Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

How Setting SMART, But Small, Goals Will Help You Succeed

Everyone knows it’s a good idea – essential even – to set goals.

Everyone knows it’s a good idea – essential even – to set goals.

When I encourage my students to set goals to monitor their success, my words are often met with a rolling of the eyes and a collective sigh. It’s the same way my dad treats his doctor when she reminds him, yet again, to keep an eye on his cholesterol.

Everyone knows it’s a good idea – essential even – but it’s just so boring.

Or is it? Goal setting is, at its most basic, all about the thrill of the chase. OK, maybe “thrill” is a bit of a stretch. But it can be very rewarding, especially when the results are easily recognizable.

The key to successful goal setting lies in our ability to keep them simple and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely). So often we set goals that are lofty and overwhelming or vague and unstructured. This is frustrating because we end up quitting or modifying our goals to accommodate our inability to live up to our initial expectations. SMART goals are effective because they create a sort of checklist that helps to define goals and keep them within reach.

Still not sold? Let’s say my New Year’s Resolution is to be a better person. While this is very kind and noble of me, it is a pretty tricky goal to attain. It is vague, undefined and very difficult to measure in terms of progress or overall success. More than likely, I will feel defeated by about mid-March and will spend the rest of the year littering and jay-walking, convinced I am a terrible person to the core. Tragic, really.

Now, if I were to take the same goal and make it SMART this story might have a very different ending. Something like, “My New Year’s Resolution is to volunteer with a non-profit organization once a month for the entire year and donate 5% of my earnings to charity”. Now that’s a goal! There are timelines, specific criteria for measuring success and it is totally manageable. Brilliant! I am a terrific person!

So, as we look ahead to a brand new year I invite you to set SMART goals, lots of them. Vow to not miss a single class between now and Spring Break. Come up with a strategic plan to save enough cash to take an epic road-trip with your friends this summer. Set your sights on scholarships, bursaries and MVP awards. They’re your goals – go get ‘em!

Katie Marti
Author: Katie Marti
Katie Marti has been a teacher for 10 years and is currently teaching high school french in Vancouver.
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