Fact: Setting and accomplishing goals isn’t easy.
If it were, there’d be more Richard Bransons and Elon Musks in the world instead of millions of people who feel unfulfilled and overwhelmed.
But is setting and accomplishing goals really what sets these successful people apart?
Again, it’s not easy but with the proper mindset and framework, it is possible and definitely worth it.
Here is the breakdown:
Evaluate your situation
The first step to set and accomplish goals is to reflect on your past and present situation. While many people skip this step, it's crucial in order to determine what you wish to improve on and achieve.
Before creating a vision for your future or planning for what you want to gain, take a moment to assess your strengths, weaknesses, past learnings, past mistakes, current environment, current resources, current limiting beliefs, mindset roadblocks, actual roadblocks, etc., all in order to get in touch with your "why."
Doing so will equip you with more clarity, better understanding, more motivation, and a keen sense of what it would actually take to set and accomplish goals that are yours and yours alone.
Just think of all the sports organizations and companies that perform regular performance overviews and target meetings — they need to first know what worked and what didn't in order to get an idea of the next steps to take.
Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals
Once you've evaluated your situation, the next step is to actually set your goals. While there are several ways to go about doing this, one method is the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting strategy.
S stands for specific
A goal needs to be painstakingly specific. The more specific your goal is, the clearer and more manageable it is to accomplish.
Take for example a person who wants to run a successful blog.
Starting a blog is simple — choose a platform, set up hosting, register your domain, design the website, and publish the first article.
But then why do millions of blogs fail or are left abandoned?
They're started without a specific goal in mind (or any goal for that matter).
If your goal is vague, how will you know how to accomplish it? Worse, how will you know if you’re making progress towards achieving it?
Here are examples of vague, non-specific goals:
I want to have a successful blog
I want more freedom
I want to make a million dollars
I want to get in shape
I want better relationships
Instead of stating lofty platitudes, try incorporating answers to questions like what, who, why, where, when, how much, and how often.
In our example of running a successful blog, you can ask:
What am I writing about?
Who am I writing for?
Why am I blogging?
Where should I have a strong presence?
When or how often should I post?
How long should each post be?
M stands for measurable
Many people use superlative adjectives such as “best” or “most” in setting their goals and leave it at that.
Goals need to be measurable so you can track your progress and evaluate your methods frequently. Use numbers, statistics, or concrete targets whenever possible.
For example, instead of saying you want to start a successful blog, set your goal for the first month to publish a set number of posts with a minimum word count, and have X number of visitors/page views, Y number of engagement (shares, comments, likes), and Z number of subscribers.
After the first month, you can then build on the metrics and progress to higher numbers and a better quality of engagement.
A stands for Attainable (and Actionable)
While it’s highly encouraged to aim high and set goals outside your comfort zone, make sure your goals are attainable in the time frame that you have allocated given the resources you can manage.
This enables you to prevent overwhelm so you can realistically break up the main goal/s into small but consistent, actionable steps.
If you set daily, weekly, and monthly targets that routinely move the needle, you’re more likely to maintain the level of motivation you had when you started and not give up before your goal is completed.
R stands for Relevant
Goals need to be in line with your core values and priorities, and need to be relevant to you, not to society, or to your parents.
By setting relevant goals, you can move towards who you want to be, where you want to be, and what you want to accomplish, instead of going off in different directions.
Having relevant goals will save you both time and effort so you’re free to devote yourself completely to the things that truly matter to you.
For those of you who call yourself multi-passionate or if you have multiple goals that aren’t clearly related to one another...
I suggest focusing on one main goal at a time, preferably the most important one and the one that will make you feel the most fulfilled.
T stands for Time-bound
What sets a mere dream apart from a SMART goal is the sense of urgency.
Deadlines such as 7 days, one month, or 90 days are extremely helpful in preventing procrastination.
It is, however, crucial to remember Parkinson’s Law which states:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
This means it's best to evaluate how long it would really take to accomplish a goal and routinely check yourself if you're just stalling.
If you want to take goal-setting one step further, you can use the updated version of this strategy called S.M.A.R.T.E.R.
