Part 2, the SMART Goal model
The year 2021 is now in full swing. When we reflect on the tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions, it is common to hear that most resolutions do not last past the first two to three weeks of the start of the new year. One of the reasons for the abandonment of New Year’s Resolutions is that they are not formed in a way that makes them achievable, realistic, or meaningful to accomplish. In last week’s article, we discussed having a proper mindset when approaching the goal-setting process, to include practicing gratitude and positive thinking, self-compassion, and celebrating small successes in both setting and working towards our goals. The difference between a broad value statement and a specific, achievable goal was addressed, and the SMART Goals template was introduced as a means to pare down general vision statements into realistic goals. This week, we will further break down the SMART Goal model, which can be used throughout the year to help guide us towards living a more meaningful life.
When setting a goal, first consider your personal core values. Core value ideas can fall into different categories to include: spiritual, fitness, educational, family, relationships, social, career, and financial. Once we have identified a core value area to work with, we can state the broad strokes of the value, which can sound like, “I want to be a better person to my family in the new year,” or “I want to lose weight so that I can feel better about myself.” Next, we can employ the SMART Goal template, to better create a specific, achievable goal that will align with our vision statement.
As promised, here are three examples of SMART Goals:
1) I will reduce my credit card debt by $2,000.00 by April 15th. I will do this by saving an extra $500 monthly and specifically pay that amount each month extra towards my bill. This step may need to be broken down into smaller steps, that reflect exactly how the $500 will be saved each month, such as reducing spending elsewhere.
2) I will reduce the clutter in my house by specifically emptying my home office of all office supplies I haven’t used in the past year, and will donate the supplies that are usable directly to (fill in donation place). Again, break this down into smaller chunks that reflect daily activities, if needed. For the Home office: Within two days, I will put three cardboard boxes in my office to collect the excess supplies that I will donate. For the Home: In the next two days, I will go through three specific boxes in my closet and sort or donate the contents.
3) In the next two weeks, I will see my doctor for information about rehabilitation for drinking and will begin to visit Alcoholics Anonymous online meetings once daily. I will remain sober for two weeks and reassess my progress on January 28. — This goal is clearer and more attainable than, “I will quit drinking this year.”
These are examples of SMART goals. What can you come up with for yourself? Write them down.
The S in SMART means be Specific. What is the actual goal? Get down to the nitty-gritty. For behavior modifications to occur, leading us to alignment with our core values, a specific goal must be set. Instead of “I want to lose weight so I can feel better about myself,” a specific goal could be, “I will lose 15 pounds in the next three months.” A complete specific goal indicates the who, what, when, where, and why of your vision. Questions to ask when setting a specific goal include, “What do I specifically want to happen?” (i.e., how much weight loss, how much decluttering, how much savings in the bank account), and “What exactly am I trying to accomplish?” …This will become easier by continuing to follow the “MART” in SMART.
The M in SMART stands for Measurable. In the above weight loss example, the measurable success means losing 15 pounds. If a goal is to pay off a certain amount of debt in the coming year, breaking down the exact amount to be paid and in weekly or monthly increments makes the goal measurable. If stopping nail biting is a goal, taking a photo of nails over time to track progress is a method of measurement. Journaling or taking notes on a phone application are methods of measurement. Questions to ask are, “How long will it take to reach my goal?” and “How do I know when I’ve reached my goal?” Measuring makes the goal not only trackable but holds us accountable to realistic expectations. It also sets us up to celebrate the smaller successes along the way.
A is for Achievable. Ambitious goals are okay, but we might abandon them if they are not broken down into achievable steps. Trying to take a step too fast or biting off more than we can chew can lead to frustration and abandonment of goals. It is the small, daily activities that make things happen. Break down ambitious goals into small, measurable steps. If the goal is to lose 100 pounds, resolve to lose 15 over a realistic, healthy time period. Once the initial success is attained, re-evaluate and set a new, achievable goal. Remember to celebrate the successes along the way. Questions to ask are, “Do I have the resources to achieve this goal?” and “Do I have the time every day to do the steps required for this goal?”
R stands for Realistic. Realistic goals are not ones we are able to attain, but rather the ones we are willing to. It is important to know that goals should be set to align with our own overarching values, not because someone else expects something of us. If the work involved to reach the goal is not something we actually want, we set ourselves up for discouragement. If we do something out of a sense of self-hate or remorse, a strong passion in the moment, or because of someone else’s desire, the results usually don’t last long.
Remember, we can always pick up a certain goal when the time is right. And we can reword goals. For instance, “I want to lose 15 pounds” can turn into, “I will walk for 15 minutes a day, four times a week.” Every goal is personal and can be approached in ways that work for us, individually. Questions to ask are, “Is this something I want, or something society or someone else is expecting of me?” “How does my gut feel about doing the steps required to make this goal happen?” “How will I feel if this goal is accomplished?” And, again, “Do I have the time and resources needed to actually achieve this goal?”
Finally, T is for Time-Related. An achievable, realistic goal is one that is time limited. Put a deadline on the goal. The deadline can be an event or a date. Just having a time frame boosts motivation and invites accountability. Do not make the time frame too short, because it is important to complete the goal while also turning behaviors into habit, which takes time. Think about the finish line and break down the steps into small chunks or daily activities. Online, phone, and paper planners can help with this. Questions to ask are, “Do I have a deadline for reaching my goal?” “When will I hit this goal?” and “How many times will I achieve this goal?” An example may be, “I want to lose 15 pounds by June 30.” To do this, calculate how many times a workout is needed weekly, and how many calories need to be eaten daily. Small, intermediate goals along the way are what get the overall job done. And, as always, remember to celebrate the small wins along the way.
A few extra tips are: to be mindful of goals we, ourselves, actually have control over — share the goal with an accountability partner who can help track progress — brainstorm solutions — put the goals down in writing — and be brave enough to revise the goals along the way for realistic expectations and growth.
Gratitude, positive thinking, self-compassion, and the SMART Goals paradigm are invaluable tools in the toolbox when it comes to setting New Year’s Resolutions. Remember, we should not get discouraged if we get off track. We all hit speed bumps and roadblocks along the way. As long as we stay focused on the end goal and keep taking small steps toward getting there, a life better worth living will always be in the works. Making a resolution to live our lives with purpose and passion is a beautiful and exciting thing. Here’s to growth-filled 2021, friends and neighbors. Cheers to our continued, positive growth in 2021.