Now, how can we go about answering the question that lies before us?
One of the best ways to start is by ensuring that your goal is SMART, that is:
- Relevant, and
If you’re able to answer each of the following questions in the affirmative, you’ll know you’ve set a goal that’s SMART:
- Specific – Does your goal use action words to state what you want to achieve and how you intend to achieve it?
- Measureable – Does your goal use metrics to specify how you will track your progress and how you will know that you’ve achieved your goal?
- Achievable – Is your goal within your span of control and possible for you to accomplish?
- Relevant – Does your goal make sense to you and your unique set of circumstances, including your priorities?
- Time-bound – Does your goal specify a date by which, or timeframe within which, you expect to accomplish it?
Returning to our example, let’s say that one of the ways in which you’d like to become more health conscious is “to eat a healthier diet.”
- You can make that goal more specific by declaring that you want to:
“eat a healthier diet by consuming more fruits and vegetables.”
- To make that goal measurable, you might decide to:
“eat a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.”
- As far as the goal being achievable is concerned, I have much to say about this topic. For now, let me say that whether a given goal is achievable or not is dependent, in large part, upon the individual and his or her circumstances.
o Using our example, if you have the misfortune of living in a “food desert,” “eating a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day” might be very difficult to accomplish.
- As far as relevant is concerned, if you are truly serious about becoming more health conscious, then “eating a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day” would likely be relevant. Otherwise, it might well not be.
- Finally, to make the goal time-bound, you might decide to: “eat a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, starting next week,” because maybe you need to do some grocery shopping before pursuing your goal in earnest. Or maybe you’re not quite ready to take that leap, and decide that you’ll: “eat a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day beginning on January 1, 2021.” “Because,” you reason “Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without those fun-size Snickers® bars; Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without the gravy, stuffing, and à la mode pumpkin pie; and what would Festivus be without the traditional meatloaf?”
Of course, you can still experiment with various fruits and vegetables in the meantime; it’s just that you’re not quite ready to commit to the “three to five servings each day” part. And you really do need to feel ready.
Okay, so here’s where things get interesting . . .
As a life coach, I’ve done a lot of thinking about goals, both my own and those of my clients. And I’ve come to the realization that, while SMART goals are good, SMARTER goals are better, and SMARTEST goals are the best goals of all!
In addition to being SMART, SMARTER goals are also:
- Energizing, and
If your goal is already SMART, and you’re able to answer each of the following questions in the affirmative, you’ll know you’ve set a goal that’s SMARTER:
- Energizing – Is your goal something that you genuinely want, and something you can get excited about?
- Rewarding – Does your goal involve the receipt of something that is of value to you, e.g., receiving a bonus for superior performance?
Now, I know that at least some of you will find it hard to believe that anyone could get excited about eating a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, starting next week or on New Year’s Day.
But imagine, if you will, the following scenarios:
- Maybe you decide to go online, in search of some nifty new vegetarian recipes. Perhaps you re-discover some old favorites, or find new mouthwatering ways to prepare some of nature’s bounty;
- You might decide that, instead of, or in addition to, going to the grocery store, you’ll peruse your local farmer’s market, where you discover fruits and/or vegetables you’ve never even heard of, and decide to try something new;
- Maybe you even consider planting a vegetable garden in your back yard, where you’ll have ready access to the freshest produce of all.
You get the picture.
As for Rewarding, perhaps you decide to reward yourself for maintaining your goal by purchasing a vegetarian cookbook, investing in some new cookware, or buying some canning jars, so that you can enjoy your home-grown fruits and vegetables year-round.
In addition to being SMART and, like SMARTER goals, Energizing, SMARTEST goals are also:
- Self-reinforcing, and
If your goal is already SMART and Energizing, and you’re able to answer each of the following questions in the affirmative, you’ll know you’ve set a goal that’s the SMARTEST of them all:
- Self-reinforcing – Does your goal involve the generation of positive emotions, e.g., the sense of pleasure experienced while engaging in a particular activity, the feeling of pride that accompanies a job well done, or the “helper’s high” (stemming from a rush of endorphins) that results from offering others assistance?
- Transformative – Does accomplishing your goal offer the potential to realize a meaningful and lasting change in you and/or your life circumstances?
To clarify, whereas Rewards typically involve tangible objects that one receives from the outside world, Self-reinforcements typically involve intangibles, such as positive emotions, that are generated from within.
Going back to our example, if eating a healthier diet by consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day gave you such pleasure, in and of itself, that you would continue to engage in this behavior even in the absence of any external rewards, then it would be Self-reinforcing.
And what does Transformative look like? Let’s say that you’ve been consuming three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and reaping the benefits of doing so.
You might start to wonder, “What else might I want to do in the direction of eating a healthier diet?” You might, for example, decide to eliminate foods containing refined sugar and/or deep-fried foods from your diet. And as a result of eating a healthier diet, you find that you’re feeling more energetic, so you decide to increase your level of physical activity by walking for 30 minutes, five days per week. Then you find that, because you’re more active during the day, you’re sleeping more soundly at night. And because you’re sleeping more soundly at night, you’re in a better mood and have a more positive outlook on life. One day, while out walking, you cross paths with someone who hasn’t seen you in a while, and he or she tells you that you look fantastic, which doesn’t surprise you, because you feel fantastic! Of course, you’re still you . . . just a healthier, happier you . . . your best version of yourself.
What about you? Once you’ve ensured that your goal is SMART, is there a way that you can make it Energizing and Rewarding? If your goal has a definitive endpoint, like running the 2021 Boston Marathon, you needn’t wait until you cross the finish line to reward yourself. Consider giving yourself a small reward for meeting important milestones along the way; doing so will help keep you motivated.
Maybe you’re raising money for a good cause, as I did when I ran the Boston Marathon in 1996, and you feel so good about what you’re doing that you don’t need to find ways to reward yourself; that’s what Self-reinforcing looks like.
As far as Transformative is concerned, allow yourself to imagine where achieving your goal might lead, above and beyond achieving the goal itself. Creating a positive vision
for the future is quite powerful!
If you’re like most people, setting goals that hold the promise of energizing, rewarding—or, better yet, self-reinforcing—and transforming you, will elevate them to a whole new level, increasing your motivation and improving your chances of success.