Ensuring personal success with SMART behavior

February 25, 2011
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I have often heard that if you do not plan something, nothing will ever happen. You will never be lost if you do not care where you are going. You will never learn to stand for principles on your own if you expect to rise to the top on the backs of others. You will never be disappointed when you (inevitably) fail if you do not have any established goals.

Though we all probably live somewhere between these extremes, we must keep an eye upon our destination as we intentionally seek direction along the way in order to achieve positive forward growth.

A simple guide to use along the way as we set these objectives is to be S.M.A.R.T. about our choices. Expanding this simple acronym, remember to:

Be SPECIFIC about what you want to accomplish. When we say specifically what we need to do, what we seek to accomplish and what we want to result from our actions, we have a far better chance to succeed.

If we enter a process having poorly conceived expectations and an inadequate definition of what constitutes success, we will never know when we are done so we will be unable to bring closure.

Being specific means knowing what you want to do, why it is important, how you will address it and who else should be involved to bring your specific goal to fruition.

Utilize MEASURABLE standards to monitor progress and identify completion. While you might be able to accomplish much in spite of yourself, you must be able to measure progress in order to manage the process.

Accomplishing an objective without relying on landmarks along the way is like sleeping through a cross-country adventure: You might make it to the coast but you might not end up in the proper port unless you have measured your progress (and made decisions based on that progress) along the way.

If wanting to lose weight is your goal, for example, it will be more attainable if you say that you “want to lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days” than if you choose to “lose a lot of weight” without establishing how much or when it will be accomplished.

Set ATTAINABLE goals. Individuals who set New Year’s resolutions often fail in this area. Too often people set their sights on the destination rather than focusing on each individual step along the way. When we focus only on the destination, we may lose sight of the trail we must take, potentially losing track of the twists and turns that might otherwise simply slow our progress.

Should we wander from the path by focusing solely on our objective, rather than thinking about the road we must travel, we may never return to the right course.

Set goals that are just beyond your reach. One can fill a basket with apples from the ground beneath a tree (even though many will be bruised and damaged), yet reaching just beyond the lowest branches — just higher than is comfortable — will assure a much better harvest.

Be REALISTIC about what you want to accomplish. Typically, we must avoid the use of absolutes when establishing goals. Saying things like “I will never break the speed limit” may be an admirable objective but probably not a realistic goal. Saying “I will never eat sweets” may be commendable but cutting down a bit at a time, using measurable steps and definable markers along the way, is a much better way to accomplish your overall objective.

The best way to run a race is one step at a time. Trying to cross the finish line before you have run the course is not terribly realistic.

Establish TIMELY parameters for the accomplishment of your goals and for each step along the way.

Once you have established specific goals that are measurable, attainable and realistic, you must set a timeframe for their accomplishment. If you try to look too far down the road while travelling, you will invariably lose your way among the clutter of everyday life.

If you embark on your trip without a map, a compass or a set of instructions — and you do not have access to a GPS device — unless you define when you will be at each juncture of your journey, you may never make it to the end. Keeping track of time keeps us on track most of the time.

Do not be swept up in the “we will get there when we get there” mentality. Rather, intentionally seek results in order to finish the race in a strong manner.

Be S.M.A.R.T. when establishing goals and objectives, S.M.A.R.T. when moving toward their accomplishment, S.M.A.R.T. when monitoring progress and S.M.A.R.T. by bringing closure to one goal before immersing yourself in the next.

Utilizing S.M.A.R.T. process control truly ensures success. Step forward by demonstrating your “S.M.A.R.T.(s)” today.

David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association, a not-for-profit provider of human resources solutions since 1939.

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