Saturday, March 8, 2014

Achieving your goals the SMART way

As we see somebody we want to be like and achieve what they have, we make it our goal to have what they have. We have good intentions, start with a lot of enthusiasm but seldom are we able to see the finish line. Why is that? Are we poor planners? Do we lack the tools necessary to achieve the lofty goals? Are we not as motivated as we were when we started? Do we lack the support system?  Are those really “our” goals, anyways? There could be plethora of reasons of our failure. Here is a way I am going to share with you that Dale Carnegie, one of the greatest business coaches, my idol, preached. He sums it up with the acronym, SMART, which stands for:

S – Specific
M- Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Rewarding
T – Time based

Specific: A specific goal has a much better chance of success than a vague goal. It needs to be straightforward and have a set of actions, a path needed to be followed to achieve it.  If your goals sound like, I want to be rich, or I want to be successful, or, I want to lose weight, then you need to know these are not specific goals. Specific goals would sound like, I want to earn x amount of money, or I want to achieve x, or I want to lose x number of pounds. Be specific with what you set out to achieve. 

Measurable: If your goal is to be successful, how do you measure it? If your goal is to be better looking, how do you measure it? And if something is not measurable, how do you know you have achieved it? You have got to establish concrete criteria to measure progress towards accomplishing your desired goal. When your measure your progress, it motivates you to stay on track. You get to experience the excitement and exhilaration of your accomplishment. It motivates you to continue working hard to ultimately achieve your set goal.
To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as... How many? How much? How will I know when my goal has been achieved? Be specific! “My goal is to make more sales calls this month” is not measurable. Rather “This month, I want to increase my sales calls by 20 calls per week” shows a specific number that can be measured.

Attainable: In the initial process of goal setting, a lot of folks commit the fatal mistake of setting their goal so high that as you are moving along, it becomes more and more clear that it’s going to be impossible. This saps your energy, demotivates you and ultimately causes you to drop out. Key is to set “baby” goals that you know are achievable. As you achieve these small goals, you increase the intensity and set higher goals that push you to work harder to achieve them. I understand if you say your goal is to be national champion in cross country, and try to do it without much practice and a coach, you are most likely not going to succeed.

Realistic: For a goal to be realistic, it needs to be something you feel you are able, capable and have the will to achieve it. An entrepreneur, as he starts his business, might have a burning desire to unseat the market leader right off the bat. You have got to sit back and ponder, if it is a sound and realistic goal. Do you have the necessary staff, talents, experience, expertise, finances and other necessary resources to make this goal a reality? I can appreciate setting a goal high enough to push yourself but it got to be realistic to provide the necessary fuel, motivation to keep marching forward rather than break your spirits.

Time Frame: Have you ever sat in your car and called your friend in another state saying that you would reach there but don’t know when? When you hire a contractor to build a house for you, what if he said, he didn’t know when he would be able to complete your house? Then why would you have goals without a set time table! Every goal set must have a predetermined completion date. A little flexibility is acceptable but not a complete vagueness or no time frame at all. As you move along on your journey to achieve your desired goal, completion date motivates you, keeps you on track, and pushes you to increase the intensity of your work if needed. 

Here are some examples of SMART goal statements.

Goal: To increase sales for a new business
Vague statement: I want to increase my company sales.
SMART statement: I am going to go out on sales calls three days a week, make at least 60 calls, start the promotional campaign next Monday. Measure and evaluate my success after two months.

Vague statement: I want to be rich.
SMART statement: I am going to work five more hours per week, reduce my variable expenses by 25%, save $300 additional per month and invest in a low cost mutual fund.

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