As far back as a half a century ago, professionals began looking closely into how people respond best to goal-setting in order to accelerate success in the workplace. It turns out the lessons learned are still useful today when applied to all aspects of personal and professional life.
A management consultant from Austria named Peter Drucker first introduced a series of positive goal-setting principles called Management by Objective (MBO) some 60 years ago. The crux of his achievement approach is focused on a mnemonic phrase titled SMART:
S — Specific
M — Measurable
A — Actionable
R — Reasonable
T — Time-Bound
Countless entrepreneurs and businesses, individuals and groups have used this method as a guide to defining the best strategies for reaching target goals for everything from sales and production in the workforce to health and fitness in the weight room. Over the years, the terms used to represent each letter have varied some, but the ideas remain constant.
It starts with creating a very specific goal to allow for a clear path to success. By setting a goal to eat healthier, what are you really committing to? You need more direction. Everyone has a different definition of healthy. What is yours?
Instead, make your goal more clearly defined, such as eating fruits and vegetables with every meal, drinking eight glasses of water each day or cutting down on sugar. This way, your new healthy eating habits are measurable. You can track on a daily and weekly basis how well you are sticking to your plan and if it is having the desired impact.
Start a simple spreadsheet or calendar to map out your meals each day. Couple that with a personal journal for you to jot down your thoughts, impressions and feelings each day. After a while, you can reflect on your progress and determine if your action plan is working.
Your goals need to be tied closely to behaviors or, in other words, be actionable. Saying that your goal is to fit into the summer dress you outgrew is not enough. It is a great image to keep you motivated when you are creating new habits that seem unpleasant. Yet, it’s not a good goal because you haven’t defined what you are going to do to slim down enough to slip into the dress.
Schedule a series of new behaviors or actions that will lead to your ultimate goal, like going for a morning run three times a week and lifting weights at the gym twice a week. Consider the path to your ultimate goals as a lifestyle change. It’s important to find fulfillment and joy in the journey towards the new ‘You’.
Make sure that your goals and your plan of action are reasonable. Is the dress you’re hoping to fit in something you wore in the last two years or has it been buried in the back of your closet for two decades? Achieving the goals you only dreamed possible is supposed to be a challenge. Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Share your goals with a good friend or family member. That way, you can receive trusted feedback from someone who cares. Telling loved ones about your goals, along with using a mobile behavior program such as Caterpilly, will also help you maintain accountability for your progress.
You decide how long it will take until you start to feel accomplished about yourself. Each goal you set must be tied to some sort of time line, or time-bound. If your boss gave you a work assignment without a deadline, how would you know when it was due? Would you ever finish it?
Eventually, you would finish the assignment or risk getting fired. Without a deadline, though, the company could never plan ahead, be organized and create the structure it needs to grow. Similarly, you want to reach your true potential by creating the best conditions for yourself to grow.
Think about goal-setting like a warm day in August. On a summer day, the sun’s rays naturally spread out to cover everything in sight. Using a magnifying glass, you can focus all of its energy into a single, powerful beam of light, concentrating enough energy to start a fire.
Your future is as bright as the sun and potential for success as far-reaching as its sunlight. By taking a close look at what is important to you, whether it’s your career, family and personal health, you will begin to harness the power to make real change in your life through goal-setting.