Most of you have heard about SMART goals and why they’re so important. I used to teach this process in corporations, and it is the foundation for any goal setting workshop or class. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART goals set you up for success because they are goals that have parameters; they are objective. You can tell when you are on target and when you are off. You know when you have achieved them or you haven’t. When done right, SMART goals create a sense of excitement because you can watch yourself get closer and closer to achieving them, but generally speaking, I bore myself even TALKING about SMART goals. This part of the class always put people to sleep. I would be bouncing around the room trying to make it interesting, but it only went so far. Until, one of the other instructors gave it a little spin.

When he got to the M, he asked the class, “What does the M represent?” About half the class mumbled “measurable,” and the other half nodded in agreement as their memories clicked in. His face lit up with a smile that said he was about to rock their worlds. He turned to the screen and flashed a slide that said, “M – Motivational”. He went on to explain that if your goals are specific and time-bound, they will also be measurable, but if your goals aren’t motivational, they won’t inspire you to achieve them. I was on the edge of my seat. Why had I never thought about it this way before?! My world was indeed rocked, and SMART goals just got interesting. Over the years, I have taught SMART goals this way and found myself with that same mischievous grin that my training partner had all those years ago. I know that for many, goal setting is about to change forever.

I was recently driven to create a SMART Process when I realized that I was SMART, arbitrary goals that didn’t really move the needle in my life. I was able to achieve my mission and purpose without ever even achieving the goals. Like me, so many people get caught up in setting great goals without making sure that they are the right goals to begin with. This is so common in organizations, but it may be even more prevalent with entrepreneurs. Whether you have already set your goals for the year or area still in the final stages of “organizing your thoughts,” I encourage you to look at your goals through the lens of the steps below.

S – Strategic

Why do your goals matter anyway? Many people think that goals are the ultimate end, but they are simply markers along a path. They suggest that you are moving in the right direction toward your ultimate goal. Many times, we arbitrarily select these goals based on how others have achieved the success we are looking for. It’s like a Madlib. We add our words into a template and have a goal that looks a little different than everyone else.

While goals are WHAT you want to accomplish, they also represent HOW you are going to achieve bigger goals. Say you want to grow your subscribers by 20% or reach 1,000 subscribers. That goal should be a strategic move in your overall strategy for what you want out of your blog or the role your blog plays in something even bigger. When I don’t achieve a goal, it’s often because it didn’t fit in with my overall strategy. I am still on track for what I wanted to achieve in my business, but I didn’t need THAT goal to do it. Your goals should be strategic moves, not simply steps that you think you need to take or what everyone else is doing. Maybe growing your subscribers isn’t a key part of your overall plan? Maybe it is, but HOW you grow your subscribers is where there need to be changes. Maybe it isn’t writing MORE blogs but changing the content slightly. We often get attached to goals for the goal’s sake rather than looking at the bigger vision. What are the goals that will move the needle in YOUR life, business, or career?

M – Meaningful

According to Martin Seligman’s Theory of Well-being, Meaning is the Number 1 influence on one’s overall and well-being. Unfortunately, many of us set goals without considering the meaning behind them. How do we expect this goal will influence achievement of our ultimate goals? How do we expect achievement of this goal to impact our lives? How do we expect to feel when we accomplish this goal? If we stop to answer those questions, we will lean that we have much more tied into these goals than we think, and they aren’t always the right things. We assign so much meaning to goals without even realizing it. Doing this unconsciously often means we are waiting to achieve a life that we could be living right now, WHILE achieving those goals.

One great way to understand the meaning behind your goal is to ask yourself “Why is this important to me?” seven times. Each time, you will get closer to your why. Once you understand your why, you can better determine if this is a goal that is necessary in your life. You may be trying to achieve it for the wrong reasons that have nothing to do with your ultimate goals. Earning someone’s approval, for example, is a common why. Unfortunately, you have no control over someone else’s response to your achievements. Having a powerful why, though, can also drive you forward when it gets tough. I have so much more to say on this topic, but for now, I’ll move on.

A – Advancing

Related to Strategic, goals need to be Advancing; they need to move the needle where it matters. Where Strategic is really about the HOW to achieve your ultimate goals, Advancing focuses on those goals that matter, that will move you along the path to achieving meaning, achieving your ultimate goals, and ensure that you are progressing every week, month, and year.

R – Reasonable

Each goal should be broken down into intermediate goals (weekly, monthly, quarterly) that indicate progress toward the goal. They should also have activity goals that, when followed consistently, should result in achievement of the goal. This is where we often struggle. We set grandiose goals, but we aren’t exactly sure how much work it will take on a weekly basis to achieve it. We don’t break down those 50 blogs this year into weekly activity. It sounds doable at first, but combined with everything else in your life, the weekly work adds up really fast. By breaking the goal down into intermittent goals then weekly activities, we can see whether the work required is actually reasonable and if that amount of effort is where we WANT to spend our energy.

T – Track It!

Goals are only effective if you look at them. How are you going to track this goal throughout the year. Most organizations are happy if they can get their teams to review goals at the end of the year and once in the middle. Trust me. That is NOT enough! Weekly, you should be checking your progress regarding the activity goals. Are you consistently doing what it takes to achieve those goals? If not, re-evaluate the importance of that goal. Monthly, you should be reviewing your intermittent goals. Are you on track for completing this goal at the end of the year? How can you make adjustments to get back on track? And quarterly, this is when you review your overall goals. Are you still on track? Has your life-season changed in a meaningful way that would impact accomplishment of the goal? What adjustments need to be made?

By following this process, you will be well on your way to achieving those beautifully aligned SMART goals you’ve developed.

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