E stands for Evaluative
More often than not, the first method (or even the second or third method) doesn’t easily set you up for success. There will always be setbacks and if you are not prepared to evaluate the process, you’ll most probably give up.
Even if you feel like you’re making progress, it’s best to frequently ask yourself:
What worked so far?
What didn’t work?
What can I do without?
What can I do better or more effectively?
R stands for Revisable
Once you've evaluated your goals and processes, be prepared to make revisions. Changes in terms of health, relationships, industry standards, or the environment shouldn’t deter you from achieving your goals.
It helps to know that no person ever encountered a clear and unobstructed path to success and it’s the most accomplished ones who were able to adapt and keep pushing forward.
Criticism of this goal-setting strategy
It’s important to note that some people find setting SMART goals limiting, outdated, or even boring.
Whichever side of the fence you’re in, setting SMART goals is still useful if you consider what it is and what it is not —
It is a guide, a framework, and one of many strategies out there.
It is not a perfect system nor is it an end-all and be-all answer to goal-setting.
Remember, setting the goal isn’t enough.
You need a well-formed plan to put it into action.
How to take action
Now that you’ve set SMART or SMARTER goals, where do you go from here?
You need to create an action plan to accomplish them.
While there are numerous ways of doing this, each of which depends on the goal you are referring to, here are additional steps you can take:
01. Write it down
Having your goals written down on a piece of paper helps clarify and strengthen your intentions. Combining this tangible aspect with the well-formed thoughts in your head, your goals become all the more powerful. Just ask fellow 'writing-it-down' advocates such as Oprah, JK Rowling, Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, and Marie Forleo.
It's also best if you post your written goals wherever you can see it frequently. A constant reminder of what you’re aiming for makes it easier to keep your focus and avoid distractions. It affirms your purpose and solidifies your resolve to pursue it.
02. Break it down
Breaking down your goals means dividing them into easy, simple, and manageable pieces that when done consistently, will slowly but surely form the bigger picture.
Think of it as creating a goal-setting environment or mindset with the least amount of friction. Don't give yourself any of reason or excuse to not work on your goals on a regular basis. Small steps and micro-habits will guarantee your momentum and avoid procrastination.
You can break down your goals by the following:
timeframe (ex. set weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets)
frequency (ex. start with twice a week and move up to five times a week), or
progression (ex. start at level 1 and go all the way up to level 10)
03. Hold yourself accountable
Since these are your goals, no one else can accomplish them for you so it's up to you to remain focused and disciplined.
If you think it might help, consider posting your goals on social media, sharing them with an accountability partner, or hiring a coach to help guide and support you throughout your process.
You may even try to assign consequences in case you don’t push through with your goal. Examples are to donate money to a charity you hate or doing chores you dislike for a neighbor for a whole month.
04. Reward yourself
Having a reward system is beneficial in at least two aspects: first, you recognize that you did a good job (past) and second, you set yourself up to accomplish more since you know you’ll be getting a reward afterwards (future).
05. Develop systems and habits to guarantee success
Unless your goals and actions are in line and unless you execute, review, and improve on a regular basis, your goals will remain unaccomplished.
For this reason, setting and accomplishing goals require implementing systems and habits that work for you, instead of against you.
If, for example, your goal is to exercise regularly in the morning, try setting aside your workout clothes beside your bed before you sleep. You can also get a physical trainer to keep you accountable, keep track of your sessions by maintaining a habit tracker, or wake up earlier to make time for your workout.
A crucial element of success
Take note that at the beginning of this post, I mentioned goals — plural.
You’ll find that all successful people have this in common: they consistently set goals and accomplish them.
It doesn’t matter that they fail, which is inevitable, because they remain focused and continue to learn and improve.
The fact of the matter is, successful people are NOT one-hit wonders.
They’ve made a dent in this world by aiming for the consistent and progressive kind of success, and that’s done only by habitually setting and accomplishing goals.
Share in the comments below: What's your biggest takeaway from this article? How do you make sure you set and accomplish your goals?