Specific: Goals need to be specific. A general idea of what you hope to achieve may not work well for you unless you have a plan for finding the details. If you what you want is so large that you don’t know all of the details, break the goal up into easier to achieve chunks; make it into several goals. Then lay out a plan for figuring out those details. The more solid you can make the criteria for success, the better it is to understand the goal and figure out what you need to do to achieve the goal.
Then when you have established what you want, figure out what you need to do to achieve it. What steps do you take to begin working towards the goal, and what do you do after those initial steps? Plan out how you will reach the goal. For larger goals, your actions may not be entirely clear, so establish a plan for how you will figure out what you need to do (i.e. an Agile approach).
Books on S.M.A.R.T. Goals
- S.M.A.R.T. Goals Made Simple: 10 Steps to Master Your Personal and Career Goals
- SMART Criteria: Become more successful by setting better goals (Management & Marketing Book 25)
- The Art Of Setting Smart Goals: Set winning goals and live a life of abundance, success and achievement
Measurable: You have to know when you have met your goal, and it can be motivating to see how much progress you have made towards the goal.
Usually, the more specific you make your goals, the easier it becomes to measure. Giving a general goal of “I want to start a business that makes software” or “I want to achieve a higher salary” has no solid success criteria. An end to the goal needs to be present, and that end goal should help to guide each step on the path of success. Each step should be a tick mark for progress towards the end goal.
Achievable: Sometimes determining if something is achievable or not can be difficult. Some people may tell you nothing is impossible. Those people lack imagination. There are certainly some things that are completely impossible and not achievable. A simple lack of resources could make something impossible.
This goes into planning for the goal. What do you need to make your goal happen and if you don’t have the resources, can you get them?
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” – John F. Kennedy, Rice Speach, 1962
Forty years earlier, the thought of going to the moon in less than 10 years would have likely been impossible. There was no ability to attain it. The needed resources weren’t even fully known.
It was nearly impossible in 1962, but an almost impossible goal is not an unattainable goal. There were plans on how things could be achieved in 1962. The details were there, behind the scenes of that speech. What resources we didn’t have in 1962 to make it achievable, plans were being put in place to figure out how to get them. So if something seems impossible, it may also be a limit of imagination.
Relevant: Setting goals that don’t get you something you want is relatively pointless. It doesn’t make any sense to set goals that don’t interest you or give you a reason to achieve the goal. The goal needs to be something you actually want to achieve, with the outcome being something that will result somehow (directly or indirectly) into something that impacts you and that impact is seen as a positive.
Having a goal of hitting $250,000 yearly salary won’t be relevant if what you really want is more time away from work. Your goal instead should be more focused on getting more vacation time or working from home. You may need to make more money to achieve more time away from work, but that is not the end goal. It may just be a step on the path.
Goals need to align with something relevant to you and your life, even the goals you work on for someone else. If your company sets a goal to achieve one million sales by the end of the year, what relevance does that have for you? If it has none, and you are expected to reach part of that goal, that goal just became more difficult for the company to achieve.
Time-Based/Timely: Setting a time limit to achieve your goals helps to make them measurable and specific. It also gives you a target end date. Knowing when you need to achieve a goal, with a solid end date, can help push you to shoot for a goal.
Setting too strict of a timeline can make the goal unattainable. Likewise, setting a goal too far into the future can render a goal irrelevant; it can also cause progress to move too slowly.
Kennedy, J. F. (1962) JFK Rice Moon Speach. Retrieved from https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm