Goal setting: be smart about S.M.A.R.T.

Goal setting: be smart about S.M.A.R.T.

This post is about goal setting.

We all learned the S.M.A.R.T. acronym in school. I’m not here to tell you anything new, really. I even made a pretty little banner with that on it.

goal setting
I didn’t make this up, but it’s a great tool!

What I’d like to focus on is what type of goal you make and how you achieve it. I’m going to show by example:

When I started working for myself I certainly had goals. One goal to start personal training was the following: study for and pass the NASM CPT test by the end of May.

This goal was S.M.A.R.T. but, I wasn’t smart about reaching it. It’s that “A”, the attainable part that always gets me. My goal was attainable, but I didn’t figure out how to attain it until well…I’ll let you read on.

May came and went and I maybe cracked the book a few times, I always had a few things to do. That’s going to be the case – there is ALWAYS going to be a few things to do, ALWAYS. ALWAYS. I can’t say it enough.

So, now it was July by the time I realized I hadn’t met my goal and I needed a plan. You see we all struggle with the same things and I’ll be the first to tell you that I am no different than you. When a person signs up for the NASM CPT exam he/she has to pass the test within 180 days or forfeits their exam fee and must pay again. I wasn’t about to do that so I needed to come up with a plan – better yet, I had to change my goal to a process based goal vs. an outcome based goal. goal setting

One of my mentors told me once that goals should be about doing vs. being an outcome. I translated that idea to: I want to try to study for 2-3 hours 4 days per week until I take the NASM CPT exam. Whoa, my mind was blown – that’s something I could do!

My plan was this:

  1. Figure out how much time most people took to study for the test (about 60-70 hours)
  2. Determine how much studying I could do at one time (about 2-3 hours)
  3. Work that time into my schedule

This was a better plan, but it still wasn’t working. What was I doing wrong? It turned out that with my schedule I’m very visual and environmental. I was trying to study at home and at weird hours. My brain processes best in the morning and I had been going to the gym in the morning and trying to study in the afternoon when I was tired. I also was trying to study at home. It also turns out that I was uncomfortable in that environment doing this activity. House chores were a distraction as was my business. So I rearranged my schedule once more and started working in a coffee shop. I’ll save the piece about how I had to try 3 different coffee shops until I found just the right one.

The black part is when my brain won't function ;-)
The black part is when my brain won’t function 😉

My goal setting became a bunch of small goals that led to a larger goal and ultimately I passed the test. If I sat down every day and tried to study I called it a win. There were days, of course where life got in the way, or my brain just wasn’t functioning well and I threw in the towel, but I had tried, right? I refused to let those days kick me down because I always tried to study. I’m not saying that my “try” was me just thinking about studying – it was me going to the coffee shop, opening the book and starting. I was honest with myself and if I really didn’t try it made the next day all that more important.

Let’s talk about you; so you have a goal. That goal is to _____________. Now you must put together a plan to attain it. It’s not going to get done on its own even if it is attainable. Like I mentioned above it’s nice to have an attainable goal, but how are you going to get there? You are allowed to take it one day at a time. It might take you a few tries to get it just right – you might need to change your environment, change the time you do the activity, talk with your friends and family about how they can help you with X so you have time to work towards your goal. Sometimes it takes a village – and that’s OK! What matters is that you are actively trying to accomplish it and being honest with yourself about actively trying and you are carving out time to achieve it.

I hope you learned something about goal setting; put your goals in the comments section!


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