It’s a new year and 40% of Americans will make resolutions but only 8% will be successful at keeping them. While there’s never a wrong time to improve yourself, setting resolutions, or goals, might be daunting. Achieving them isn’t impossible. This is especially true if you start thinking of goals in terms of motivation, and how to make a lasting, positive change in your life. Here are a few simple tips on setting realistic goals that keep us motivated and on track.
First, realize that it’s about approach and attitude. Don’t wait till January to reset, rather, think of setting frequent goals throughout the year. You might require a few months to realize some, such as completing a critical phase on a client project, or perhaps shedding those extra pounds you put on over the holidays. Other goals might be paced more regularly, weekly or even daily, like resolving to read a book a week, or hitting the gym at least three times a week. The key is to remain positive and to treat each day as a new beginning. Do this by setting realistic, attainable objectives, motivating yourself to getting things done, and remembering to check in regularly with someone who can provide you with honest feedback and act as a mirror. Whatever the approach, remember that self-improvement and growth require a can-do attitude supported by ongoing learning, so track your progress in a journal, reflect often and challenge yourself to go just a bit further than the day before.
Second, establish structure in your approach. You can follow your intuition, but you want to have a plan, so set your sights on a purposeful vision ahead and clearly identify your objectives and milestones. Goal-setting and self-improvement usually follows the same mental and emotional approach we use for other major life decisions, such as buying a house or car. We start by getting excited, and then get bogged down by the details. We set budgets but often over-extend ourselves in the long-term, the kind of burdensome commitment that can bankrupt our motivation. These can also rob us of the fun factor, and turn goals into overwhelming tasks. When that happens, our enthusiasm fizzles and we give up. For most, new year’s resolutions turn into January flops.
If we want to be successful with setting goals, we need to get SMART about it. So, let’s find out how.
“S” stands for Specific. It tells us exactly what a goal is all about. In other words, what do you want to achieve? What is it you want to learn? Look at it this way: “S” represents the desired outcome of something. We can often measure or compare these outcomes by asking questions like “How much?”, “How well?”, or even “Is it better?” “S” – Specific. Think of it as your scorecard, a way to stay focused and on track.
“M” – many of us might think “M” means Measurable, to measure our progress. But let’s start thinking of M in terms of motivation. Shouldn’t we be motivated to achieve our goals? After all, motivation is what drives us to accomplish things. Think of it like this: You’re climbing up a flight of stairs, one step at a time. It takes energy to reach the next level, right? But what does it take to get to the top? For that, you need passion, drive. And that’s motivation.
Next is the “A” for Attainable. Ask yourself: Is my goal reasonable? Can it be realistically achieved? Now, goals often take us beyond our comfort zones, but they shouldn’t discourage us. That’s why we need to be realistic and reasonable about achieving them. How do we do this? Start by setting yourself up for success. Make sure you’re in control of attaining your goals, and take it one step at a time.
You also want to make sure your goals are Relevant, and, no surprise, that’s where the “R” comes in. There are a few questions we can ask ourselves to ensure a goal is relevant. Questions like: Is the goal aligned with my job or responsibilities? Does it help me achieve balance? Does it add value? Does it have a positive impact on results? And last, but not the least, does the goal make a difference?
Finally, the “T” is for Trackable. What’s your timeline for achieving a goal? Is this timeline realistic? Did you identify any potential constraints or roadblocks? Trackable is also a way of measuring progress. Do you know who’s going to provide you with feedback? How about setting up milestone meetings so you can get input and track progress? Scheduling formal meetings is fine, but informal check-ins can be just as effective.
Try looking at it like this: If the “S” is the specific benchmark you want to achieve – let’s say something like “95% of all baselined projects will meet their committed delivery dates” – then the “T” is how you’re going to measure that benchmark.
So, there you have it: SMART. Set goals that are Specific and then Motivate yourself to achieve them. Do this by making sure your goals are Attainable and Relevant. Stay on Track by following a timeline and taking things one step at a time. Now let’s take what we’ve learned and get SMART with the people we work with.