Have You Set SMART Goals?

Here’s a helpful process for setting goals. This tip is longer than usual, but I think you’ll find it to be well worth your time.

I want you to distinguish between states and goals or outcomes. A state, like happiness or confidence, is somewhat nebulous; it’s also something that you don’t have to wait for—you can actually have it right now. A goal, on the other hand, is very tangible. For instance, you might say you want to earn $100,000 in 2013, and that is something you can measure. At the end of 2013, you will know if you have achieved that or not.

A mistake people often make is to say things like “When I achieve my financial goals, then I can feel secure” or “When I lose this weight, I can then feel happy.” You can have those feelings right now—you don’t actually have to wait. With goals or outcomes, however, there has to be an element of time involved and actions taken. Goals are quantifiable. States are infinite—they can be stated for yourself or for others. You can be happy for yourself and decide to feel happy for someone else or for their accomplishments. Goals can only be set for yourself, not for others.

Notice I said states are achievable by you at any time. However, you may not know how to achieve a particular state. That may be something you need to be shown, or you may have to learn how.

If you are lacking a goal or outcome, you may not yet have a strategy or know the steps required to get there. Also if you do not have a sufficient level of belief about your ability to achieve a goal, then it is unlikely that you will do so. The higher your level of belief is, the higher your motivation to take decisive action.

Another belief plays a factor in your goals: believing that the effort you will need to expend is worth the result or the goal. If you have ever had 100% certainty that you could achieve a goal, and you believed the effort was 100% worth it, then you achieved it. Of course the goal also has to satisfy certain other factors or criteria, such as being in your control. For example, you might have set a goal to get a raise at work but still not have gotten it because of factors beyond your control. You might have more control over sales or production, and you could set goals accordingly.

The reason to have goals is to give direction to your life. Your unconscious mind requires directions—it needs to be told what to do and what to focus on. Goals will provide consistent instructions on where to go in life. If you do not set goals, your unconscious mind won’t know what you want, and who knows what it will come up with. That is also why goals need to be framed in the positive, stating what you want, not what you don’t want.

There is a specific way to express goals that will increase your success in achieving goals. This comes by way of an acronym called S. M. A. R. T.

S stands for specific and simple. If you set a goal like “I want more money,” that’s not specific enough. You need to specify how much more, and you need to specify the time frame. Simple speaks to not making it overly complex, or having too much detail. However, you will need enough details to create clarity for your unconscious mind.

M stands for measurable and meaningful. If you don’t have a way to measure your goal, it may not actually be a goal. There has to be a way to determine whether you achieved it or not. Also, is it meaningful to you? Does it give you passion? Is it something you really want? Is it juicy? Remember, if someone else sets it for you, it may be meaningful to them but not necessarily to you. Sometimes in coaching programs you may be encouraged to set financial goals that are meaningful to your coach but not necessarily to you. Sometimes your goal may end up benefiting others but is specifically for you. An example of this is raising money for charity. If you’re passionate about that charity, you will benefit from achieving that goal.

A stands for all areas of life. It is expressed as if they are already happening. Present tense is better than future tense. For example, “It’s December 31, 2013, and my business generated $100,000 in coaching revenue this year.”

R stands for realistic and responsible. Now it’s important ask realistic to whom or responsible according to what, but it also helps to just notice what your track record for setting goals has been. If you’re pretty good at it and have had a lot of success, then you should set more difficult or challenging goals. If you’re newer to goal setting or haven’t had really good track records in the past, then being realistic may mean setting goals that are somewhat easier to achieve—unless, of course, you’ve been able to increase your beliefs about your ability to succeed. Remember that your definition of realistic depends on your own experience, not someone else’s. (This is also an opportunity for you to notice your beliefs about what is realistic.)

As for responsible, there are three questions you can ask yourself to determine if your goal or goals are responsible: 1. Is it safe for me? 2. Is it safe for others? 3. Is it safe for the environment or the planet? If you get a “Yes” to all three, then most likely it is a responsible goal. Furthermore, it’s helpful that your goal satisfy the requirements of being ecological—that is to say that it will not create problems in other areas of your life. Just ask yourself, “Will getting this goal create problems in any other important areas of my life?”

When setting goals make sure you address all the important areas of your life, such as health, relationships, business, spirituality or any other area that is significant to you. You may have seen illustrated “wheels of life” divided into segments to identify areas deemed most significant. When you actually look at goals in all of these areas, you can also notice where there might be potential conflict between these important areas.

T stands for Timed and Toward. Be precise about time, specifying day, month, year and sometimes even clock time. Remember also that it’s important to specify as though you are in the present tense. So you might say, “It’s December 31, 2013, and I am looking at my bank balance of $1 million.” Toward means describing what you want in a positive manner, an expression of what you want not what you don’t want.

Running your goals through this SMART process should make them achievable. Use the comments section below to let me know how it goes.

In the follow-up post tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what I call the well-formed outcome, which will help you carry out processes and steps necessary to achieve your goals.

P.S. Do you want to share this post? Please do. Just be sure that it remains intact and includes the following bio.

About Terry: Terry Hickey, M.S., is a Certified NLP Professional Coach, Business Trainer and Consultant, a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the co-owner of NLP Advantage Group. Originator of the Belief Breakthrough Method™, Terry specializes in teaching coaches and entrepreneurs how to rapidly resolve limiting beliefs about wealth and success. His tips and strategies can help you launch yourself into the future you want… NOW. http://terryhickey.com/

Categories : Coaching Tips


  1. […] the goals you want while attending to the conditions necessary to do so. In yesterday’s post, Have You Set SMART Goals?, I described the SMART conditions necessary to achieve goals. One you have described the goal, […]

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