How to set smarter goals

Having carried out my Life Audit I’m ready to move on to the next step of my plan for choosing happiness.

Goal setting is just a matter of writing a list of all the things you want, isn’t it? How hard can that be? Well, that is one way to approach it but you can significantly improve your chances of success but taking time to make sure your goals are ‘smarter’. The idea of ‘smart’ goals has been around for at least as long as I’ve been running projects and you may well have heard that phrase at work but personally I like to go a step further and have ‘smarter’ goals. To give yourself the best chance make sure your goals are:

Defining smarter goals for change

Specific – Be clear exactly what you want to achieve. So rather than ‘lose weight’ go for ‘lose 20lb’.

Measurable – If you can record or count your progress (number of pounds lost or trips to the gym) or there’s a yes/no outcome (passing your driving test or going on a trip) you’ll know what you’ve achieve. Something harder to measure like ‘happiness’ is probably best broken down into aspects that can be measured.

Agreed – Where your goal impacts on others or you will need their support it is important that you have discussed this with them beforehand to make sure they are aware of their role.

Realistic – I’m all for challenging yourself but don’t set yourself up to fail. Remember, this won’t be the last time you set yourself goals so take it step by step. If you’re embarking on a fitness programme for the first time for example you could aim to run a marathon but it might be more effective to start with something like ‘visit gym three times a week and run a 5k without stopping’ and then add further goals as you progress. Also be realistic about how much you can do at once. It might be tempting to set yourself a huge list of life goals but you may only have the capacity to work on a couple of things at any one time.

Time-bound – Setting time limits for your goals will help you prioritise and stop them being deferred when something more pressing comes along.

Ethical – If you want to commit to a change it is important that both the goal and the steps you need to attain it sit happily with your own ethics and the way you choose to live your life. Might your commitment to doing all your shopping at small local businesses impact on your plans to reduce your car’s carbon footprint or pay off your debts? Make sure you are comfortable with the ramifications of your goals before you start.

Recorded – You’ll want to know that you are making progress and see how far you’ve come so make sure you record your goals at the start so you can refer back to them. This could be as simple as a diary entry or a list pinned to the fridge or you can use one of the huge numbers of apps out there to create a to do list, project plan or mind map for your goals.

Good luck!

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