Make your goals clear using the SMART goal setting method!
My sister Tasha introduced me to SMART goal setting a number of years ago, and ever since I’ve been much better at successfully meeting my goals.
My current new goal is to create a pilgrimage from home, and all I could hear when I started was my sister’s voice saying,
“Is this goal SMART?”
What is SMART (and it's fancy friend, SMARTER)?
Think of it as a goal setting filter that you run through to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success. This acronym stands for:
Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Timely,
SMARTER adds on Evaluate and Re-do, which is used often for long term goals that may shift or need to be evaluated as time passes.
Running your goal through it’s SMART paces will help you clarify what you want to do and why you want to do it. It will give you the chance to change it up if it doesn’t seem realistic.
How does SMART goal setting keep you from giving up on your goals?
- Getting specific will help you dial in on exactly why you want to accomplish your goal, what you want to accomplish, who your supporters are, and what obstacles you may come across
- Picking how you’re going to measure process and keeping track is an amazing tool to use in goal setting
- Taking a step back and noting if what you’re hoping to achieve is realistic for the time you have and the tools you have available to you will keep you from setting yourself up for failure
- It forces you to WRITE IT DOWN: You are way more likely to meet your goals if you write it down and get the details on paper (or one of the many paper alternatives)
Let's go over the nitty-gritty questions you can ask yourself when making your goal SMART:
We want to be specific about what we want to accomplish. For this section we would use W questions:
Who – Who will you need the assistance of to accomplish this goal?
What – What are you trying to accomplish (don’t be afraid to be very specific here)?
When – What is the time frame? You will dive deeper into this in the Timely section.
Where – Is there a location or event that’s relevant? This question may not apply to you, especially if you’re setting personal goals.
Why – What is the reason for this goal?
Which – Are there alternatives that you could (or need to) consider? What obstacles might you encounter, and are there any requirements that you’ll need to meet?
How will you measure your progress? If this is a larger goal, are you able to break it down into smaller goals that will give you a benchmark of progress?
You may need to take a little step back here so that you can see if this goal is attainable. Do you need to learn a new skill or shift your mindset? Goals are meant to inspire not discourage, and we want to be aware if we need any new tools/skills to help us achieve our goal.
Reflecting on what you’ve thought about so far, is this goal realistic? Will it fit into your present-day life, as well as make sense for on a long term scale?
What is your deadline, and is your goal accomplishable in that time period? If you know your goal is going to take 6 months, what would be a good expectation for the halfway mark? When your goal doesn’t have a realistic timeline chances are that it won’t succeed.
Still not sure if it's SMART? Ask a helpful friend or family member to look it over.
When I’m needing honest feedback I know I can trust Tasha to let me know where I can improve or if I’m being unrealistic. Think over the people you have in your life and consider who is willing to give you kind and straight-forward feedback.
Note: You may have people in your life who tend to rip down your ideas, who want to keep you “safe” (and therefore discourage anything remotely challenging) or who don’t want to hurt your feelings and will respond with enthusiasm no matter how terrible an idea is. Make your life easier by choosing your feedback person thoughtfully.
Pilgrimage from Home:
Goal Starting Point
I’m feeling overwhelmed by all of the bad news in the world, and immobilize by too many options. Looking at this, I’m wondering if I’m pointing my arrow in the right direction. I’d love to take a break from life, however with a toddler at home and a limited budget that just isn’t feasible.
I’ve decided to create a pilgrimage from home to give myself some space to contemplate and meditate about my concerns and fears. Creating a pilgrimage from home to give me the space and time that I need to contemplate and meditate about my life’s priorities, and address the fear and overwhelm that I’ve been experiencing.
Full disclosure – I have to force myself to put my goals through a SMART check. Even with Tasha’s voice in my mind, I want to avoid it because it takes away my excuses to fail.
I can’t tell myself “I aimed too high” or “I didn’t think it through” when I made sure a goal was realistic and thought-out. The onus of success comes down to my execution and that’s intimidating as heck.
I remind myself that I want to set myself up for success (not failure – who wants to say, “I like to set myself up to fail” – although that happens and is it’s own article all-together).
Even though I don’t want to, I do it, knowing that future me is better for it.
- I will need my husband’s support, both because he’ll be taking care of Freya every Sunday and because we’re a one car family so I’ll be monopolizing the car each Sunday
- I want to define my core values and the important areas of my life
- Look at how those values are or aren’t being lived
- Decide what concrete actions can be taken on a daily/weekly/monthly basis that will allow me to live in alignment with those values
- Walk towards my fears and figure out how to make them smaller or non-existent
- Prioritize what and who is important to me
- Use each Sunday as a landmark around which to pick a topic of contemplation
- Walking on Sundays, periodic journaling and writing through the week
- Along the Great Trail (Trans Canada Trail) from the Ironhorse Trail in Waterloo to the end of the Niagara River Recreation Pathway in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- I feel called to journey but I need to make it accessible for myself. I am tired of being afraid, feeling overwhelmed, and being uncertain.
- After reading the book Superbetter, I learned that I would like to have a thoughtful post-ecstatic growth experience.
- Are there alternatives? I could walk a different path or choose a religious building, but those don’t resonate with me.
- Are there obstacles? Yes! Firstly, I’m not in the greatest shape, so it will be a physical challenge. Secondly, I’m still effected by post-concussion syndrome. Although I’ve come a long way, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to do without dealing with a “concussion hangover” (which is my term for when everything hurts because you’ve done too much).
- The final and biggest obstacle is winter weather. I may not be able to drive some weeks, and some trails close over winter.
- Able to be measured in travel distance – kms/miles
- Each week I will journal and write about the literal walk as well as what came up through that week and review the journey so far
- Every week I will post once or twice to my blog as well as to my social media accounts
- Finally, I’m asking Tasha and some friends to help keep me accountable
- Walking is an accessible exercise, and I’m planning on starting with shorter distances and working my way up
- I’m able to carve out at least a couple hours every week to make a post (or two)
- I am committed to walking on Sundays
- If the distance seems to be too far for my abilities my backup plan is to bike a leg or two
- There may be missed weeks due to weather challenges, illness, or friend/family functions. I’m hoping to take advantage of the fall weather with some longer hikes (or worst case, biking).
- Slowly I’ll get further and further from home which will involve driving more and having less walk time. So I know that is pushing the realistic bar a bit but I’m committed!
- When travelling on my own, I’ll either need to hike out and back or taxi back to my start point
- Day walks mean I don’t need too much fancy equipment, but I will need to get the right gear for winter hiking
- I have a set timeline of 300 kms (186 mi) in 30 weeks
- I have divided the trail into 3 10-week sections:
- Section 1 is the warm-up, and I’m aiming for 75 kms (47 mi)
- Section 2 is the fall walk, and I’m aiming for 150 kms (93 mi)
- Section 3 is the winter walk, and will take up the final 75 kms (47 mi)
Whew, that expanded my starting point!
It took me about an hour and some minor re-writes to feel confident that I have a plan that will work. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next 6 months go!