Progress, Not Perfection: SMART Goals

SMARTgoals

This post is part of my Progress, Not Perfection Series.

Have you ever wondered why you have had a difficult time achieving some of the goals you set for yourself? Maybe you have wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, finish that degree, or learn all of the features on your digital camera. But you keep putting it off and telling yourself, “Someday…” Well, there’s a specific process you can follow that can help you set and achieve your goals. It’s called the SMART goal-setting process, and it’s used in schools and businesses because it’s both simple and effective. SMART Goal setting is unique. When we set SMART goals, we don’t just arbitrarily decide we’d like to do something. Here is the formula.

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Let’s delve deeper into what each of these mean, and learn how we can apply them when we set our goals (And teach our kids to set their goals). If your child has taken my Executive Function course, these will be familiar since I cover SMART goal setting in my classes I’ll use two examples, one for kids (doing better on a math test) and one for adults (having more “me” time).

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A specific goal means you really, really consider what you want to happen and form a plan. So, our goals look like this:

KIDS: I want to earn a B or higher on my math test next week. I’ll do this by:

  1. Studying my notes
  2. Doing practice work
  3. Going over old tests and reworking problems I struggled with or answered incorrectly.

ADULTS: I want to have one hour per day dedicated to myself. I’ll do this by:

  1. Waking 30 minutes earlier each day so I have alone time before my kids wake.
  2. Letting my spouse/partner/childcarer know I am taking time in the evenings 30 minutes before my child’s bedtime.
  3. Putting this time on my calendar as “busy” so friends and family are aware I’m unavailable.

Following this formula helps you set your goal AND a plan. As the saying goes, “fail to plan, plan to fail.”

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Now, we need to determine our end goal, and how we will decide if we’re on-track. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of mini-goals if your SMART goal is a long-term goal.

KIDS: I know I will have reached this goal when I receive the grade for my test and it is a B or higher.

ADULTS: I’ll know I’ve reached this goal when I can track that I have one hour to myself each day for one month. My mini goal is to make sure I get one hour to myself each day.

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An attainable goal is one that challenges you but is not overly aggressive. A goal that provides no challenge isn’t a SMART goal; likewise, one that is very far-fetched is likely to be reached. Develop attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach goals. Look for previously overlooked opportunities to achieve your goal.

For this portion of the SMART goal, we either determine that the goal is attainable or is not attainable. If we decide the former, we continue to the next step. But, if we decide the latter, we go back to Step 1 (Specific) and see if we need to reassess our overall goal or create a more formative plan.

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Simply put: why do you care? If a goal is not relevant to you, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll reach the goal. When it comes to goals, they’re personal. This means the only person for whom you can set a goal is yourself. While other people may be part of your goal (for example, the ADULT goal requires a caregiver besides yourself to care for your children so you can achieve your goal, the goal is not one you set for the caregiver. You will have to find ways to accomplish your goal with or without the help of others.

KIDS: This goal is important to me because I would like to maintain a B average in all of my classes, and each math test affects my final grade. A B average will also help me with college and career options.

ADULTS: This goal matters to me because I need some time to myself. I function better as a person and parent when I give time to myself. My relationship with my own heart and mind is so important to me, and nurturing it is also important. Spending time alone nurtures my relationship with myself so I can be my best self.

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When will this goal start and end? How often will you track the goal? This helps with accountability as well.

KIDS: My goal will start today and end after my test results come back, in two weeks. I’ll measure my goal daily to make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

ADULTS: I’ll start on my goal tonight and will continue for one month. I’ll track my goal daily and make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

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The complete SMART goal should read like this:

KIDS: I want to earn a B or higher on my math test next week. I’ll do this by studying my notes, doing practice work, and going over old tests and reworking problems I struggled with or answered incorrectly. I know I will have reached this goal when I receive the grade for my test and it is a B or higher. This goal is important to me because I would like to maintain a B average in all of my classes, and each math test affects my final grade. A B average will also help me with college and career options. My goal will start today and end after my test results come back, in two weeks. I’ll measure my goal daily to make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

ADULTS: I want to have one hour per day dedicated to myself. I’ll do this by waking 30 minutes earlier each day so I have alone time before my kids wake, letting my spouse/partner/childcarer know I am taking time in the evenings 30 minutes before my child’s bedtime, and putting this time on my calendar as “busy” so friends and family are aware I’m unavailable. I’ll know I’ve reached this goal when I can track that I have one hour to myself each day for one month. My mini goal is to make sure I get one hour to myself each day. This goal matters to me because I need some time to myself. I function better as a person and parent when I give time to myself. My relationship with my own heart and mind is so important to me, and nurturing it is also important. Spending time alone nurtures my relationship with myself so I can be my best self. I’ll start on my goal tonight and will continue for one month. I’ll track my goal daily and make sure I follow my 3-step plan.

In the pdf Ebook I’ve published for you, there is a copy of a SMART goals worksheet for adults. I also have a SMART sheet for kids so they can join the challenge! Your completed SMART goal should be detailed similarly to those above. If you find your goal is still difficult to achieve, look at each step and see if you need to redo a particular step. And, honestly–sometimes, achieving a goal is merely DOING it. Please let me know how this is working for you, and if you feel SMART goal setting is beneficial for those who feel motivated to complete a goal but have fallen short previously. Don’t forget to encourage your children to set their own SMART goals and hold each other accountable. We’re all in this together!

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