When you imagine your perfect life, what picture does that giant head full of brains paint for you? Do you dream about losing weight? Maybe you want to be a better parent? Perhaps you want to stop fighting with your intimate partner. I have some bad news for you. Your dreams are never going to become reality unless you form a plan. You gotta live with intent. To do that, you gotta have goals.
When setting goals for myself, I use the SMART format.
By setting SMART goals, those dreams of yours will become your reality. You can’t just will goodness and abundance into existence. This is hard, grungy, sweaty, sometimes-not-fun work. Actually, it’s almost never fun. Because it’s work. If it was fun, it would be called “play.”
Let’s get to work with the example of losing weight. That’s a vague idea, a dream, and not a goal. What’s the difference? Goals have actionable steps that form a plan. Dreams are just wishes. A dream may be a wish your heart makes, but wishes never made anyone skinny.
The S is for specific.
Having a specific goal is better than a vague idea. A vague idea is just a dream, remember? How do you get specific? Ask yourself the “W” questions. Don’t freak out, there only three of them.
- What do I want to accomplish? “I want to lose weight.” Not specific. “I want to lose 50 pounds.” That’s pretty specific, but we aren’t done.
- When does this need to happen? You have to have a when. Your when is never optional. Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year. That’s December 31, btw. Be specific.
- Why does accomplishing this thing matter to me? Nothing is more important than your “why.” Having a clear understanding of your “why” will help you stay motivated. Why do you want to lose weight? To be healthier? To feel good about your appearance? To improve your sexual ability or stamina? To be hotter than your boyfriend’s ex?
“I want to lose 50 pounds by Dec 31st so that I feel sexy.” That’s pretty dang specific.
The M is for measurable.
How will you measure your progress? Set concrete – and realistic – measurements to track your success. Let’s say you have 12 months to lose 50 pounds. That’s an average of a little more than 4 pounds per month. Totally measurable and totally doable.
Do measurements apply to other types of goals? Absolutely. Perhaps your dream is to be a better parent. First, Let’s work out our W’s.
- What do I want to accomplish? “I want to be a better parent.” Not specific. “I want to stop yelling at my kids.” That’s a fantastic, specific goal. But you know we aren’t done, right?
- When does this need to happen? Again, you have to have a when. You probably want to stop yelling at your kids immediately.
- Why does accomplishing this thing matter to me? Why do you want to stop yelling at your kids? Because they are precious to you. You want them to be well-behaved, but you want them to listen to you out of respect, rather than fear. Maybe you have noticed them acting out angrily, and that was a wake-up call for you.
How will you measure your progress? This is a toughie. You might decide to measure this goal using time. Decide that you will not yell for the next ten minutes, the next hour, this afternoon, or this whole day. Again, this is totally measurable and totally doable. Those little ones of yours deserve your best.
The A is for attainable and action oriented.
When your goals involve others, your “A” might include “agreed upon.”
Let’s change scenarios again. You want to stop fighting with your significant other. Is this attainable? This dream involves another person. You can only control your own attitudes and actions. You can set goals for yourself about the things that you can control. A proper goal might look like this: “I want to reconcile my attitude and my actions toward my husband, whether he changes or not.” This is an attainable goal because you can choose and control the way you relate to another person.
The R is for realistic.
Earlier, we talked a little bit about being realistic when we discussed weight loss. “I want to lose 30 pounds in 30 days” is not a realistic goal. “I will never yell at my kids again” is also unrealistic. “I will make husband to love me like he used to” is unrealistic because it is not something you can directly control.
To be realistic, your goal must be something you are both able and willing to work towards. A goal can be lofty and realistic. You decide what you want to achieve. Lower level goals may serve as steps to attaining a lofty goal. Be realistic. Some examples:
- I will lose 4 pounds each month for 12 months.
- I will not yell at my kids this afternoon.
- I will not say snarky things to my husband if he pushes my buttons today.
The T is for time.
This needs little explanation. Remember your when? Someday doesn’t cut it. It does not help you to say “I want to save $10,000 for a down payment for a home someday.” You won’t get anywhere. You can – and should – say, I want to save $10,000 – or whatever amount you choose – by the end of this year.
Need a little help setting goals for yourself?
You might need a little help with the details. I have some extra reading for you:
From Zahra Barnes at Self Magazine: Small Lifestyle Habits Help Lose Weight
Written by Amanda at Dirt and Boogers: Simple Tip to Stop Yelling at Kids
From the desk of Stacey at The Soccer Mom Blog: Save Your Marriage