Setting and achieving goals can be one of the easiest and yet most difficult activities we engage in during our lives. Less than 5% are successful in creating and achieving goals. Setting goals can be rather easy, or so we think, as often the goals we do set are not designed for success. There is something missing that causes the goal to fail, be lost in our daily lives, never to be seen again. Yet some of these goals seem to have this “haunting whisper” where we can hear it calling to us, but we cannot see our goal any more.
How can we keep our goals around so we can work on them through completion. What should we do so that our goals do not die away and end up in some old box of dreams that we were not able to reach, yet we are reminded of our lost dreams as they tend to linger around us. I have found three keys to help keep our goals on track to success.
Make SMART Goals
I first heard about SMART goals 25 years ago and it made a huge difference in how I setup my goals as it provided the needed reminders of what a good goal should include. What I first learned was Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Since then I have heard dozens of alternative definitions for each of the terms – and this is fine as the true power of the mnemonic is to keep you focused on including key factors for a great goal. It really doesn’t matter which key words you use, as long as you use them to define your goal, and that will put you ahead of over 95% of the rest of us – that sounds like a win to me!
About a year ago I came across a definition that George T. Doran published in 1981 in the context of strategic plans. His definition has to be one of my favorites as it transformed how I think about goals. George T. Doran used the terms Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related.
This definition resolved an issue I had felt for a long time. Most of the SMART acronyms seemed to use repetitive terms. Achievable and Realistic mean almost the same thing to me – they seem redundant. And Simple, well that works, but not as well as Specific. And then there is Assignable – now that is my favorite to include – more on that later.
A great goal needs to have all of these factors included. Specific goals leave little room for misunderstanding. They are not vague, and they are not overwhelming. To create a goal to lose weight is vague, to have a goal that you want to lose 30 pounds through a daily regimen of 90-minutes exercise, 6 glasses of water, 2,000 calories, no sweets, etc, etc, is too overwhelming. Measurable goals provide the means to know if you are making progress – losing 30 pounds can be measured. Realistic ensures that what we are doing makes sense. Losing 30 pounds is just a start for me, I could do with losing more, yet some people cannot afford to lose 5 pounds and remain healthy. Time-related is essential as it provides the when portion of a great goal. If we don’t define when we will complete our goal, what is the use, it could go on forever. So, setting a goal of “Lose 30 pounds in three months” is Specific, Measurable, Realistic, and Time-related. What about Assignable?
A goal must be Assignable to be effective – and what this means is that the owner of a goal must be clearly defined, and if assistance from other people or teams will be needed, then the goal defines this need specifically and clearly.
When we create a goal for ourselves, the assignability is often assumed. A problem with this is that sometimes the goal we are working on is actually someone else’s goal. For example, “My parents wanted me to be a Doctor” was based a parent’s goal for their child. How do we know, because if this was the goal of this Doctor it would have been in terms of the Doctor’s goal “I will become a Doctor because I….” – see the difference. Here is how to ensure a goal is your goal – simply start the goal with “I will” language and keeping it about you – I will lose 30 pounds in three months, I will complete…, I will institute…. – see how that works? By starting your goal with the “I will” language, you have ensured assignability to YOU. It also helps to confirm if you really want this goal? Try stating a goal that someone else has for you, that you really do not want to do, using the “I will ….” language and not feel like you just lied to yourself.
Business goals are different in terms of Assignable. Business goals should be created in high-level terms, they should be clear yet powerful to establish the desired outcome without too much detail. A goal such as “See 20% sales growth in product line X over the next 6-months” is a simple and powerful goal and is not overly detailed with how the goal will be achieved. The goal defines the change desired, how much change, and over what timeframe, so Specific, Measurable, and Time-related are covered. This is also Assignable in that “product line X” would be a specific area of the company that will now be assigned to achieve 20% growth. This goal is very concise and powerful, and it meets the SMART goal requirements of being Specific (Sale growth in product line X), Measurable (20%), Assignable (Product line X team), Realistic (let’s stipulate it is), and Time-related (6-months).
Now that the high-level business goal is established, further sub-goals can be created by the teams and personnel that will make this goal happen. The Vice President over the division that produces and sells Product X may set a goal of “I will define a four person team to oversee the impacts of increased production of Product line X by Friday” as a starting point. There will be many other sub-goals and plans to achieve the high-level business goal. Each goal should be defined at the level of influence of the person setting it – meaning that it is either a goal I can accomplish myself, or if assigned to another person to accomplish, the goal can be assigned in areas I can influence. You couldn’t expect a production line worker to set a goal that the CEO or COO is expected to accomplish.
Creating a goal is just the beginning. We could follow every step of the SMART process and have an amazing goal, but if we don’t do anything to start working on it, what’s the use? This is where The CLEAR Process™ comes in. The CLEAR Process™ provides that path to Create your goals through Recognizing your success. The CLEAR Process™ provides the steps that should be followed.
Create your goal (or plan)
Learn what you need to know to get started with your goal or plan
Execute your plan based on that knowledge
Adjust / Assess your progress. If you discover you need to Learn more, go back to Learn and Execute
Recognize / Record your success when you have accomplished your goal or plan
By following this process, you will greatly increase your success. So often we give up on our goals because we reach some roadblock or lose momentum. The CLEAR Process™ helps to keep you on track through your goal to achieve success. And yes, there will be occasions during the Assess phase where you will discover that your goal is no longer Realistic, and you will need to decide to drop it, but at least you gave it a strong try by following these steps and know that the goal is no longer Realistic. Here is a quick hint – place any goals that the Assess phase found to be “unrealistic” or easily achievable in a special place. These goals may not work today, but who knows what another 3 or 4 years of developments and new technologies can do. Innovators are always ahead of their time, sometimes their time arrives right along with them, and other times it takes another year or so for technology or acceptance to catch up.
Write Down Your Goals!
Saving the best for last – you have to write down your goals. A goal that remains in our head and is not written down remains a dream no matter how well we crafted it. Writing down goals does not need to be a big production, it does not need to be ultra-sophisticated, it just needs to be done. When we write down our goals, or anything for that matter, we engage our most of senses and this further instills the goal into our brains. But simply put, writing it down gives us something to look back on and use as a reference. To make this easier, we have created a simple format that you can use to write down your goals. The CLEAR Process™ worksheet includes each of the steps you should follow along with the space to write down your notes or thoughts along the way. You can find the worksheet here and use it for your next goal or plan to keep you on track.
Don’t forget to check out our website to learn more about Clear Success Group and what we do to help businesses and people create and achieve success. We love to hear your feedback and encourage your getting in on the conversation. You can reach us at email@example.com or go to the Contact Us page on our website.