“The secret to living the life of your dreams is to start living the life of your dreams today, in every little way you possibly can.” Mike Dooley
Isn’t that why we set goals…? To start living the life of our dreams, to go from where we are today to where we want to be tomorrow?
And while nothing is stopping us from setting goals any day of the year, most of us feel compelled to do so at year-end.
There is the promise of new beginnings, the chance to try something new, or do over what didn’t work before. We’re ready for change and set goals for the new year.
But sadly, most never stick with their goals or come close to achieving them.
Perhaps the biggest reason… the majority of goals are little more than a wish. And while dressed up as a goal, they lack the clarity and specificity central to actual goals.
Yet the ability to set real goals is essential to professional and personal success. For without goals, how can you measure your accomplishments or progress? How can you know if you’re on the right track?
But beyond that, when you set goals, you put yourself in the driver’s seat; you’re taking control of your life. You don’t sit back and let life happen to you. By setting goals, you’re proactive and make things happen!
So what are your goals for 2020… and how SMART are they?
What is SMART? The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
For the record, SMART goal setting is nothing new. It’s been around for some time. And today, the SMART process is applied to both business and personal goals.
You see, when you’re setting specific goals, you’re far more likely to achieve an outcome, compared to someone who doesn’t set any goals at all. And, if you bring clarity to the table, along with goals that are relevant, measurable, and timely… you’re chances of achieving them go up exponentially!
So now, let’s look at the building blocks of SMART goals.
You already know that specific goals outweigh general ones any day. So when you formulate a goal, make sure you put it in exact terms.
Compare the following goals:
- I want to get in shape vs.
- I will lose some weight to get in shape vs.
- I will lose 20 pounds to get in shape
Do you see the difference here? The first goal is little more than a wish, while the other two get down to more specifics.
So, instead of saying, “I want to grow my practice…,” take it one step further and spell out what that will look like:
- How much do you want to grow your business: 5% or 50%?
- What is the timeframe for achieving your goal: next quarter, next year, or five years from now?
- What exactly will you do to grow your business? What steps will you take? While this may be redundant, be specific here, and spell out the actions you will take!
The only way to know if you’ve achieved your goal is when you track and measure your progress. Because if you don’t measure progress toward your goal, you won’t know when you’ve crossed the finish line.
While some goals are easy to measure, others are a bit more challenging. Here’s an example…
Let’s say your goal is to take better care of yourself by exercising three times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each. Here you have a goal that’s easy to measure. Either you work out three times per week, or you don’; there is no grey area here.
However, when your goal is more complicated, it can be challenging.
That’s when you want to develop a set of criteria tailored to the goal so that you can measure your progress. For example, you may decide to add individual milestones, breakdown every task, and track them in a spreadsheet.
Whatever strategies you’ll employ, take a few moments and decide how to measure your progress best… before you start with the goal.
The kind of goals you want to set are the ones you can achieve. While it’s alright to set big audacious goals, it may backfire.
Big scary goals may overwhelm or even paralyze you. They may rob you of your motivation and weaken your self-confidence. Keep your goals within reach, so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
Let say you want to start your practice. Initially, you thought you’d begin small, perhaps renting space from another NP until you’ve gained some traction.
But then you came across an article a few weeks back. It said: “Think big! Start your practice on a larger scale right out of the gate. Rent a bigger space, hire people, and take out a loan to finance it all.”
While the idea is not inherently wrong, it may not be the best approach for you. If you’ve never started a business before, don’t have the cash reserves needed to start on a bigger scale, or have limited resources available to you, it might come back to bite you!
You might do better by starting small, with the intent to grow your business over time.
So keep your goals attainable, but at the same time, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t set goals that are boring or too small to bother. Set goals that require you to stretch, grow, and challenge yourself!
Just because you’ve set a goal doesn’t guarantee it will go according to plan. When you find yourself with goals that don’t seem to work out, stop, and take a second look.
Are you pursuing the right goal? Is it aligned with the current direction of your business and your beliefs? Sometimes we end up pursuing goals that were appropriate in the past but are no longer relevant today.
And at times, we pursue goals disproportionate to all the effort and resources they demand compared to the outcome they provide.
When choosing your goals, keep the Pareto Principle in mind. Make it a habit to ask yourself, “what are the 20% goals that will give me 80% of results?” In other words, go after the goals that give you the biggest bang for your buck!
Also, ask yourself if you’re working on too many goals at the same time. If you’re working on too many things all at once, the chance of achieving them all goes down drastically. Perhaps you want to revisit your goals, prioritize them based on relevance, and then tackle them again.
Lastly, ask yourself if some of you’re goals are too complicated? Perhaps you would find greater success if you’d break them down into smaller, clearer defined steps and goals?
Be careful with open-ended goals!
Whenever you set a goal, include a time frame to accomplish it. By specifying a time element, you not only know when your goal has been achieved, but you also have a built-in timetable.
Let’s say your goal is to start a practice.
If you fail to specify a deadline, it’s not much more than a wish. However, when you say you’ll start your practice by a specific date, you also know that you must complete critical steps along the way to accomplish your goal.
But there is another advantage to be gained by including a time element. By adding a time table, a big goal becomes more achievable because now there are specific steps that must be completed along the way.
Here’s an example…
Let’s say you took up running, and your goal is to run a marathon… 26.2 miles! But unless you are a serious runner, chances are you’re not in shape to tackle a marathon. You need to train for it.
If the marathon is 12 months away, you can calculate how much you must train every month, week, and day, to accomplish your goal!
That’s the power of including a time element, or a deadline!
Make sure your 2020 goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and include a time element.
And here’s one more tip… write down all your goals. It’s all too easy to forget them unless you commit them to paper!
Our best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
Are you a goal setter? Join the conversation by leaving a comment or question below
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“