Goals are critical to our career and business success. They energize, motivate and inspire us to improve ourselves. Without them, we tend to flounder.
But goals can also be intimidating. At their core, goals are a measuring stick of our self-worth, causing anxiety and frustration if we feel we aren’t progressing quickly enough. So how do we set targets that galvanize rather than dishearten? Begin with setting goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Most people understand the SMART acronym, but often overlook what each individual word really means in terms of goal-setting. Business owners sometimes have difficulty with “specific” because it requires long-term planning. It’s easy to have a general idea of where you’re going, but without breaking that idea out into a plan, you’ll have no idea how to get there. Are your goals well-defined and focused? When you state your goal, you should be able to answer the questions who, what, when and how.
Establishing concrete numbers is essential to staying on track. If your goal is not measurable, how will you track your progress? Targets and milestones tell you how you’re advancing and when your goal is accomplished. If you set no benchmarks, you may realize in six months that you haven’t made any progress. And that’s a great way to lose motivation!
Can you achieve this goal? Hard work is required to meet any threshold, but setting a goal that is simply impossible will end no other way but in disappointment. Focus your energy on what you can actually do. Decide how much time you should spend each day or week focused on that goal—and stick to it! Apply the hard work to something you can achieve, and you’ll actually get there!
Your goals must be part of an overall plan, and they need to fit with the reality of your business market. This is a good place to stop and gut check why you want to pursue this goal. Too often, people set goals solely for monetary reasons or based on the expectations of others. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money, but it can’t be the only motivation. And it’s tough to stay motivated when your hard work is going toward what someone else wants. If you don’t have a compelling reason for setting a specific goal, set a different one.
Along with quantifying your goal and establishing parameters for measurement, you must set a deadline. Open-ended goals have a way of ending up on the backburner!
We’re thinking about setting goals because it’s December, but it’s not a requirement that we establish our goals in January and complete them by December 31. Use the SMART goals system to set and revise goals whenever you need to, whether that is in April or November! Making goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely will go a long way toward a better future for you and your business.
photo credit: Frazao/Bigstock.com