11. Make a Roadmap For Your Life – Setting SMART Goals

When you write down your goals, you’re infinitely more likely to achieve them—as proven by a When you write down your goals, you’re infinitely more likely to achieve them. In this module, you’ll write goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Setting goals means looking forward and thinking about what you would like to happen in your life, then going about making that happen. It’s like taking a road trip—you need to know what your destination is before you can map out how to get there. Setting goals is the first step in creating your personal strategic plan.

People set goals because:

  • Goal setting helps you get clear on what you want.
  • Goal setting helps you identify what might be blocking you from getting things done.
  • Goal setting, especially writing your goals down, helps program your subconscious mind and activate your brain so that you can accomplish these goals.
  • Goal setting helps motivate you.
  • Goal setting helps you succeed.

A study conducted using recent graduates of the Harvard MBA program asked them to write down their goals for the future and their plans to accomplish them. Only 3 percent of the graduates wrote down their goals, while 13 percent had goals but did not put them in writing, and 84 percent had no specific goals at all.

In a follow-up study ten years later, the researchers again interviewed the members of that same graduating class. They found that the 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were In a follow-up study ten years later, the researchers again interviewed the members of that same graduating class. They found that the 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of students who had no goals at all. Most surprisingly, they found that the 3 percent of graduates who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, 10 times more than 97 percent of their graduating class. The only difference between the groups was the clarity of goals they had set for themselves when they graduated. You can read more about the study in What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (Bantam) by Mark H. McCormack.

Here are steps to help you in the goal-setting process:

1. Create a big picture of what you want to accomplish in the next year.

Document everything you want to accomplish in the coming year. Make sure to include key areas of your life; if I’ve left any off this chart (say you’re a competitive skier and plan to stick with that sport), then go ahead and add a row to this table, or create your own from scratch.

Module 11.1 | Make a Roadmap for Your Life—Setting SMART Goals

2. Prioritize the goals by time frame.

Go back to the list you just created and break the long list of goals into three smaller time frames. Prioritizing your goals by time frame should prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals.

Module 11.2 | Make a Roadmap for Your Life—Setting SMART Goals

3. Put your written goals in several places where you can see them daily—tape them to your laptop or desk, leave a set by your bed, and write them in your planner.

This action of putting your goals in a visible place sets your intention and becomes a daily reminder of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Spend a minute every day in front of your list of goals, reading them to yourself. Evaluate your goals regularly and revise them if you feel you can reach them too easily, or if they are too difficult, and as your plans and hopes evolve and change. Also, if you notice you are missing a goal, be sure and add it.

4. Identify the knowledge, skills, and competencies you need to achieve your goals.

Module 11.3 | Make a Roadmap for Your Life—Setting SMART Goals

5. Identify the support team you need in place to achieve your goals.

Module 18.4 | Make a Roadmap for Your Life—Setting SMART Goals

6. Celebrate your successes.

Celebrate when you achieve a goal! Take time to enjoy the satisfaction of having reached the milestone. Treat yourself to something to mark the accomplishment. You do not have to spend a lot of money; it could be a simple gift to yourself such as a book, a dinner out, or something more extravagant such as a massage. However you celebrate, take the time to relish in your success, as this will help boost your confidence.

7. Organize your goals into smaller, more manageable steps, from the beginning to the completion of the larger goal.

Planning is very important in reaching your goals in a timely and efficient manner. The more detailed you can be in outlining your activities, the more you will accomplish in less time.

8. Take action daily.

Each day, try to take baby steps that will add up to you big goals. If you’re super busy, just do one thing each day that will keep the momentum going and keep you moving forward. If you take baby steps each day, at the end of a year you’ll be surprised at the great distance you’ve covered.

9. Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.

You may have come across this term in another module, such as the one about Navigating Your Perfect Career Path. But it’s such an essential tool for setting goals that it bears repeating. S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific ~ State what you are trying to accomplish, but also how and why. For example, a general goal would be to start exercising. A specific goal would be to “Go to the gym and work out three days a week all semester so I feel better during the day.”
  • Measurable ~ Assess how you are going to measure progress toward the attainment of the goal you have set. Your goal is measurable if it answers: ”How much?” or “How many?” (hitting the gym three times a week, for example)   or “How will I know if I have achieved this goal?”
  • Attainable ~ Can you—or anyone—actually achieve this goal?. A goal to lose 30 pounds in 1 week isn’t achievable. But if you set a goal to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week in order to get to 30 pounds total, that is more realistic and the success of reaching your weekly goals will keep you motivated.
  • Realistic ~ Set an objective that you are both motivated to achieve and realistically able to do. If you don’t live near a gym, for example, you’re not likely to achieve the above goal, and should rewrite it to focus on at-home workouts. Remember to set your goal high enough to stretch yourself. If you find you have achieved your goals too easily, set the bar higher next time. If the goal took too much time to accomplish, make the next goals more achievable.
  • Timely ~ A goal should have a time frame associated with it (i.e. go to the gym three times a week all semester long); by anchoring your goal within a time frame, you set your subconscious mind into motion to begin working on it. With no time frame, there is no sense of urgency to reaching the goal.

As you write goals, try to think of them in SMART form. Once you’re done with your list, go back and rework any that aren’t SMART until they meet the criteria.