“Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach!”
It is a familiar childhood lament I remember my mother bemoaning when time and time again I would take a plateful more of food than I could realistically manage to fit into my stomach. It looked so good sitting there in the pot, and my mouth would water at the smells and promises of good things to come. But alas, I took more than I could chew. Literally.
Many of us as adults still approach projects in this way. I know I do. For example, I’m planning a wedding, and am sure I have an idea or three that may not come to fruition by the big day. We see a big picture. We see Rome, in all its glory and hope that snapping our fingers a few times will get it built. But we are not always honest with ourselves as to the realistic potential of our actually getting everything done within a time frame we set for ourselves.
And it’s the age-old trap we fall into every New Year’s. As we gaze back at the last year, and look ahead into the pristine landscape of the new year, we plan big. We plan to start out of the gate with all the vigor and determination we can muster. And then …
Well, maybe many of us don’t realize WHY we aren’t getting to the finish line for those well-meaning, and lofty goals. We heap blame on ourselves that we just “can’t seem to keep with it.” But maybe the reason is that we aren’t honest with ourselves as to how much we are willing to achieve, how much time we are willing to dedicate to it, and hadn’t developed a realistic plan regarding either of those to get our goals into motion.
And maybe we are too short-sighted, expecting big behavior changes to shift in ourselves at a moment’s notice – and big changes to follow quickly after.
But this year, as you count down the days to a whole new healthy and wealthy you for 2014, give this little exercise a try. I use it often with my coaching and nutrition clients to help them develop a clear and concise plan of action. Try it for yourself, and maybe you might see more finish lines!
Goal setting using SMART
Have you heard of SMART? Yes, yes, it is another crafty and catchy acronym to live by. It is a helpful tool to use when you want to set and outline a goal for yourself.
S – Specific
Is your goal specific? Think of your resolution for 2014 right now. Picture it in your mind. I mean create an actual, crystal clear, digitally enhanced picture in your head. Can you tell me EXACTLY one small thing you want to achieve? Don’t just say to yourself, “I want to lose weight.” Well, that’s not telling yourself much. How MUCH weight? Why? Do you want to lose weight to fit into a certain dress? Just to feel good? Get as nitty-gritty into your goal as you can, and narrow it down to one very polished goal. This gives you a great endpoint you can actually mentally grab onto, and mentally as well as physically move toward.
So now, take a piece of paper and write down as many details as you can about your goal until you have narrowed in on a shiny kernel. As you go through the rest of the SMART goal exercise, it will help you to continue honing in on this. So don’t worry if you have to revise it.
M – Measurable
Is your goal something you can actually count and say to yourself, “Yay! I finally reached ‘x’?” Let’s say you want to lose weight. It’s an easy thing to measure if you have narrowed in on a specific goal. You want to lose 20 pounds. Great. So how can you measure success and that you have officially reached your goal? When your scale reads 20 pounds lighter than your start weight. It’s as simple as that. If you can measure your goal in time, amount of items (amount of people reached, amount of e-mails written), length, etc., that helps you focus on what the finish line looks like, you’ve got a great place to start.
A – Achievable
This part is always a little sticky, for some people more than others. Personally, I always like to think that I can achieve X, Y, and Z within a time I’ve allotted. It doesn’t seem like a lot – on paper. That is, until I am waist deep in all of my regular life commitments, AND still trying to get X, Y, and Z done … and that’s not taking into account little surprises that can get in the way, too. Next thing I know, I’m pulling my hair out, am way over stressed, but have made the commitment to those projects.
You don’t want to fall into that trap. When asking if your goal is achievable, and you say yes… ask yourself again. Be sure. If there’s a hint of doubt hanging in the air now, ask yourself one last time. Really think about your life. Your schedule. Your friends and family. Your job. Write down for yourself HOW it is achievable (again, be as specific as you can). Where EXACTLY are you fitting in time dedicated to this goal? What days of the week? What time during the day? How much time each day?
And if it’s not looking possible … start to whittle down the goal to a more bite-sized chunk.
There! Now, we’re getting somewhere!
R – Relevant/Results-oriented
Are you pushing yourself enough, but not too hard to get to your goal that will get you the results that you want? Is this goal aligned to your overall personal or professional goals at this time in your life? After thinking through this, write down a few sentences as to why you think so. If you discover there is another more pressing matter or goal you need to set and achieve before embarking on the one you are working through SMART with right now – well, wow! You just learned something. But if you are completely satisfied that your goal is totally in line with where you are in life right now – I invite you to work on the last step.
T – Time-limited
This one ties very neatly in with “measurable.” So you’ve established the amount of your goal, and have determined that it is achievable; but is it achievable within the time frame you have set for yourself? Are you giving yourself enough time? Too much?
So to continue with the example, you want to lose 20 pounds. Is it achievable? Sure! Is it measurable? Yes, sirree. But you want to get it done in a month. Is that likely?
Mmm, maybe not. Again, biting off more than we can chew is often the first nail in our goal-setting coffin and we don’t even realize it. So if you ask yourself if you can get that goal done within your desired time frame, and you start to twitch or a part of you wants to immediately run away, pay attention to that. You may have just overstepped a line.
So, think about what you CAN commit to. Are you open to losing those 20 pounds within six months? A year? Or maybe you can set an easy goal of one pound a week to start. What is something you are comfortable with, and can actually see yourself crossing that line to finish?
Once you have that answer, you are ready to get to work.
Working through SMART can be done for any goal you want to set for yourself. For some reason, we feel that goals have to be these large mountains we need to scale. And it’s not. But we try it anyway. Then feel horrible about it when we have to turn back after only getting a few feet up the crag, because we’re plainly overwhelmed.
So, do yourself a favor this New Year’s. Take that huge mountain of a resolution you have set for yourself, and break it down. There is never any shame in pecking at an overarching objective one mini-goal step at a time. It has to fit your life, your objectives, and your time.
Happy New Year, everyone… may you all move your own mountains in 2014, one rock at a time.