There's plenty written that suggests that goals should be SMART - ie specific, measurable, achievable, realistic & time bound.
The problems with SMART goals is they aren't necessarily smart! The acronym misses out some of the very components that are essential to achieving our goals.
That is, it's very common to set a goal that is dependent on someone else, or impacts others in our lives, or expects us to give up something that's important to us.
The challenge, therefore, is to ensure components not covered by SMART don't stop us achieving what we want.
The following 9 step process is a gorgeous process at ensuring that your desired outcomes are well formed.
By doing this you maximise the likelihood of the outcome being achieved – assuming you take all the necessary actions of course.
What do you want?
Consider what do you want and what the benefits are to you of achieving this outcome?
Why is it important for you to achieve this goal.
What pleasure will it afford you?
What pain will it move you away from?
You're not going to take the necessary action unless it gives you something, and this question is about finding out what that something is.
How will you know when you've got it?
Describe, as if it's happening now, what its like to have achieved this outcome.
Use all your senses to describe it: sight, hearing, feelings, taste & smell. Really go to town on describing the outcome.
Perhaps even write a letter to someone telling them what it's like? Or write your diary entry for that day? Or imagine the conversation with your best friend?
Do what ever works for you to bring the dream into life.
Other ways of bringing this alive include drawing a picture, collages, writing a story, making an album of tracks and so on. I find Pinterest is such a great way of doing this.
Can you start and maintain it?
Ensure that the outcome is something that YOU can make happen.
If it's conditional on other people then consider in what way you can redefine your outcome to something YOU can achieve.
Someone once wanted his son's reading age to be x by y months time. He had however no control over whether that was possible or not. The outcome therefore then became about him saying he'd do something every day to support his son in improving his reading skills.
How does your outcome need to dovetail with others in your life?
Imagine how this outcome may need to be amended to ensure it includes the needs of your friends and family.
This won't always be appropriate but often it is the omission of others that stops us moving towards our dreams, because we're leaving the important people in our lives behind rather than bring them with us.
An odd example: when setting an objective for moving house I'd forgotten to include my cat! I was busy imaging living in the middle of nowhere and my unconscious knew that meant an unhappy cat as I travelled with work leaving her alone for days. So the goal needed to include there being people close by (so perhaps not so much in the middle of nowhere) able to look after the cat when I wasn't at home. As she's always had a cat/house sitter since moving here 17 years ago I think that worked.
In what context do you want it?
When, where and with whom do you want it?
Sometimes the answer to this is now, everywhere and with everyone. Other times it won't be - as with all these questions sometimes they wont apply and sometime they'll really make the difference.
Sometimes it's about something else needing to happen first - kids leave home, other family commitments change, you get a specific qualification and so on. At least it takes the pressure off for now, and helps you set other goals along the way to support you when the time is right.
What are the benefits of staying as you are?
I can't emphasise enough the relevance of this question.
This is often the reason why someone hasn't taken the necessary actions to achieve an outcome.
What do you think you'll lose (that you value) as a result of moving away from where you are now?
And more importantly how can this be incorporated into your outcome?
Again a more personal example: When setting an objective for being in a relationship I was basing the outcome on previous relationships. Having been single for a while I'd come to appreciate 'me time' and the unconscious believed a relationship and 'me time' were incompatible which means I wouldn't take the actions needed to achieve the goal. As soon as I stated I wanted a relationship that still allowed 'me time' then my unconscious enabled this to be an outcome I really wanted and therefore take the necessary actions to achieve it.
What resources do you need?
What emotional, physical, financial, time, information, support and other resources do you need to make the outcome a reality?
And what do you need to do to have them available to use to achieve this outcome?
This reminds me of Amanda Palmer's the art of asking ie we may need to ask for more resources or support to be able to achieve this goal.
Is it worthwhile?
What are the positive consequences on you, your family, others, society and the environment of you achieving this outcome?
The bigger, brighter and more worthwhile you can make it the better.
I think this is the aspect that is most stopping me finishing my book. After all I can have met all the other criteria but who cares if only one other person reads the book? Not something I worry about when writing blogs but then why write the book if I can happily keep writing blogs. I think I need to really understand why the book is worthwhile.
What is your first step.
What will you do first and when will you do it?
I write this blog I've already ear marked Wednesday to writing another chapter of my book!
My first step - before Wednesday is to have explored more about the criteria for a well formed outcome for my book as there's a few criteria (highlighted) that I think I could do with a little more clarity on:
(This is a post from 2015 moved from the archives from my old blog site, and yes I did finally get the book finished and published.)
If you've got a goal and you're not taking action to achieve it you might just want to double check which of the above 9 steps are missing?