and write it in the positive (not the negative -- like I'm doing here).

For example, if you want to stop biting your nails, phrase your goal as “I want to protect my nails from harm” or “I want to take care of my nails.” The reason I recommend this is that if you phrase a goal with a negative in it (quit smoking, stop overeating, stop dating losers), your brain remembers the positive – the smoking, the overeating, the dating losers. So give your brain a healthy, positive, SIMPLE thing on which to focus.

M: Make it Measurable
As we discussed in previous posts, if you can’t measure your success, you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. Avoid words like “more” and “better,” and instead focus on how much more? How much better?

A popular goal is to “get in shape.” What does that even mean? Walking a mile or running a marathon? Be specific! Giving yourself benchmarks to measure your progress will not only help you stay motivated, but it will make your goal setting more scientific and less ambiguous.

And ambiguous goals = kinda, sorta, maybe reachable ones.

A: Use Action Verbs
As good writers, actors, teachers, and others know, employing action verbs is critical. The same is true for writing goals. Using action verbs helps you create a goal that has movement behind it. So instead of setting a goal that is to “be more patient,” you can set one to “practice more patience.” It’s a subtle difference, but in those challenging moments, when you’re having a hard time sticking to your goals, having an action that you can perform (like “practice” instead of “be”) will help keep you on your path.

It may also open up other possibilities you haven’t considered. For example, if your goal is to “be in more shows,” if you rewrite it to “perform seven times this year,” that opens up the definition of “perform” and can help you see your goal in a new light.

If you have trouble coming up with action verbs, look here, here, or just google "action verbs."

R: Be Realistic (but challenging!)
"Realisitic" is not a synonym for "easy." Realistic, in this case, means actually doable, or attainable. You have the skills needed to do the work – or can develop them in the process. A realistic goal may push your abilities and knowledge, but it shouldn't break them.

A goal of never again eating sweets may not be realistic for someone who really enjoys candy. However, setting a goal of eating a piece of fruit each day instead of one chocolate is more realistic. You can then choose to work towards reducing the amount of candy gradually as and when this feels realistic for you.

Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for the dreaded "failure," but too low sends your spirit the message that you aren't very capable. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

T: Be Time-Bound
As we discussed while we were identifying success, set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months, by your fortieth birthday. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards, and helps you to break down the goal into chunks you can tackle one week, one month, and one year at a time.

If you don't set a deadline, the commitment is too vague and there's hardly any reason to start taking action now.

Also, be sure to give yourself enough time to reach the goal, but not so much time that you lose interest or motivation.

Y: Yes!! Thrill Yourself!
This is an element that is often left out of goal setting, and which is why you come to me! Be sure to pick a goal that excites, moves, and thrills you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if what you are trying to achieve is meant to please someone other than yourself, that goal is destined for failure. Find with WIIFM in the goal! And phrase it in such a way that it resonates with you and serves your values.

For example, “Lose weight” can become “lose 50 pounds by December so you can wear your skinny jeans next Christmas.”

Once you've come up with some goal statements, be brave -- add them to my comments! It will be one way to announce your commitment, and to share what you've learned with other readers!

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