Saturday, December 29, 2012

Setting Effective Goals #4 - What's smarter than SMART? SMARTSS!

Have you read the other post in the series yet? If not, you might want to first read about writing your goals down, holding yourself accountable and adopting a focused approach. There's more to come and this series will finish with a FREE goal-setting worksheet for you, but only if you sign up on the right. Now, back to this (detailed!) post...

The corporate world has used the SMART approach to goal-setting for years, but recently I've been using my own evolved version - SMARTSS goals (I was so tempted to come with something beginning with A and call them smart-ass goals, but I resisted the urge!).

For goals that really work for you, they need to be:

Being too generic or vague is one of the main ways that a goal falls short. If it's not specific, then your brain can't see exactly what it's aiming for and, therefore, can't create a route to get you there. It's also not very compelling or motivating for you (we'll talk about this in a separate post). Spot the difference between a generic goal like 'I want to go to the gym more so I can get in shape' and a more specific one like 'I will reach my target weight of X-stone so I can look good, feel more confident and have lots of energy to do the things I enjoy doing'.

"You've got to keep records to break records" is a saying that rings true here. Having appropriate measures on your goal is really important because:
  • It tells you what sort of a race you're running, i.e. a marathon or a sprint!
  • You can assess what progress you are making and the pace at which you're making it
  • You can correct your course of action to get back on track, where necessary
  • You'll know for sure when you've passed the finish line (e.g. that target weight, or the ability to hold a conversation with a stranger in a foreign language, or whatever your goal is)
  • You can look back on what it took to get you there (or how far you missed by, if that's the case)
Choose a couple of the most important indicators or measures for your particular goal - is it trips to the gym, or lbs lost? Is it amount of Facebook likes or people at your gig? Don't choose the easy metric - choose the one most relevant for what you want to achieve.

Consider your abilities, your knowledge, your mindset and your resources (time, money, materials, relationships, information, tools, etc). You will need to use up a lot of these things and, let's face it, they all have limits. If it's important enough then you will hopefully prioritise how you expend these limited things in support of achieving your goals. In some cases, you might be able to make changes to increase your capacity, e.g. taking up a class on a relevant subject to increase your knowledge, getting up earlier to buy you more time, cutting back on spending to free up necessary finances, etc. The key here is to be honest about your current ability to achieve the goal and about how disciplined you'll need to be on your journey. And, by the way, for me, "discipline is remembering what you want" (David Campbell).

Be careful on this one, because if your vision or goal is a particularly creative or scary one, people may question you and challenge whether it's realistic. You may even question yourself! Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer that nothing great ever came from the status quo - you should always dream big and have confidence in yourself. To have an effective goal though, you need to balance this with some level of research to show that it's actually possible to achieve it. Look before you leap. Important: you're not necessarily trying to find whether someone else has already achieved it - you might be the first - only that there's evidence that it CAN be achieved.

Oh man, this one is so important. I have a magnet on my fridge that says "without the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done" because I'm a terrible procrastinator and I thrive on a bit of pressure. This very much depends on your own personality, but human nature (in my experience) is that if you either give someone NO deadline or a deadline that's TOO FAR AWAY, they'll take little nibbles out of the work and stretch out their effort to fill the time given to them. If the goal is important enough to you, you will feel a sense of urgency about achieving it. Put some thought into an appropriate deadline - is it something that will need a long ramp up? Do other things depend on it for their success? Be realistic and take the next point on Stretching into account too. The deadline might be very specific e.g. 'By my birthday/wedding day/January 1st', or it might be more general like 'by the end of the year'. In the latter example, I would highly recommend putting a specific time limit on the actions involved, in order to keep you honest. Finally, don't forget to enter these dates in a diary/calendar, or post them on a wall somewhere.

Here's where I add my own twist...

If your goal is not stretching you in some way, it's probably not very exciting or motivating to you. Therefore, it will be much more difficult for you to sustain your energy and effort until it's achieved. Our brain is wired to work on autopilot as much as possible; to find a comfort zone and stay there. But great things aren't achieved from a comfort zone. Babies don't learn to walk by staying put! I once saw a great speech by Jim Lawless, who, as a British free-diving record holder, knows all about pushing past comfort zones and limits. He talks about 'Tigers' being the fears and doubts that hold us back from going for the things we want. I'd urge you to watch his 10 rules videos, starting with Rule 1, here. A word of warning: although you want to feel stretched with your goal, you don't want to feel strained. Be brave, yes, but also be honest and careful that you don't set the goal so far out of reach that you get demotivated and/or give up.

The size of your goal will impact how much of this is relevant to you, but I'm pretty sure you'll be aiming for big things, so I'm including it for you, like I do with my clients. What I mean by "stepped" is that your goal will sometimes need to be broken down into sub-goals, or will, itself, be a stepping stone towards some bigger vision that you have. It's important that your goals are sized appropriately for you, based on all the other elements of the SMARTSS model. if it's too small, it won't be interesting enough, and if it's too big, you'll feel overwhelmed - and that's when your Tiger starts to roar! Be clear for yourself what the linkages (and dependancies) are to your other goals and your overall vision. My final word of warning on this is that it can sometimes be better to focus on your goals one after the other, rather than all at the same time. There are exceptions, e.g. getting fit and increasing your energy will help you achieve your other goals, but consider the benefits of stepping your goals for better results.
So, that's my SMARTSS model! Still to come in the series is a post on motivation, another on ensuring you have the support you need and a final one on taking action towards your goals. The worksheet is almost finished too, so that will be available in the first week of January, in time for all those New Year's Resolutions. Happy goal-setting!