Imagine setting sail on a voyage. You're the captain of your ship, and you have a clear destination in mind. However, it's not sufficient to merely say, "I want to sail to the other side of the ocean." Such a goal is too vague, lacks a definitive course, and provides no means to chart your progress. This is where the widely-accepted SMART Goals framework comes in as a valuable first step. Just as a seasoned sailor needs precise coordinates, a compass for direction, a way to measure distance traveled, and an understanding of the conditions affecting the journey, we, too, can use these tools when setting our goals.
SMART Goals: The Basis
If you’re not familiar with the SMART framework, it's an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It's a tried-and-true strategy that transforms broad desires into specific targets. Let's quickly break down these elements:
Specific: The first step in setting SMART goals is specificity. It's like pinpointing the exact island you want to reach in your vast oceanic journey. Instead of simply saying, "I want to get fit," a specific goal might be, "Run the Chicago Marathon." This gives your goal clarity and helps you know what exactly needs to be achieved.
Measurable: If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. In our sailing analogy, think of this as the nautical mile markers that track your progress. It's not enough to want to run a marathon; setting a measurable goal might look like this: "Complete the Chicago Marathon in under 5 hours." This way, you can monitor your progress and know when you've reached your goal.
Achievable: This ensures that your goal is within the realm of possibility, given your current resources, abilities, and constraints. It's like making sure your ship is capable of making the journey you're planning. Your goal should stretch your abilities but still remain possible in your mind. For instance, if you've never run before, it's not very practical or healthy to plan on completing a marathon with only a month's training. However, completing a marathon over several months? With consistent training, that's more achievable.
Relevant: Your goals should be aligned with your broader life vision, just as your chosen destination should match your reasons for setting sail. If your ultimate vision is supreme fitness, a goal to run a marathon aligns perfectly with that. This connection between your goal and your larger purpose keeps you motivated and committed.
Time-bound: Every goal needs a deadline. In our voyage, it's the date by which you plan to reach your destination. A time-bound goal could be, "Complete this year's Chicago Marathon in under 5 hours." The timeline provides a clear endpoint, creates a sense of urgency, and motivates you to take action toward your goal.
Now, while the SMART framework can be an excellent starting point, it is often not enough on its own. It gives us specific and measurable targets, but this somewhat clinical approach can neglect the emotional dimension and our fragile Ego and its deep fears. This is where my SMARTER framework comes into play.
SMARTER Goals: Acronym and Framework
The SMARTER framework elevates the foundational SMART goals by adding two crucial dimensions: 'E' for addressing Emotional barriers and 'R' for establishing Repeatable practices.
Addressing the emotional aspects of goal-setting is essential because our emotions can both fuel and hinder our progress. When we acknowledge our fears and emotional barriers, we can take proactive steps to set repeatable practices that gradually help us overcome them. These practices serve as stepping stones that allow us to face our fears repeatedly, enabling us to progressively build confidence and reduce the impact of our unconscious fears. With each step forward, we reinforce new beliefs and behaviors that counteract the limiting effects of fear.
SMARTER Goals Examples:
Let's take the example of John, who identified a SMART goal of losing 20 pounds by year’s end to align with an overall vision of becoming a more healthy, attractive, and impactful thought leader. To enhance his goal-setting approach with the SMARTER framework, John incorporates the Emotional and Repeatable elements.
Emotional barriers: John takes a step back, reflects deeply, and acknowledges that there might be emotional barriers that could hinder his progress in losing weight. He recognizes that he has a fear of switching his diet and, in the process, letting go of some of his favorite processed foods.
Repeatable practices: Taking into consideration his primary fear, John sets up a repeatable practice to tackle this emotional barrier and support his overall weight-loss journey. Instead of going into some extreme diet and completely cutting off his favorite processed foods, he establishes a weekly practice of gradually replacing one processed food item with a healthier alternative. Additionally, he sets another repeatable practice to limit his intake of processed foods to a specific number of servings each week.
Through these additions of repeatable practices, John creates a balanced and gradual approach to his weight-loss journey, one that honors the emotional realm and the challenges his Ego poses.
Let’s take another example of Sarah, who identified a SMART goal of becoming a meditation teacher with a vision of elevating the consciousness of humanity. To enhance her goal-setting approach with the SMARTER framework, Sarah also incorporates the Emotional and Repeatable elements.
Emotional Barriers: Upon reflection, Sarah recognizes that she experiences fear of judgment when speaking in front of others. She acknowledges that this fear has been holding her back in her previous careers and is likely going to hinder her goal of becoming a teacher.
Repeatable Practices: Sarah establishes repeatable weekly practices to gradually overcome her fear of judgment and enhance her speaking skills. She decides to join a local speaking club or Toastmasters group where she can practice speaking in front of a supportive audience each and every week. Additionally, she hires a coach who specializes in public speaking and confidence-building and commits to delivering a short speech or presentation at each weekly session, gradually increasing the duration and complexity of her presentations over time.
By integrating both the Emotional and Repeatable elements into the SMART framework, we create a more comprehensive approach to goal-setting. We acknowledge the emotional barriers in our journey, allowing us not only to overcome fears but also to elevate our confidence. Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of the process itself, not just the end result.
Applying SMARTER GOALS
● If you're aspiring to advance your career, you can apply the SMARTER framework by setting a specific goal to earn a professional certification, while addressing any fears of failure or inadequacy and establishing a study routine to gradually prepare for the exam.
● For enhancing physical fitness, set a goal to participate in a local 5k race within a specific time, tackle any self-doubt or body image concerns, and establish a regular training routine that progressively increases in intensity
Application in Action: After achieving fame as an actress, Emma Watson envisioned using her platform for broader social impact. She formulated specific, achievable goals aligned with this vision by setting her sights on higher education, enrolling at Brown University and graduating with a bachelor's degree in English literature. Watson further expanded her goals by addressing emotional barriers and establishing repeatable practices. She tackled the potential fear of public scrutiny and the challenge of juggling an acting career with education. Emma’s commitment to education despite her already successful acting career exemplifies how setting and pursuing structured goals can lead to personal growth and fulfillment beyond one’s established domain.
Take Action: Identify a fear or emotional barrier that might hinder your progress towards this goal. What steps can you take to address it? What repeatable practice can you establish to help you confront this fear and move closer to your goal?