How to Hit the Ground Running with SMART Goals in 2018

Nordwood Themes

“If you’re not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.” ~ Paul J. Meyer ~

Around this time of year, we tend to see a couple of trends about resolutions. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays have come and gone but during that time, there’s an interesting lull. People have a little more time off, contemplate on everything that transpired over the last year, and get all fired up to start the new year off with a bang.

We hear people saying things like “what are your resolutions” or “what is your word for 2018” or “what is this new year going to be about.” We are now well into the first two weeks of January, where most people are motivated by their resolutions and determined to reinvent themselves. Unfortunately, we see all too often that by the time February rolls around, people lose their steam and before long, end up right back where they started.

I think that it’s safe to say we are all fairly savvy enough to know that resolutions just aren’t really a thing. They’re not goals. They’re not commitments. They’re not plans. They are just ideas, and, while they may be great ideas, there needs to be a specific plan in place in order for them to come to fruition. This is true whether you’re looking to lose weight, learn a new hobby or skill, advance your career, or speak more kindly to yourself.

There are typically two major mistakes that people make when it comes to setting goals:

1) They only make goals in one major theme or area of their life. They might say things like (and perhaps you can relate to this), “this is the year that I’m getting fit” or “this is the year where I’m really going to throw myself into my career or business” or “this is the year that I’m going to start dating again.”

This is important to mention because most of the time we tend to focus our attention on the area that we feel the most confident in or the one that just feels the easiest. The problem with this approach is that it sets you up for an unbalanced and ultimately unhappy lifestyle. While you may decide that you want to focus all of your energy on your career to achieve greater professional success, this could lead to neglecting other key areas, such as your health, emotional well-being, or relationships. As human beings, we are very multifaceted and fulfilled in many different ways but it’s important that we shine the light on these areas.

2) They make very vague goals. Maybe you or someone you know says something like “I’m going to change careers.” But what does that really mean and what does that look like? It’s different for everyone.

  • Are you going to go back to school and pursue an advanced degree?
  • Are you going to transition into a different industry? If so, which one(s)?
  • Are you considering a new job in the same industry?
  • Are you going to hire a career coach?
  • Are you going to actively (or passively) look for new jobs?

It’s important to get as specific as possible on your goals so that you can really look back at the end of the year and say “YES, I did do that.” Creating goals in multiple areas of your life that are as quantifiable and qualitative as possible are what leads to happiness. You’re not only accomplishing the things that you want to do but you’re catering to all of those different areas that bring you balance, happiness, and fulfillment.

Reflecting on this Past Year

Introspection – Courtesy of Jad Limcaco at Unsplash

In order to create meaningful and achievable goals going into the New Year, it’s important to assess the previous year, including where you are in your life right now and where you want to be in next year’s time. Most people skip this part. I really hope that you don’t. While it can be challenging to make time for personal reflection due to our fast-paced lives, being able to reflect on and celebrate the things that you’re most proud of is key to cultivating a sense of self-worth and providing a clear direction for moving forward.

To help stimulate this reflection process, I’ve included 7 introspective questions below to help you to learn more about yourself and draw attention towards what you are proud and what areas can be improved. This list is by no means exhaustive but hopefully, it gives you an idea of the types of questions that you can ask yourself as you continue to move forward with your goals in 2018.

  • Reflecting on everything that transpired in 2017, what are you most proud of?
  • What was your biggest lesson learned?
  • What word or theme would you use to describe your year in 2017? Why?
  • In what area(s) have you grown in 2017?
  • In what area(s) are you feeling stuck?
  • What new habit(s) would you like to develop and which old habit(s) do you need to let go?
  • How did you spend your free time?

For some of you, this last year may not have been very positive. Whatever comes up for you personally is fine—positive or negative—because it’s important to know where you are and what’s going on in order to move forward. Otherwise, you’re just operating with a glorified to-do list.

How to Plan for the Coming Year

How can you be sure that you’re setting meaningful and achievable goals? By creating S.M.A.R.T goals! You may have seen this acronym before but this formula is a great way to assess if the goals that you have created for yourself in 2018 are structured, clear, and resonate with your personal vision.

S – Specific. Your goal must be clear and well defined.

If your goal for 2018 is to find more meaningful work, what does that look like for you? Vague statements such as “I will find a new job” or “I will start a business” are not enough. Most of us have a big picture idea of what we want to achieve, but there need to be specific steps in place in order to reach that destination.

To get more specific on this, you could say “I want to update my resume by the end of January.” This is a specific goal and an important step towards achieving the bigger picture.

M – Measurable. Can you easily tell if you’ve accomplished this goal? If it can’t be measured, you won’t know if you’ve met your goal.

When searching for meaningful work, it’s important to expand your network to maximize your opportunities. However, the statement “expand your network” is rather ambiguous. A clearer (and measurable) objective could be something such as “each week, I will add at least 2 new connections on LinkedIn” or “each week, I will apply for 2 new positions for my new career target.” These are simple, concrete goals that you can easily track and measure.

A – Achievable. Is this possible? (Hint: Your answer should be yes!)

I speak with people from all walks of life about their career goals on a daily basis. Some of those people have come to me with very lofty goals. I recently had a good friend who was laid off a few months ago. She was very determined to find a new job quickly and set a goal for herself to secure a new job within a month following the layoff. While this is not impossible, it’s rare that anyone lands a job that quickly. Additionally, this goal has way too many variables that are out of her control that she isn’t setting herself up for success.

Setting a more reasonable goal, such as applying to 2-3 jobs each week is much more achievable than setting yourself up for discouragement and exhaustion to try and achieve a goal that is likely out of reach. Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that you should not try to stretch your limits, but it’s important to find that balance to ensure that your stretch goals work for you and not against you.

R – Resonate. This is about accomplishing or pursuing a goal that honors your core value system, as opposed to a goal that you set in place because someone else is creating a demand for you. A great example of a goal that does not resonate with you could be deciding to pursue a medical degree because your parents want you to be a doctor when you want to be a teacher.

It’s really important to be honest with yourself here because the experience of setting a meaningful goal creates a powerful and emotional resonance that makes us want to strive for something better. What is your big WHY? Is it genuinely for personal fulfillment or is this for someone else?

T – Time-Oriented. Is your goal time-oriented? A hard deadline has a tendency to shift people into action. It’s very likely that you will need to break your goal down into down into smaller steps or mini goals in service of the larger goal.

Let’s say that you want to spend more time with your family but you have a demanding job that involves a lot of travel. In applying this framework, you can set a realistic deadline to make this happen. For example, say that by the end of October 2018, you will have less travel time by putting your specific steps in place to possibly find a less demanding job so that you can spend more time with your family.

After you’ve assessed your level of satisfaction in different areas and mapped out your goals for 2018, the final piece is to infuse those goals into your calendar, “to-do” list, or whatever system you have in place. Otherwise, you’re just going to have a nice collection of ideas.

Creating your Epic 2018

Hopefully, this framework will serve as a useful way for you to analyze and create the movement that you want to see (and do it in a way that you can actually accomplish it) in 2018. It’s important to pay attention to how you operate the best and give yourself a lot of room to see what tools work for you.

The only difference between people who are wildly successful is that they actually decided on a goal and took active steps to accomplish it over and over again. How do you plan to create your epic 2018? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Kate

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