Most of us have no problem daydreaming about success. But when it comes to crafting a strategy to actually make those dreams a reality, it’s easy to get lost. How many times have you set a goal but later fell short of meeting it? This is a common experience, and it’s not because you aren’t capable of meeting that goal. In most cases it comes down to strategy.
That’s the idea behind the SMART goal paradigm. SMART stands for:
- Time Bound
Specific. Trying to meet an undefined goal is like taking a road trip without deciding where you want to go. Yes, you could end up somewhere amazing… But you could also drive in circles and have exactly zero fun. So, be specific about your goal. For example, “earn better grades” is a vague goal. “Increase my average by five points” is a specific goal.
Measurable. Decide how you will track your progress, and keep records. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t, so that you can adjust your methods along the way.
Attainable. Falling short of goals is demoralizing, and might make you reluctant to try again in the future. Meanwhile, the rush of satisfaction you get from reaching a goal will inspire you to continually set new ones. So, make sure your goals are realistic for the situation. Is it mathematically possible to raise your average in English class from a 70 to a 95 in three weeks? If so, then go for it. But if it’s not, set a goal that is attainable.
Relevant. Make sure your short term goals are relevant to the general direction you want your life to take. Otherwise you could spend a vast amount of energy reaching goals that look impressive on paper, but do very little to help you get to where you want to go.
Time bound. Attaching a deadline to your goal will motivate you to get started right now. Otherwise it remains the wishful dream that floats around your head, but is never put into action.
And finally, when you use the SMART method, make sure to commit all of these plans to paper. Writing them down (or typing them on a screen) makes them real and tangible. Use concrete words like “I will” instead of “I hope to” or “I will try”. Give your statements power, and you will find that same power within yourself.