You read a lot about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions this time of year. But instead of just reading about them, I advocate setting a vision of your future … one that pulls you toward an end goal instead of resolving to push yourself to change. (That rarely works, and it’s no fun for anyone.)
Positive change isn’t about being miserable; it’s about being the best version of yourself.
So, once you have that vision of your ideal future, how do you maneuver yourself onto the right track to making it a reality? By setting SMART goals, of course!
The acronym “SMART” describes goals that are:
- Specific (clear and unambiguous)
- Measurable (either in dollar amounts, percentages, number of clients, etc.)
- Attainable (must be realistic and not overly ambitious)
- Relevant (must further your purpose or ultimate vision of the future)
- Time-bound (have a fixed starting and ending date)
For example, if in your ideal future you are a full-time paid blogger, your first SMART goal could be something like:
“Six weeks from now, on March 1, 2016 [start date] I will have a wellness blog [relevant] on the Rainmaker platform in which I post three times a week. I will drive enough traffic to the site using paid ads and guest blogging [specific] to start earning $100 a month [measurable] by August 1, 2016” [end date; attainable and time-bound].
This is a great goal! You have a specific, actionable goal where the start date gives you enough time to research platforms, brainstorm content, write your ads and find the best places to guest blog, and the end date is reasonable and attainable.
But, simply setting a SMART goal isn’t enough to make your vision a reality. Reaching a goal is not like putting a ham in a slow cooker. You can’t “set it and forget it” and expect your goal to be realized.
Reach Your Goals Like You Bake a Cake
Instead, think of setting and achieving a SMART goal like baking a bûche de noël. (That’s French for yule log cake.) Baking a bûche de noël takes many steps and a lot of attention. It requires about eight hours to finish. And, once completed, it looks impressive and tastes rich and delicious. (I’ve made four so far. The third one actually looked like the picture in the magazine!)
Whether you’re setting a SMART goal or baking a bûche de noël, you must first set your intention. Then, you must follow through and refer often to your recipe. You’ll also get better results by doing it more than once. If you set and stick to your SMART goals this year, it will be even easier to set and stick to new goals next year.
The Goal Is the Cake, and the Cake the Goal
Your ideal future is like the bûche de noël — it’s the spectacular end product of many steps. You can see it; you know what it’s supposed to look like.
The trick is figuring out how you get from a pile of raw ingredients – such as flour and sugar or, in your case, writing skills and a small client list – to that beautiful image you want to be reality.
To Achieve the End Result, First Set Your Intention
Creating your ideal future is no small undertaking. To do it well, you must first set your intention. Be clear with yourself about what you want, when you want it and how much time you have to devote to making it happen. Your intention will guide you when you write out your SMART goal.
Then, gather what you need to get started, whether it’s support from your family, time to yourself to focus, or study materials. Think of these things as the necessary ingredients for your own, personal bûche de noël.
Pick a start date that makes sense. (If you didn’t start on January 1st, that doesn’t mean your goals for the year are doomed!) Look at your schedule and figure out the closest, most practical day to set your goals in motion.
Go do that now. Pick a start date and an end date and write down what you want to achieve between the two of them — including the steps you will take — that will draw you toward fulfilling your vision of your future.
Your Recipe for Success
Okay, you have your written SMART goal, your recipe for success. Nice work! You now have laid out before you the series of steps you must take to make all those raw ingredients into a sweet end product.
While most of us rely on other people’s recipes for cakes, you are the author of your SMART goals, and your future. You can tweak and change things to your liking, so long as the basic structure supports the end product.
For example, you wouldn’t frost a cake before you bake it, just like you wouldn’t write your way to six figures a year before you have any clients. First thing’s first.
And, also like a recipe, you must refer back to your SMART goals again and again. And again.
You need to know not only what step you’re on now, but what step is coming next, so you’ll be ready for it. Trust me, you don’t read your bûche de noël recipe just once, put it in a drawer, and then bust out a beautiful cake. The same is true for your ideal future. Your SMART goal is your recipe. Refer to it often.
Post your written goals where you can read them every day. Check the recipe, know what step you’re on and know what you need to be ready for next. The better you know the recipe, the quicker you get to your end result.
Continuous SMART Goal Setting
Another important thing to know about goals: You don’t set one goal and then you’re done. You have to set numerous smaller goals before you reach the final end product. Think of the SMART goals you set and reach as one elaborate recipe for realizing your ideal future. Each completed goal is one step in the recipe, and you build on each goal until, finally, you’re living your ideal life (or looking at an amazing cake).
People are impressed when you create something awesome, whether it be a bûche de noël or an enviable writer’s life. It’s inspiring and positive, not just for you but for the people in your life.
But, I don’t bake a bûche de noël every year for the compliments my family gives me, although that certainly warms my heart. I do it for the sense of accomplishment. The feeling of personal pride of having committed my time and effort to a worthy project. (And because the more I do it, the better it gets!)
Your personal and professional development is the same: worth the effort year after year. And spectacular when you see the results.
So, set your SMART goals, keep them in sight (literally and metaphorically) so you can check your progress and steps often, and reap the sweet rewards of your efforts.
What’s your recipe for success in 2016? What SMART goal will you set to make your vision a reality? Shout out your intention in the comments!