How to get SMART about your goals.


We all have them. They may change or transform over time, but in our innermost thoughts, we all hold on to those shimmering desires that make our hearts race and our gut ache and our head spin. Dreams vary in scope and scale in as many variations as there are individuals. Some dream ‘big’, others ‘small’; some expansively and others relatively. Wherever you fall on the dream scale, we are all alike in entertaining a vision beyond the scope of our current reality. What differs, however, is our willingness and effectiveness in turning those dreams into goals, and those goals into a reality.

How do you begin to effectively begin to ‘work on a dream’?

The first step in realising any dream begins with the mindset of believing it can be done. When we engage the idea that our dreams are possible, we alter our perception of those dreams and our mind begins to work in solutions. Visualising ourselves in that position, achieving our dreams, functions as a kind of permission to ourselves; when we imagine our dreams coming true we grant ourselves permission to believe in the possibility, and in doing so, we set the wheels in motion for devising ways to make that happen.

So what catalyses dreams to become reality?

In order to make our dreams come true, we need to take them out of our head and get them onto paper. Dreams that become reality first must become goals. Goal setting is a vital part of the process for effectively transitioning dreams into reality, and for goal setting to be effective rather than a languishing ‘wish list’, clarity is key. This may sound obvious, but many people do not take the time to really think clearly and definitively about what they wish to achieve. To devise and execute a successful strategy for achieving your goals, you must have a clear vision of what you wish to achieve, why you want to achieve it and the dedication to make it happen. You must sit down and really think about what specifically it is you wish to achieve, what your motivations are, what is involved in pursuing that goal and your willingness to endure it. You must perform a thorough and realistic analysis of the costs and limitations so as to adequately prepare for any challenges and potential obstacles. Only then can you begin to create a strategy for getting to work.

SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

The SMART Goals model is an effective tool for goal setting and strategy conception, which will lay the foundation for clarity, accountability, appraisal and performance.

Specific: As I have mentioned above, in order to effectively work towards a goal, you must have absolute clarity around what that goal is. Defining your goals in specific detail will enable you to accurately analyse the requirements for attaining that goal and the resources and input involved, which will garner you with a realistic view of the task at hand and allow you to craft an appropriate strategy.

Measurable: You must be able to track your progress. Milestones and benchmarks are important indicators of progress. Awareness of deficiencies in the plan or shortfalls in the execution and dedication to the strategy are crucial for accountability and flexibility for long term success. Acknowledging and celebrating milestones are vital for sustaining motivation in the long run and preventing burnout, frustration or disillusionment.

Attainable: In order for a strategy to be successful, the ultimate goal must be achievable. Striving for the ‘big picture’ goal is an ambitious undertaking, and in the case of lofty or expansive visions, chunking these down into attainable phases is often the most effective way to effectuate the attainment of the big picture goal as this will nurture sustainable motivation and sense of fulfilment in the short term, essential for long term stamina.

Relevant: Goal setting and pursuit takes time, energy, sacrifice and patience. Make sure that the goals you are setting for yourself and into which you are channelling your resources (time, money, energy, emotional, physical, psychological) are goals that hold true value for you, and align with your values. This may appear to go without saying, however many of us invest so much into chasing goals and dreams that may not be our own; we can often find ourselves influenced by external pressures, norms and trends, chasing a vision with which we do not authentically relate, whether it be to fulfil the wishes of our parents, our family, a partner, to conform with societal dictations or to impress our peers or colleagues. This is part of the reason why it is so important to clearly understand our motivations that drive our ambitions and the underlying reasons for the goals we set ourselves.

Timely: It is important to set targets within which you wish to achieve your goals. This ensures ongoing commitment and progression, avoiding complacency, losing sight of the end goal and compromising on your true passions through the distraction and urgency of other life events.

Remember, we choose our own boundaries; we can either impose limitations on our dreams, focusing on the obstacles and making excuses, or set about making those dreams a reality through tangible measures and sustained effort.

Which will it be – a daydream or a plan of action?

I’m working on a dream

Though sometimes it feels so far away

I’m working on a dream

And I know it will be mine someday

 Bruce Springsteen, ‘Workin’ on a Dream’