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SMARTER Goals: Begin with the Change in Mind

Camille Nelson

This is an excerpt from Camille Nelson’s full article, SMARTER Goals: Begin with the Change in Mind

Why are goals important? It is a complex question.

It is a known rule that it takes an average of 10,000 hours to become an expert at a craft. So to become truly phenomenal at something, you need to focus consistently and routinely for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 44 weeks a year, for 5.5 years. That is both incredibly daunting and reasonable as a time frame. Yet the question again is not how long it will take to get there, but what the best path for you to take is. This is where optimal goals are truly needed.

The goal of any business, organization, or individual endeavor is to be prosperous. However, for any initiative to be successful, there have to be goals that everyone can understand and relate to. For example, a person in sales is going to contribute to the success of the company in a vastly different way than the head of IT or finance. In order to set targets inside goals, there has to be a sense of equality for all participants.

Why is this so hard to achieve in business, campus organizations and in life? Well, the honest answer is that at both the individual level and in organizations, society has an obsession with goal setting. In the current culture, neither an organization nor an individual can be considered successful unless goals are set and then met. The typical incentive used by leaders to achieve these goals is the continual focus on harder and harder work, increased productivity, and overall improvement. The way to measure that success is to measure goal fulfillment.

How often have you seen this goal-setting template?

  • Write down clear and concise goals
  • Identify how goal success will be measured
  • Set goal deadlines and state the specific outcomes or results to aim for
  • Assign rewards for success and punishment for failure

This template is just one of many that show the basic way many people set goals. The backing for always setting goals reportedly comes from a variety of sources, including academic research. An example of this academic research that is widely cited is the 1953 Yale study. In this study, researchers reportedly surveyed the graduating seniors from the class of 1953 at Yale University to see who had written goals for their future. The results indicated that 97% had not created long-term goals while only 3% had. Then after two decades of waiting, researchers were said to have gone back to the surviving members of the class and discovered that those who had written life goals had accumulated more wealth than all their classmates put together. However, the only problem with this powerful finding is that there was no such study. Researchers at Yale and members of the class of 1953 all swear there was no such study.

This case of false research to help support the popularity of goal setting is actually compelling evidence of the opposite. It shows that regardless of good intentions and effort, many individuals and groups consistently fall short of achieving their goals. Furthermore, the fault is often put solely on the goal setter. Yet that is clearly not the whole story. What this really shows is that the goal-setting method is much more to blame than the person or group setting them.

Goals Don’t Matter as Much as What You Do Each Day

Many people think that if you don’t have a set of established goals, then you are unfocused or altogether lost. However, having studied and experienced a range of goal models and methodologies for some time, I can honestly say that it is not just having goals that matter, but rather what you do every day.

What really matters is that you’re constantly working throughout the day to progress as far towards your goal as you possibly can. When changes come–and they will come–by focusing on what to do that day or the next, you can stay on track and make small revisions to your plan to find continued success.

The goal is the end result, but the end result is not the only focal point. When you focus intently on your day-to-day activity, then the end goal eventually becomes a reality. When you focus on each moment instead of simply achieving your goal, you can avoid a lot of stress that would diminish your mental and emotional capacity to succeed.

Spread Out Your Needed 10,000 Hours of Practice

I mentioned before that there is scientific evidence to back up the claim that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to make a permanent habit, which is closely related to many goals.

The research also suggests spreading out that work over a period of months in order to avoid burn out. This is also important when considering adaptability since the need to remain flexible is easier when tasks are not close together and can be easily rearranged. Again, some things can be done faster or may take longer, but this is the average. Depending on the goal you have in mind, other variables may also be added.

However, if you remember to consider these goals as long-term, then you won’t have to worry about how long it will take.

Goals Aren’t about Perfection

To continue the previous tip about timing, remember that goals shouldn’t be tied to the unrealistic idea of perfection. You can screw up from time to time and it won’t affect the process or completely sideline you the way many people feel it will.

I can vouch for this point like nobody’s business. I was in no way perfect when working towards many of my goals over the course of my life. The most important point to keep in mind is that you haven’t failed until you quit trying. This is such an important point to remember because we tend to beat ourselves up, especially when we’re first heading towards smaller, more amateur goals. Don’t beat yourself up. You don’t have to be perfect and you won’t ever be. Don’t waste valuable time or resources on this.

Be Genuine

Make sure your goals are truly based on what you want. Don’t follow inauthentic reasons like what others will think of you, panic over failure, or other limiting beliefs. This negative self-talk strongly influences what we do as humans and cannot be given a chance to thrive within your goals.

Also, by not basing your goals on fear and being genuine, you can adapt to change much better. Adopting a regular practice of self-awareness around the root of your goals can help you identify these fears and bring them to the surface, helping to separate yourself from them.

This can take time, but it is necessary in order for you to be confident that your goals are made with the best intentions.

Make Sure You Count All Victories, Big and Small

At the beginning of establishing a new goal, it can be daunting thinking about how far you have to go. That is why counting all victories, big and small, can help keep you motivated, allowing you to use these as a foundation to make any needed change. Taking a lot of action in the beginning of your plans will build up a strong momentum to move you towards your goal.

The SMARTer Model

S is for Short
Make goals SHORT and concise. The shorter, the better.

M is for Memorable
A goal is measurable if you can actually remember it. What did we just talk about? Shorter is better. Short goals make them more attainable.

A is for Adaptable
Forbes came out with an article with the most important characteristic we can develop today: adaptability. We have to learn to adapt to changes. Today, adaptability is more important than ever due to advancements in technology. There are no changing aspects. In the .com era, things change every day and quickly become obsolete, so adaptability is crucial.

R is for Review
Review your goals and review them often.

T is for Tentative Timeline
Make a timeline for the steps leading up to the goal, but remember it could change, so focus on both short-term and long-term goals.

Read Camille’s entire article about SMARTER Goals.

Learn more about speaker Camille Nelson: campuspeak.com/nelson.