Beyond SMART: 17 Steps to Achieving Goals


The SMART goals method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant,Time Bound) is sufficient for helping us to properly word our goals. But what about reaching them? What are the steps involved?

I follow seventeen steps to help me achieve my goals. These steps go beyond goal-setting. They are about GOAL-GETTING!

1.  Choose Realistic Goals

There is a difference between attainable and realistic. Obviously if you are 50 lbs overweight, it is fair to say that a goal of losing 50 lbs is attainable, given a reasonable timeframe. However, setting a goal deadline of one month would not be realistic. This doesn’t mean that you can’t create challenging goals that make you stretch. Just be sure that they are within the realm of possibility.

2.  Choose Goals that Challenge and Motivate You

Goals must be challenging. If you set a goal that is too easy to achieve, your enthusiasm and motivation will be minimal. Try to create goals that require commitment and effort. Think in terms of probability, striving for a 50-60% chance of success. Make your goal a challenge. This will motivate you to work hard, which will bring the results you are looking for.

3.  Choose Harmonious Goals

The goals you choose should be mutually supportive. There are only so many hours in a day, and making time to work on goals is often a goal in itself. If you want to spend more time with family and friends, building a new business enterprise could be a conflicting goal. If you want to start a new career, starting a new family might have to wait. Ensure that your goals are harmonious, not conflicting.

4.  Limit Your Long-Term Goals

Having too many big goals can cause undue stress and frustration. It is far better to concentrate on one major goal at a time. To this you can add several short-term goals, equally spaced throughout the year. This will effectively increase your ability to focus on what matters most, which will improve your chances of success. By the way, quitting smoking is not a long-term goal. It may seem a massive endeavor, but in reality it only entails a split-second decision to do so. Losing 50 lbs would be a good example of a long-term goal, and quite achievable over the course of a year.

5.  Make Your Goals Concrete

Most people know that to make goals concrete they must be written down. But to really make goals tangible they need to be seen as often as possible. Writing your goals out on a piece of paper that ends up in a book or file or drawer is not going to do it. You need to see your goals in front of you as often as possible. Stick them on your mirror, the wall, the fridge, your desk, or on your computer. Spend time every day reviewing your goals. Write them out again if need be. Keep your goals in the forefront of your mind, and you will find yourself constantly motivated to achieve them.

6.  Be Precise

The more accurately you can describe your goal, the better. Envision the best possible outcome. Describe it in as much detail as possible. Your subconscious mind needs a clear picture to work with. Vague goals only produce vague results, if they produce results at all. Include numbers in your goal so you can measure your progress. What will your salary be? How much money will you have in savings? How many inches will your waist be? How many push-ups will you be able to do? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to create an appropriate action plan to reach your goals.

7.  Keep Goals Positive

As with affirmations, goals should be worded in the positive. State the gain you hope to attain, not the negative you hope to get rid of. If you are 15 lbs overweight, your goal should be to reach your ideal weight, not lose 15 lbs. If you want to quit smoking, reword it so your goal is to be healthy and smoke-free. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want!

8.  Accentuate the Benefits Beyond the Goal

A great way to empower your goal is to list all the benefits that attaining your goal will bring. It is great to have a goal to reach your ideal weight. But what about all the other benefits? What about the increased confidence, self-esteem, health, fitness, image, energy, etc. that reaching your ideal weight will bring. Incorporate these benefits into your goal. Add them to your affirmations and visualizations. The more benefits you can establish, the more you will be motivated to realize them.

9.  Promise Yourself a Special Reward

How you plan to celebrate the achievement of your goal is very important. One could say that achieving a goal is reward enough, but it’s equally important to plan to reward your success in other ways. After all, you are going to be working hard and making sacrifices in order to attain it. If your goal is to get into a size 10 dress, you could set aside some money each month to treat yourself to a whole new wardrobe when you finally reach your goal. You could even indulge in a manicure, pedicure, new hair style, spray tan, or even a full spa treatment. The more rewards you can attach to your goal, the more likely you are to follow through. Get creative and promise yourself a big prize… because you’re worth it!

