Here we are at the start of 2019 and you know what’s on everyone’s mind? Goals!
Big goals. Little goals. Impossible goals. We are all thinking about what we want to accomplish during this next trip around the sun.
A few weeks ago, I had this aha moment about how we approach SMART goal setting and in some instances, we may be unintentionally setting ourselves up to fail. That’s the inspiration behind today’s episode.
So let’s talk SMART goals.
What is a SMART goal?
SMART is a framework for goal setting created by George Doran. It first appeared in 1981 and was taught to businesses to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal.
At this point, it has been adopted for use by people all over the world and is widely used as a simple tool help people set achievable goals.
Many interpretations of the SMART acronym exists, but I like to use Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
Specific- Is it clear what needs to be accomplished? If not, it might be helpful to ask yourself the five “Ws”: who, what, when, where, and why.
Measurable- How will you measure progress? What metrics will you use to determine if the goal has been met?
Actionable- Is it clear what action needs to be taken to accomplish the goal?
Realistic- Is this goal achievable with your current resources and circumstances?
Time-Bound- Does your goal have time constraints or a deadline?
If your goal checks out against all five criteria, you’ve set a goal that you can actually achieve.
I think the SMART framework is really useful and a great place to start when you’re trying to get serious about setting goals. For people just starting out, I want them to pay closer attention to the A in SMART because the action is where the magic happens.
Making the A in SMART Action Based
Action Based Goal– Think of action-based goals as habits or activities. Your focus is on completing the process.
Ex. Making sure you go to the gym 3x a week for 30 days
Outcome-Based Goal– Outcome-based goals are focused on the result.
Ex. Losing 10lbs in 30 days
The problem is that outcome-based goals can be demotivating because you don’t have complete control over whether or not you actually achieve your goal. Since you don’t have direct control over your ability to reach the goal, there is a high likelihood of failure.
An easy example to point out is a weight loss goal. There are times despite your best efforts to eat clean and workout consistently that you still fail to reach a certain number on the scale. This happens for a variety of reasons because our weight fluctuates daily. The point is your actions don’t always have control over whether or not you reach the outcome.
This is why personal trainers suggest that you focus on the process and look for non-scale victories like you’re your clothes fitting looser.
So many people beat themselves up when they don’t reach a certain goal not realizing that they set a goal that they can not always influence.
I’ve been guilty of this when setting certain financial goals in my business.
Action Based Goals in practice
The solution to the SMART goal-setting problem is to choose more goals based on actions that are within your control. I’m not telling you to completely abandon outcome-based goals. They’re useful and they have a place.
I think action-based goals can be used in support of an outcome based goal. You’re still working towards your desired outcome but that’s no longer the only prize.
Like when you’re planning a product launch, instead of solely focusing on getting 25 people into your course you’d put more of a focus on the actions or activities that you need to complete every day to generate enough interested leads. So may you’d try to connect with a certain amount of people each day.
If it doesn’t happen, you know that there is something within your control that was missed.
Here’s what you should do now:
Go back and look over your goals. Decide if some of them would make more sense if they were action based.
Take a closer look at your outcome-based goals and figure out how you can use an action based goal in support of it.
Most importantly make sure your goals are written down and visible. Research suggests only 3% of people write out their goals. The statistics of people who achieve their goals vs those who don’t is even more dismal. So give yourself all the advantages that you can.