A better way to track your progress

What is your vision of success? The image is different for each of us. For one person it's having the corner office, for another it's having a flexible schedule with plenty of time off to be with their kids. But, whatever your dream, setting SMART goals will help you make it come true.

Setting goals is more than making vague statements like, "I will find a new job" or "I will increase my business." It means creating a written plan that includes reasonable and measurable long-term and short-term objectives. It means setting SMART goals.

Lots of coaches and consultants use the SMART acronym to explain goal setting. Each one uses a slightly different set of criteria. In this case, S.M.A.R.T. refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed.

Specific: Goals need to be something specific. Often we set goals that are so loose, it's nearly impossible to judge whether we hit them or not. For example, a statement like "I will lose weight" is too vague. How will you know if and when you've reached your goal? Saying, " I will lose five pounds this month" is more specific. At the end of the month it will be a simple matter of weights and measures: take your measurements and get on the scale.

Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. For example, many of us want to increase our number of contacts. But, "making new contacts" is an ambiguous statement. A clearer objective is "I will attend four networking events each month and try to connect with one person at each." It's a simple, concrete goal. This makes it easy to see if you hit your target.

Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Nearly everyone has tried to drop a few pounds at one time or another. Often their success or failure depends on setting practical goals. Losing 15 pounds in 30 days is unrealistic (unless you're planning a medical procedure). Losing six to eight pounds in 30 days is reasonable. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are out of reach.

Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. When we're kids we think we can do anything. As adults we learn that while we can have a lot, we can't have it all at the same time. It's important to honestly evaluate yourself. Do you have the ability and commitment to make your dream come true? Or does it need a little adjustment? For example, you may love to play tennis, but do you have the time, talent and commitment to become a pro? Be honest.

Time Framed: Goals need to have a time frame. Having a set amount of time will give your goals structure. For example, many of us want to find a new job or start their own business. Some people spend a lot of time talking about what they want to do, someday. But, without an end date there is no sense of urgency, no reason to take any action today. Having a specific time frame gives you the impetus to get started. It also helps you monitor your progress.

Making it Yours

Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do. It involves figuring out what you need to do to get where you want to go. And how long it will take you to get there.

Now you know the fundamentals of goal setting. Keep the SMART acronym in mind to help you remember the basics. The next step is translating this process to fit your needs.

Get started today by determining what you want. Once you know what you want you're ready to create your goals. Start with your long-term objectives. These are things you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Next, establish short-term goals. These include monthly, weekly and even daily targets that will move you toward your long-term objectives.

Be careful not to push yourself to hard or two fast. While successful people know you have to stretch your talents to grow, they also know it's important to set reasonable goals. Always be your own best friend. Never set yourself up for failure.

The first step to success is knowing where you want to go. The second step is having a plan to get there. Your goals are your road map. Follow them and you'll be well on your way.


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