10.  Be Proactive – Identify and Eliminate Obstacles

Think about any obstacles which might sabotage your success. Many of these obstacles are predictable. Determine what has stopped you in the past, then take preliminary measures to ensure these issues are kept to a minimum. Remember: you are in charge. You create your environment. You control your use of time. It is up to you to ensure your success, by eliminating the triggers and/or excuses that have undermined past attempts. Be honest with yourself. With determination and a little creative planning most obstacles can be eliminated before you begin.

11.  Create an Action Plan

An action plan delineates all the steps required to reach your goal. It’s like a comprehensive ‘To Do’ list. It will also include: resources to find, tools to purchase, data to collect, skills to acquire, information to learn, contacts to make, brains to pick…and so on. It will also involve prioritizing these activities and creating a logical timeframe for their execution and completion. Your Action plan is like a road map – helping you get from where you are to where you want to be. But don’t be overwhelmed by the task of creating a perfect Action Plan right from day one. Start with everything you can think of, and add new tasks as they become apparent.

12.  Create Process Goals

Process Goals are specific activities which are repeated every day, and which, cumulatively, advance you towards your goal. For example, if your goal is to write a book draft in one year, determine the number of pages the finished book will have, and then divide this amount by 365 days. You will then know exactly how many pages you need to write each day.

The great thing about Process Goals is that they eventually become the daily habits and routines that guarantee your success. Whether it’s 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, 10 sales calls, one blog post, or five servings of raw fruit and veg, these daily habits will ensure progress towards your final goal.

13.  Make Adjustments Along the Way

Your goal may be written in concrete, but your action plan will evolve over time. It is impossible to think of every step required right from the beginning. If this were the case, most people would never start. By reviewing your action plan on a regular basis (many people dedicate a set period of time every Sunday night for this activity) you can add new tasks that were originally forgotten, or further define those which you are about to undertake. Spend time every week reviewing your Action Plan. Adjust your priorities, modify the timeline, do whatever it takes to keep yourself on track.

14.  Affirm Your Goals Daily

Reinforce your goals by minimizing any negative thoughts you may have about being able to achieve them. Let’s face it, if goals were easy they wouldn’t be very worthwhile. The fact is, change is hard work and our ego will be only too willing to remind us of this. The best way to counteract negative self-talk is through positive affirmation. Create affirmations that support your goal and repeat them as often as possible. Fill the routine times of your day with as much positive reinforcement as possible. Turn your goal into an affirmation by simply rewording it. Create “I am…” or “I have…” statements that bring your completed goal into the present. And try to experience the positive feelings that accomplishing this goal will bring.

15.  Visualize Your Goals

A picture is worth a thousand words. More, in fact. It’s great to have your written goals posted where they will be seen. But words do not impress the subconscious mind. Pictures do. Find images that represent your goals and place them where they will be regularly seen. Create a Vision Board. Find pictures that depict the process goals you will be working on every day. Augment your images with words that represent all the benefits. Decorate and personalize your Vision Board in every way possible. The more inspiring you can make it, the more motivational it will be. And, above all, make sure to put your images somewhere where they will be seen throughout the day.

16.  Acknowledge Your Progress

It is important to promise yourself a significant reward for the completion of your goal, but you should also take the time to acknowledge your progress along the way. Giving yourself small rewards for completing each significant step of your Action Plan will help build your confidence and self-esteem.

Also create visual representations of your progress. Use a wall calendar to celebrate each completed step. If your goal is number based, create a goal thermometer that shows exactly where you are in relation to your goal. Or make a chain of paper clips – one clip for every daily process goal that you complete (the idea with this one is to start over if you miss a day – a great motivational tool!) The important thing is to find a way to recognize and appreciate the progress you are making.

17.  Share Your Goal

It’s easy to give up on a goal when you are the only one who knows about it. Find a Goal Buddy to share your dream with – someone you can trust to motivate you and keep you accountable. You could share your goal with a family member or close friend. Or join a group that supports your goal. Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous were built on this concept. There are also many websites online where you can share your goal with like-minded people and be inspired at the same time. But beware! Do not share your goal with those who might undermine your efforts. Choose your goal buddies with care!


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