“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”Benjamin E. Mays
When we talk about goals in life, two scenarios may come to the stage: Some people are super goal-oriented and drive themselves harshly goal after goal. Others live in static and dullness with no goals to reach. In this article, I tend not to address the adverse effects behind both but emphasize a healthier and more scientific approach for goal setting and reaching in life. That is the SMART Goals.
The Definition of SMART Goals
You may have heard of it multiple times but are still confused with the interchangeably used definitions. Despite those slightly different interpretations of this acronym, the most well-recognized version of the SMART Goals criteria is the one popularized by Professor Robert S. Rubin in Saint Louis University:
- S - specific
- M - measurable
- A - achievable
- R - relevant
- T - time-bound
Each step is essential for overall success. I’ll explain them specifically in the following with some tips and examples of SMART Goals to help you understand them better.
S - specific
This simply means that a goal has to be clear and well-defined for more effective planning. Most of the time, one’s failure of reaching a goal can be largely attributed to the ambiguity of his/her objective. The more vague the goal is, the less clear our mind will be, and the less likely we will be goal-driven. Therefore, start by narrowing down an ambiguous statement and making it something more specific and that can be executed.
An ambiguous goal: “I want to be a social influencer.”
A specific goal: “I want to be a social influencer with a not-so-big size of the audience in the make-up field on Youtube.”
- Use adjectives and adverbs to describe and define your idea.
- Ask yourself the classic 4W questions: what, why, who, and where.
M - measurable
A smart goal also has to be measurable, which means that some metrics are set beforehand and can be used to evaluate whether the goal is met and progresses along the way.
“I want to be a social influencer with a not-so-big size of audience in the make-up field on Youtube.” Define the promising result “a not-so-big size of the audience” and make it more specific with a number, e.g. 20k subscribers.
- You can also have multiple layers to indicate the outcome: When your subscribers reach 20k, that would be an A result. B=80%, C=60%, etc.
- Replace KPIs with OKRs to objectively measure results and work towards the goal.
A = achievable
An unrealistic goal is set usually because of the blind optimism we have on the ability of our future self, according to some psychological studies. We also tend to experience an instant adrenaline rush when a goal we’ve set is ambitious because it seems exciting enough even just thinking about the time the goal is met and our beautiful future life after that. This is what makes setting an achievable goal not easy as being said.
- Apply a 30% discount to your expected results when setting a goal.
- Visualize the process of doing something instead of the outcomes.
- Do some research and take more inside and outside factors into account. For example, if you want to be a make-up YouTuber in the example, ask yourself at least those questions: “Do I have enough time to do that?” “Do I have enough make-up skills?” “How will I learn video shooting and editing?” “What is my special style compared with other competitors?” “Will there be any costs?”
R = relevant
This metric suggests you consider your goal from a broader perspective. Does the goal align with your life purpose or other long-term pursuits? Will the accomplishment of it be a stepping stone for you to achieve bigger goals in the future? Is it the right time to do that now? What will I gain and sacrifice and is it worth doing? Does it match your skill set?
Before you determine to be a make-upYouTuber, you may need to consider whether it suits your situation. If you happened to quit a job recently with some savings and are good at make-up techniques, and developing a side business on social media is a long-time dream of yours, you may find this goal is relevant to yourself from many different angles.
- Consider opinions from people you trust as well because they can sometimes provide you with more objective thoughts.
T = time-bound
Time-bounding your goal is the last but not the least. Why?
Having a specific time frame for your goal can increase your motivation. If there is no end date, most of us would be prone to procrastinate because we know something is still far away, which means the reward of it is also far away.
Having a time-based goal can also help you prioritize tasks because you have a deadline to focus on and always know what to do next. This can increase your efficiency and thus the possibility of reaching your goal.
Think about what you can do tomorrow, one month from now, and within a year. Sketch a roadmap with a clear timeline of what you do to become a make-up YouTuber with 20k fans. On the roadmap, there should be different stages, within which tasks are scheduled to be checked off one by one.
- Always time-bound your tasks, every little one. You can learn more about the Time Blocking method (the most popular time management skill used by Bill Gates)!
- Use a simple calendar and to-do list app to manage tasks and make schedules. Let TickTick help!
The Science behind SMART Goals
The benefits of goal-setting have been pointed out by many psychological researchers before. Just to name one, having a goal to achieve can enhance our self-awareness due to the continuous reality check and self-evaluation. Then, what are the extra benefits of using the SMART framework? Why can it be effective in goal setting and reaching? Let’s dive into it.
Specific: The more specific the goal is, the more we will be able to notice the resources that help us get to it or things associated with it. This is because it has been brought to your attention and thus stimulates the “Reticular Activating System” (RAS) in our brain.
Measurable: Being able to see the milestones that indicate our progress along the way contributes to the final success. It also shapes our behavior and keeps us on track. Those stepping stones are also strong motivators that will keep us in a good momentum.
Achievable: This is the easiest to understand, because the more attainable the task is, the less execution power it will involve. Conversely, if a goal is too unrealistic or big, we tend to put it off and off again as we know it requires great effort and commitment.
Relevant: Keeping a relevant goal involves our core values since we have to analyze our strengths and weaknesses to go with it. We also need to ensure it’s relevant to our life purposes. Therefore, it can increase our self-understanding and also help us reach it.
Time-bound: As being said, having a deadline can be the most direct way to motivate ourselves because we tend to avoid the mental suffering caused by missing deadlines. It reminds us of the completion of tasks and regulates our behaviors by creating a limited timeframe.
Understanding the basics of SMART Goals and the science behind the criteria, it's the right time to take these tips and set a smart goal NOW!