Maybe you have always wanted to run your own business. Perhaps you want to own a home, complete your degree, or become a Registered Nurse.
Whatever your dream, the key to achieving it is to break it down into manageable steps. You can create such a plan by setting SMARTER goals.
What makes a goal SMARTER?
SMARTER goals are:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time-limited
E = Evaluate-able
R = Re-adjustable
Let’s look at some examples of goals that are not so smart, and how you can make them into SMARTER goals.
- “I want to work with animals” is too general. It could mean anything from being a dog walker to becoming a veterinarian.
- “I will take veterinary technology so I can work as an animal health technologist” is specific. There are clearly defined steps you can follow to achieve this goal.
- “I will do well in this course” is not measurable. It does not allow you to assess your progress.
- “I will get at least 80% on each quiz and paper in this course” is measurable. You can see how well you’re doing and seek help to do better, if necessary.
- “I will buy lottery tickets until I beat the odds, then use my winnings to start an online business” is not effective. You have no control over achieving the outcome.
- “I will save $25 per month and have enough to start an online business by the time I’m 30,” is effective. You can take steps to achieve it.
- “I will not miss a class” is not realistic for a single mom with school-aged children during flu season.
- “I will try not miss a class, but if I have to miss one I will get the notes from one of my classmates” is a realistic goal because it’s likely you can do it.
- “I will apply to an upgrading program” is ineffective. It does not commit you to a time frame—you could put this off indefinitely.
- “I will apply to the upgrading program at ABC College by June 15” is effective. It is more likely to motivate you because you have given yourself a deadline.
- “I will keep a journal of my travels” is ineffective. It does not commit you to more than a few random notes along the way.
- “I will write at least 100 words in my travel journal every day” is effective. It holds you accountable to a well-defined and achievable goal.
- “I will learn to teach myself guitar this year no matter what” is ineffective. It is inflexible because it fails to consider how to get there and what might interfere.
- “I will take weekly guitar lessons and practise every day” is better. It provides a way to achieve your goal. But it still can’t be adjusted for things that might interfere with your goal.
- “In addition to my lessons, I will try to practise every day, and I’ll make sure I practice at least 4 days every week” is best. It gives you a way to achieve your goals even if unexpected things interfere.
How do you start? You take the first step
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When you understand this, you can set goals and not feel overwhelmed by how far you have to go to reach them. Here’s how it works.
The right goals for you most often arise from your dreams. They’re connected to what you need and desire. First you recognize what your dreams are. Then you figure out how to put foundations under them.
When you set your goals this way, you find the strength and energy you need to face challenges. As you go along, you realize that moving toward the changes you want in your life is not as hard as you might have thought.
Try writing a goal
The process looks like this:
- Your long-term goal is your dream or vision—the general direction you want to move in.
- To move toward your dream, you divide the distance between where you are and where you want to be into many smaller goals.
- You take steps to reach each of those smaller goals one by one. You work toward each one over a period of time that you define.
- As you reach each goal, you can measure your progress toward your long-term goal. Looking back at what you’ve achieved will give you the energy you need to keep moving forward.
For example, Patty’s long-term goal is to become a hairdresser—and someday start her own hairdressing business. She has set up a number of short- and medium-term goals to help her realize her dream.
Her medium-term goal is to be accepted to hairdressing school. Her short-term goal is to upgrade her high school marks. This means getting up half an hour earlier in the morning so she can study before getting her children up for school.
All of these goals are designed to help Patty reach her dream. All of them are important.
Share your goals and your action plan with friends and family. Ask them to help you reach your goals.
Imagine different scenarios
Take a page from business leaders and think about what might happen when you start taking steps toward your goal. A good company will plan for 3 scenarios: typical, positive, and negative. This kind of strategic planning helps you feel prepared and in control if something unexpected happens.
Let’s say you want to go into business with a friend to make and sell a product. Imagine these scenarios:
- After a few years of small profits, you build a loyal and steady customer base. Your profits are reasonable. You have a comfortable income. You know how many people to hire and where to find the supplies. Everything is going pretty much as expected.
This is your typical scenario. Now consider positive and negative possibilities:
- On the positive side, a famous influencer puts your company on social media and your product becomes a global sensation. Great! But to accommodate the extra demand, you’ll need to hire more people and source more supplies. You’ll also need to make your product available to more people, and keep product supply from running out.
- On the negative side, someone creates a product similar to yours, but at a lower price point. You find your customers melting away. To prepare for this, keep your eye on trends and marketing in your field. Can you find new markets? Or can you update your product in ways your competition has not thought of yet?
Stay open to change
As you create positive change in your life, your dreams and goals may change too. Working toward goals that are based on your dreams can nurture you—it can make you stronger. Your new experiences, skills, and relationships can lead you in new directions. And that’s OK.
When you base your goals on your dreams, you will know when they are no longer working for you. Check back on your dreams and goals every few months to see how you feel about them. Be open to adjusting them as you go.