Bring Your Vision to Life with SMART Goals
Consider the following scenario:
You’ve got this brilliant idea that’s going to change the world as we know it, bring you a great deal fame and fortune, or at the very least, right a wrong. As you lay in bed, you start building out a vision in your head of what you need to do. It’s perfect, and you’re so excited to get started that you can barely sleep. You NEED to do this!
You’re up at the crack of dawn, have had your hit of caffeine and boot in to your trusty computer to get cracking. But as you think of ways to execute your vision, life starts happening around you: distractions pile on and the clock starts ticking. While you’re still committed to that game changing vision, you realise you don’t really know how to bring it to life, or indeed, where to begin!
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. This has happened, at one stage of life or another, to every single person you’ve met. THIS is how a vast majority of ideas never see the light of day, some might argue for the better.
But for better or worse, you’re still committed to your idea. You know where you want to go. You know where you are. All that’s missing now is planning and executing those steps in between. Having a grand vision is incredible, but it can also be intimidating if you don’t have a plan on how to start.
The best way to overcome this paralysis of action is to break your vision down into a hierarchy of smaller goals. And by far the most simple, efficient, elegant and effective way to do this is using the SMART goals framework.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals provide structure to your grand vision so that you can work out the finer details and start progressing. They are the GPS route for your vision, to get from where you are to where you want to be.
SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Let us dive a little deeper into each one of these elements.
What do you want to achieve?
Every goal you set needs to be specific. Begin by asking yourself what needs to be accomplished. Target a specific area of improvement or action and state it in clear, non-subjective language.
Take, for instance, a goal to get fit versus a goal to lose 10 pounds. Getting fit is a noble idea, but it is also rather subjective and non-specific because the definition of fitness changes from person to person. Instead, losing 10 pounds is a very clear, non-subjective goal because it retains its meaning regardless of context; it means the same thing to me as it does to you.
This is the most critical element of the SMART framework and will guide the rest of the steps in the process.
What is your measure of success?
Next, the goal needs to be quantifiable and allow for measurable progress. Ask yourself, “How am I going to track progress and measure the outcome of this goal?”. In our example, the goal of getting fit isn’t measurable because there isn’t one measure of fitness. The goal of losing 10 pounds, on the other hand, can easily be measured using a weighing scale.
How will you achieve it?
The goal should be achievable based on available resources and existing constraints. Ask yourself, “Do I have the authority and the resources to achieve this goal?”. If you have both, think about how exactly you plan to achieve it.
At this point, you may decide to break your goal down further into smaller goals. In our example of getting fit, I may decide that I need to follow a certain exercise regime and a specific diet routine. In that case, I’ll create a new level on my goal hierarchy and add those two goals.
Why do you want to do this?
The goal should align with your wider vision to be considered relevant. It needs to move you closer to your larger goal. In business parlance, your SMART goal needs to add value to your “stretch goal”.
In our fitness example, I want to restrict my daily calorie intake to 2000 calories so that I can lose 10 pounds over the next six weeks. I want to lose 10 pounds in six weeks in order to get fit.
When do you want to do this by?
Every goal must have a fixed deadline by which you plan to achieve it. A goal cannot go on and on forever.
Making it all work
The trick is to break your vision down into smaller goals, and those goals into smaller ones still and so on until you can distill your grand vision into directly actionable steps.
The intention of setting SMART goals isn’t to blunt your world changing vision and convert it into a boring checklist, but to chart out a clear path to achieve your vision. Without a vision, you’re just moving from one checklist item to another without any real sense of progression or fulfilment. Without SMART goals, you have an incredible vision but no way to get there.
It is the synergy between your larger vision, or stretch goal and a hierarchy of smaller action items, or SMART goals that makes it all work.