I had this friend once. A well educated, hard working, and what could only be described as a natural born leader. I had, and still do today, hold a lot of respect for him.
He had great ideas – enrolling in a prestigious University; travelling to a poverty stricken part of the world to help those less fortunate than himself.; joining his Nation’s Army as a commissioned officer.
None of these were easy feats, but I believe wholeheartedly that he is capable of everyone of them.
This man had goals, it was clear to see. Genuine passion and enthusiasm coated his words when he talked about his future.
It pains me to say, however, that, as of yet, none of these have come to fruition.
Goals are a funny thing. If we have none, we are aimless. Yet, if we have goals that are not well planned and constructed, we are equally at risk of stagnating, never really moving forward towards our objectives.
This was no different for my friend. I spoke to him about this subject many times. I wanted to help. But as he described, his goals were vague and focused only on a blurry future that he held in his dreams.
Dreams are important. They provide the inspiration we need to start the process of moving forward. They give us purpose.
But to simply dream is not enough. We need a plan. One that can take us, one step at a time, towards our goals.
How to set goals: The basics
Whenever we set goals, it is recommended that we use the S.M.A.R.T goal setting principles. Many different fields including business, education, and sport tend to rely upon this acronym.
From my experience, however, this model leaves gaps for goals that could lead you, unknowingly, towards decreased motivation.
For this reason, I have added my own twist on the already well-established acronym
S.M.A.R.T.Y goals, a twist on the old model
S – Specific
Your goals should be clear and concise. What is it you want to achieve, specifically?
My friend, I feel fell short in this category. What University/Universities did he want to go to? Which country/countries did he want to do charity work in? What type of commissioned officer did he want to be? Infantry? Logistics?
Not having the specifics in place blurs the target. Get detailed.
M – Measurable
Being able to measure your goals is important. How else will you know when you have achieved them?
Doing charity work is a noble cause. But how will he know when he has achieved this? Or is still moving in the direction towards achieving this?
Making your goals measurable ensures you are on the right track, and if you stumble off, know how to get back on it.
A – Achievable
Goals should be achievable. Setting goals that you will never be able to achieve is a recipe for disaster.
Consistently achieving your goals makes you feel competent – something that will boost your internal motivation and confidence.
Don’t be scared to challenge yourself.
R – Realistic
When setting goals, confidence can be a doubled edged sword.
Under-confidence will make your goals easy, and decrease how competent you feel. over-confidence, however, will make your goals unrealistic.
If you are new to the activity, or setting goals, start small and work upwards, increasing the difficulty of your goals over time. This help you get a feel for what works for you.
T – Time orientated
Just like my friend, having a long-term dream is great. But when will you make this dream come true? Today? Next week? 10 years from now?
Not having a timeframe in mind can let in the demon of procrastination. Time can trickle by without your notice. One day, you may wake up, and it will all be too late.
Take action in the present and set out a schedule for your long term goals.
For every long-term goal, however, needs short and medium-term goals to guide you towards your dream and helps provide you with the stepping stones and understanding of how to get there.
Y – Yourself
As I discussed in the previous article “Psychology’s 3 simple steps to boosting motivation”, ensuring that your goals center around you and your own development will ensure that you ignite your internal motivation – the most powerful and most sustainable form for motivation. Make sure your goals feed your inner fire.
Be aware of setting goals that read like:
“I will become better than…”
“I will make this person…”
“I will become more attractive to…”
Your goals should be about you.
What could my friend do differently? example of good practice
How do you think my friend could have changed his goals?
Based on the S.M.A.R.T.Y principles, here are my recommendations of how these could look related to once of his goals.
Goal: Doing charity work in a poverty stricken country.
Short-term goal 1
Within the next two weeks, I will search the internet for information related to voluntary charity programmes around the world and make a list of those I am interested in.
Short-term goal 2
Within the two weeks after this, I will select my top three programmes from the list and send an inquiry to each of the organisations.
Medium goal 1
Following my inquiries I take one month to write and submit my application to the most promising programme that I am interested in.
Medium goal 2
Once my application is successful, I will have my passport prepared and my equipment ready one month before the I depart.
I will travel with the programme and return home following its completion.
What did you think of these new goals? How do you think these new goals would have effected my friend?
By following these principles it will give you the best of chance of achieving your goals and boost your motivation.
Let me know how you plan to use these principles in the comments below and feel free to ask any questions.
Thanks for reading