The year is 2014 and the day is one. I’ve spent the last few days looking back and looking forward, and I think I’ve got a handle on what I’m planning this year–but all that can wait.
I was perusing Facebook last night (so productive, I know) and reading people’s New Year resolutions, and I just couldn’t help myself: I was shaking my head in disappointment. I gave up on “resolutions” years ago when I realized the word itself implies fixing what’s broken as opposed to reaching new levels of personal growth, but even overlooking that, I found people’s plans for 2014 lack the kind of focus that’s obtainable.
Yes, yes, I’m happy you “want to be the best you can be and have a great year,” but what the hell does that mean?
Hopefully I can help you find out.
This last year was overflowing with leadership training, vision development, and counseling sessions that stressed the importance of realistic expectations of growth, and together all of these lessons have taught me how to create a pretty impactful goal or two. More recently, however, I was introduced to an acronym that takes all this insight and aligns it in a five-letter mnemonic: SMART.
The SMART method originated in the world of business management, but is surprisingly applicable to every area of our lives. It begins by choosing a specific starting point–generalities like the above mean nothing. They’re too vague to give us any key points of action to pursue–so we need to hone it in and make it something special.
If you read my “Thirteen Things I Learned in 2013” posts, you’ll know my perspectives changed a lot last year and my priorities shifted accordingly from the material to the meaningful. I learned a lot about what matters–and a lot more about what doesn’t.
This year I’m using all those lessons to shape my 2014 goals. I’ve broken them down into three areas, each with a general vision statement and more specific, individualized goals.
I want to take care of myself–mind, body, and spirit. I want to stay current with my journalling and write in it at least once weekly. I want to exercise at least three times a week. And I want to dedicate an hour each week solely to relaxation and stress-relief.
I want to maintain an active writing presence in my life. I want to post at least weekly on Words & Wonders and add one new short story and poem to Silent Soliloquy each month. I want to read a minimum of three books this year, and write twelve new short stories and just as many poems.
I want to be a successful student and a strong campus leader. I want to finish my Equal Opportunity Institute certification. I want to maintain at least a 3.75 GPA. And I want to complete my semester plan leading up to graduation.
It should be obvious now how each of my general goals are just too vague to make sense of–but once I break them down into specific goals, they seem much easier to work with.
If you noticed, each of these smaller goals is also measurable. For example, I want to exercise at least three times a week and write twelve new short stories. When a goal is measurable, we can track our progress–and when we can track our progress, we can monitor how well we’re keeping our goal and make adjustments as we go along to keep on target.
Next, you’ll notice each of these goals is attainable–they’ll take work and planning, dedication and serious commitment, but I can achieve each of them if I work for it. I’d love to blog daily or get sixpack abs or regain my 4.0 GPA–but none of these things seem realistic if I’m being honest with myself, and if I aim for everything that’s out of reach, I’m only asking for failure–because failure is all I’m allowing myself to have. So I’ve chosen goals that are attainable, goals I can make reality.
My goals this year are also relevant. They help me move toward where I want to be and they fit ultimately with the greater career and life goals that I have. When I was younger I dreamed of being a rock star and now I want to travel the world, but “mastering my mad karaoke skills” or “stepping on every continent” just aren’t relevant to where I’m at in life–someday they might be, but not right now, so why devote my time to these endeavors that don’t matter? I can do better than that. I’m going to do better than that.
Finally, these goals are all time-bound: they start now and end in a year. Other goals might be more immediate (“fundraise for my service trip to Alaska in March”) or more long-term (“teach at a community college and later run for public office”), but for year-long goals, it’s self-evident the time table is, in fact, only a year.
So here we are and there you have it: The five attributes of a good goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound–SMART. Hopefully these pointers will help you aim to be “the best you can be” in a way that’s meaningful and will genuinely help you reach your aspirations–and hopefully sharing my goals has helped illustrate how you can take yours and make them SMART, too.
I have high hopes for 2014–and together I think we can reach all our goals.
Happy New Year, friends.