This can be quite an intimidating question whether someone asks us or we ask ourselves. But these types of questions often come up at this time of year. When they do, you may realize that you have ideas of what you want to accomplish over the next year, but you don’t have any idea how to get there! Therefore, it’s worth your time to learn how to set goals so that you have a path leading towards them.
A very popular term used around the turn of a year is “Resolutions”, which is simply a firm decision to do or not to do something. We can be resolute any time of the year, but it is only a seed of thought; it needs to be nurtured into becoming a path toward a specific outcome.
One thing that is important to point out is that goal setting is different from making a New Year’s resolution. A resolution is really just a strong willed thought, that might sound something like “I want to do…” or “I will make time for…” and “I want to change…”. That being said, resolutions are the foundation for a goal. You need something to strive for!
However, if your resolution doesn’t evolve past the daydream stage, then it’s overwhelmingly likely that it will never be accomplished. Hence why many New Year’s resolutions fail at achieving the intended outcome. They never take the next steps to create a goal from their resolution.
How to Create a S.M.A.R.T Goal
As I mentioned above, you’re going to need a resolution or a dream that you want to achieve before you begin to make that dream a reality. So if you don’t have a dream yet, then create some time and space for yourself to wrestle with the question of “What do I want to do, achieve, be, feel, etc. in the next 12 months?”
A great way I recommend to create time and space for yourself is to leave your phone at home and go for a walk alone outside. Nature does wonders for getting our creative juices flowing as does light exercise like walking. Another idea is to find a comfortable place to sit in your home or elsewhere. Grab a notebook and a pen and write down any ideas that pop into your head. Don’t overthink it at this stage. Just because you write it down, or a thought pops in your head, doesn’t mean that it HAS to be your goal for the next year!
Once you have taken some time to think and you do have a dream, then you can start creating a S.M.A.R.T goal.
S.M.A.R.T stands for:
Each part of S.M.A.R.T is fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll elaborate briefly on each.
Specific – You stand a much better chance of achieving your goal by clearly defining it. Being specific gives you something clear to aim for and it will be easier to know when you are, or are not, on track. For example “I want to be stronger” is good, but “I want to increase my number of pullups to 7 and add 20 pounds to my squat” is even better.
Measurable – Closely related to specificity, your goal needs to have clear data points that tell you if you are on track or not. This will likely be some sort of quantifiable number.
Achievable – Take an honest inventory of where you are right now as it relates to your specific goal. Can you reasonably achieve this goal given your current resources, skills, and experiences? If not, then reevaluate your goal to make it achievable. You can then use the new goal to build positive momentum towards a larger goal that is currently out of reach.
Relevant – What does this goal mean to you? Does it help you live a more fulfilling life? Is it connected to your values and long term goals? If not, you might want to reconsider why you considered it as a goal in the first place.
Timely – Set a specific and realistic time frame. Having a time frame will help you prioritize your actions so that you can achieve your goal. It will also give you an opportunity to check-in with yourself at the halfway mark, three quarter mark, etc. so you can reflect on the progress you’ve made and what work you have ahead of you.
Now you have the framework for setting a goal. The only thing that remains is for you to actually do the work of writing it down and making a plan! To help you with that, you can download our Purpose – Priorities – Goals – Routines guide. Use it to help you organize and craft your goal.
You can also use the following open ended statement to hit all the pieces for making your goal S.M.A.R.T.
I want to achieve _____________________________________________. Doing so supports my purpose of ___________________________________________. It will take me _____ months to accomplish my goal. I will start working towards my goal on _____________ (date). I know I am achieving my goal because the following things will happen.
I will do the following daily to achieve my goal.