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not vague when you are establishing goals for yourself. “I want to lose weight,” is a vague goal. “I plan to lose 10 pounds by my high school reunion in May” is a SMART-oriented goal.
An outline on paper will allow you to reflect on what a SMART goal looks like. Questions to help you think through the five areas of a SMART goal include:
Specific: Be a journalist and ask the five “w” questions. Who is this for and who needs to be involved? What do we want to accomplish? Why are we doing this? Where will the goal be achieved? Which resources will we need?
Measurable: How often will you measure success. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, will you weigh myself daily or once a week? If you want to complete a training module, how may sessions should you complete in a day or a week?
Attainable: Most of us want to be millionaires and that may be a goal that can be attained eventually. But if you need a million dollars by 2 p.m. tomorrow, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Also, be careful about setting goals that other people have power to approve or deny. If you plan to borrow a million dollars from the bank, then be prepared for them to tell you no if you don’t meet their good credit criteria.
Relevant: You have a higher chance of achieving your goal if it’s a goal you want to achieve. So, ask yourself if this is the right time and if you’ve got the energy and motivation to achieve it.
Time-bound: The brain focuses more when a deadline is set for achieving a goal. So take out the calendar and manually circle the date you want to have your goal completed by. For example, if you want to earn a master’s degree, then find out what all the required courses are plus any required practicums and internships and write down your graduation date. This will give you a realistic view of what your time investment will be to achieve your goal.
One final thing about a goal, though. When you’ve decided on your goal, don’t talk about it. Be vague. In research about this phenomenon, a study documented that people who were praised for working on a goal lost motivation to achieve it because their identity was then tied to the goal. Others often mistakenly praise an individual on personal qualities, rather than process approaches. So, if a person is praised for how smart they are and then they don’t do well on a test, then that sets up a negative feedback loop and prompts a person to be less motivated to try harder on the next test.
So, identify your goals and be vague in sharing them with others but SMART in achieving them.