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Resolutions to Goals: Using SMART Goals to move forward.

We are a few weeks into 2024 – how are you doing with those resolutions?

SMART Goals on Note cards

At the start of 2024, you may have set goals or made some resolutions; have you stuck with them? If you have, that's great; however, if you already have some challenges, let's get back on track. In my last post, I discussed resolutions and why they may not work. I also talked about goals and other options outside of goals. I want to look at goal setting and its methods this time out. What works for one person in goal setting may not work for the next person. You should try different approaches as you go along.

Goal-setting processes:

There are many ways to look at and set goals. I have tried a good dozen – some have worked for me, and others have not. In this series of posts, I want to look at the top three goal-setting processes I have used that have worked for me. I have used the "Dream Conversion Process," SMART goals, and NLP's outcome specification. I have used these to some degree with great success.

Let's start by looking at the easiest one to work with – the SMART goal. You have likely heard of this one in the past. The SMART goal process puts everything in a simple chunk and can be written in one sentence or paragraph. I like this process because it's super easy to use, and I get the gist of the goal in one single phrase. It does have some shortcomings, and we will look at a couple here. But to start, let's look at what a SMART goal is.

What is a SMART goal?

If you have not heard about SMART goals, here is what they are.

SMART stands for:

Specific - Can you clearly state where you want to go or what you want?

Measurable – How do you know you are getting there? How are you measuring progress?

Attainable – Can you achieve this outcome? Is it possible to do so? (personal note: this is one that I struggle with as I truly believe that sometimes, we don't know this until we give it a go – that four-minute mile at one point in time was impossible, and humans were incapable of doing it!)

Relevant – Is this goal important enough in your life to achieve, or is it something to let go of?

Time-Specific – What is the deadline for reaching the outcome?

These are the fundamentals of a SMART goal; now, let's look at how to write one. The following is from my life and demonstrates how and where I use SMART goals. I am an amateur musician and have a good practice program. Though I never see myself going full-time professional with my music, I am dedicated and want to master my music and the instruments I play.

"My SMART goal is to learn and memorize the seven scale modes of the Native American Style Flute by July 1st, 2024. I will achieve this by practicing one mode per month for ten minutes daily until I have them under my fingers and memorized. When I achieve this, I will have more command over my instrument and be able to improvise more freely."

How does this break down? Is the goal Specific? Yes, I want to memorize the seven scale modes on the Native American Style Flute. Is it Measurable? Two areas can be seen as measurable – first, it is being memorized, and then there is the idea of one mode per month. Is this goal Achievable? This one is somewhat unknown as I can only rely on my experience learning musical ideas; however, I have done something similar. Therefore, I will consider it achievable. Is this a Relevant goal? This is an individual thing, and I need to look at my values to make that decision. Music and the creative process are very high on my value list. Again, for me, this goal passes the test. It is also relevant because I want to improvise music more freely. The final question is, is the goal Time Specific? Yes, it is. I want to achieve this goal by July 1st, 2024. This goal passes all the criteria of a SMART goal.

SMART goals on note cards with Flute

This simple process covers what is needed to accomplish the goal. I typically write these on three-by-five cards and use them as page markers in my music books (or other books I am reading).

Although this is a good goal-setting process, it does have some limitations. The biggest one is daily actions. With my goal, I do have ten minutes of daily practice – but how will I practice? What will I actually be doing? This limitation is quickly dealt with by using a daily planner. The most significant benefit of this process is the ease of keeping the goal at the forefront of your mind. Another area that SMART goals tend to skip is looking at the control of the goal. How much control or responsibility do you have in obtaining the results of the goal? This topic will be covered in more detail in future posts, but this is a solid goal to work with for now.

My final thoughts.

I use this process the most in my life management program. It's simple, and as I stated, this process is the easiest to keep in the forefront of my mind. If you want to get going on goal setting, I suggest giving this goal-setting process a shot – it may be the only one you need. In my next post, I will look at another goal-setting process I have used that heads in the opposite direction and breaks down goals into tiny parts – the "Dream Conversion Process." Until that, keep your compass out and head towards your True North.

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