Whether it’s in your personal or work life, the ability to set goals is a crucial part of what keeps us moving forward. Goals provide us not only with focus and direction, but also a measurable benchmark for our progress.
However, what people do not realise is that goal-setting is in itself a skill that needs to be practised and perfected. It is simply pointless to set unrealistic goals that either ask too much of the people involved, or to have a goal so vague that you might as well not have any at all. There is a clear difference between saying “I want to lose weight” and “I want to lose 5kg over the next 2 months”; simply stating that you want something does not make it a goal.
Afterall, you have to ask yourself: what is the point of setting a goal? What do you wish to achieve from it? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they need to follow the 5 golden rules of being SMART- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
1. Set Specific Goals
Your goal needs to be well-defined and clear in order for it to be effective. Just simply wishing that you were a billionaire does not make that a goal. Remember that the whole point of goal-setting is to provide us with direction, so goals which are vague or unclear may result in you wasting time meandering with no focus.
2. Set Measurable Goals
When you have decided where you want to end up at the end of your goal-oriented sprint (or marathon), the next thing you need to do is to plot the landmarks and milestones along the way so you would know if you are on the right path, and whether you are achieving them with the time and efficacy that you were hoping to.
In an organisation, measurable goals help to break big, lofty projects down into simpler, manageable chunks that the rest of the team can work with. When it comes to your personal goals, measuring each milestone can help keep you on track and make it easier for you to climb back on the path should you lapse or backslide.
3. Set Attainable Goals
What does it mean to be ‘attainable’? Well for starters, the goal you have in mind needs to be realistic and well within your potential abilities to achieve. It may require you to stretch your resources a little, work a little harder, or spend more effort on whatever it is you intend to do, but you know in your heart that it is well within your grasp.
When you set goals that are unrealistic, they may only demoralise or intimidate you into giving up on any form of progress at all. How often have you seen others throwing in the towel on what they want to achieve, saying “This is pointless, I’ll never be able to do X anyway.”?
By setting challenging yet realistic goals, you can be assured that you will at the very least be able to progress beyond where you currently are.
4. Set Relevant Goals
The goals you set should be relevant to what you want to ultimately achieve in your life or career. By aligning your core values and purpose with the goals that you set, you will ensure that your life isn’t wasted away chasing frivolous ideals- or someone else’s goals.
How often have you looked back on your life and wondered- where did all that time go? What have I achieved in the last five years? When the goals we chase are at odds with our overall sense of purpose, it may leave you with a sense of emptiness even if you do manage to achieve it.
5. Set Time-Bound Goals
Decide on when you want to achieve your goal, and come up with an action plan for that. How much should you progress in a week, month, or year? Creating a schedule allows you to forge ahead with a sense of urgency as well as providing you with a clear idea of how you need to adjust your schedule to accommodate your new plans.
Master the five rules above, and you will be on your way to living life the way you want.