Goal Setting Part 1: be SMART about it

it’s almost the new year and that means i’m vigorously planning for 2012, mostly because 2011 was such a lemon and i want out! I WANT OUT  OF 2011!

new year’s resolutions and goal setting have always been part of my end-of-year activities since about 2001. back then i was young and my goals were unfocused and idealistic, they were more about what i thought i wanted or needed and less about what would develop and challenge me as an adult. i now look at my goals as a way to identify my weaknesses and develop plans to strengthen and challenge me to be a better person.

like anything, goal setting and achieving goals takes practice. in 2001 i wrote the following goal:

‘6-pack in 6 months’

how adorably naive! i still haven’t achieved that goal, can you see why? but i still really do want a 6-pack. so, with the experience i now have 10 years on, here’s how i would break it down and write a SMART goal:

1. be Specific: i could say ‘6-pack’ or i could say ‘abdominal definition greater than the 2-pack i already have’. i don’t want anyone (including myself) to mistake my goal for drinking 6 beers before June. though, to maintain a 6-pack and be able to drink 6-packs could be written as a stretch goal, once i have a 6-pack that is.

2. Measure or quantify it, meaning, how am i going to get there? some goals (as you’ll see in my next post) require a bit of measuring, sometimes with an actual tape measure. this step is about defining the process by which you will achieve the goal. so i could do it by cranking out 100 (or 200 or 300) sit-ups/day, or by doing the Abs of Steel video 3x/week.

3. Achievability: can it be done? more importantly do you believe you can do it? i’ve been trying for a 6-pack for 10 years now. am i not there yet because it’s physically impossible? or because i didn’t set my goals properly? however, some goals should be designed as stretch goals, or only partially achievable. but don’t limit yourself by what you think you can do- aim high! only 50% of your goals should be achievable. no seriously, i read that somewhere.

4. is it Realistic? a 6-pack is really just an outward display of superficial abdominal conditioning (rectus/transverse abdominus and obliques). strength in those muscle groups will assist with my parkour goals, but it will seriously hamper my yoga practice, specifically back-bending. and i’m going to have to quit drinking…alcohol. does this goal align with other goals i’m working on? is it really worth it?

5. create a Time-frame: i could bang this one out in a month, maybe 6 weeks if it were the only goal i were working on. but what about all my other goals? and looking ahead, once achieved is it sustainable? or the inverse: how long can i go without a glass of red wine? so let’s give it 4 months.

so here’s the updated goal:

i have this, you just can't see it yet.

‘i will achieve ‘6-pack’ superficial abdominal definition by April 2012 by cutting alcohol consumption completely, increasing aerobic activity in my conditioning sessions (4x/week) and focusing on core strength and stability during my yoga practice (4x/week).’

now the next step, and one of the best parts of goal setting- share it! post it on your fridge or your pin board at work, let people know what you’re working on! you wouldn’t believe the support you can get from people once you share a well-defined goal with them. and you might inspire others to start setting their own goals.

taking time to reflect on where you are and where you’re going is a worthwhile exercise and it gets easier the more you do it. it focuses the mind and the power of intention on your own self-improvement in the areas that matter most to you. i’m going to spend the next few posts describing how i frame and write my goals and plan my achievements for the next year as well as share with you some of the things i’m working on. so join me! start by writing down some of the things you want to achieve in the next year. but they better be SMART!

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