Achieve Your Goals by Setting SMARTWAY ObjectivesDoug Robinson
Your ability to set goals is critical in your professional business life as well as your private life. Achieving your goals is absolutely essential for success. Setting goals is easy, achieving them is a lot more difficult. You can improve your chances of successfully achieving your goals if you translate them into SMARTWAY objectives. I will explain how to do this in this post.
We set many different types of goals: strategic goals, operational goals, performance goals, professional goals and private goals. Goal setting is a basic tool of business, and most businesses require their employees to set annual performance goals. We normally do this during the annual performance review meeting between the employee and their immediate supervisor [See my post on Coaching by the Supervisor].
Goal setting is a fundamental human activity. Humans are goal-driven, and one of our prime motivators is to achieve our goals.
The problem is not in setting goals, the problem is achieving them. While most people can set goals, very few seem to be able to achieve them. As I wrote about in my book The Seven Principles of Success, successful people are able to set meaningful and worthwhile goals AND achieve them.
Why is it that some people are able to achieve their goals and others are not? Maybe the answer lies in how our mind perceives a goal.
What is a goal?
A goal is basically a target; something to aim for. It is something we will achieve at some time in the future. Unfortunately, most of our goals are rather vague or ill-defined, and more importantly, goals only exist in the future.
It is because of this future-oriented aspect that we find it relatively easy to set goals. The goal only exists in our imagination, and our subconscious mind is able to accept the goal with ease. This is because our subconscious is not able to distinguish between fact or fiction. Our conscious mind is able to distinguish the difference, but not our subconscious. Whatever we plant in our subconscious is real.
James Clear, author of Automatic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones believes that we have two selves; our future self, and our present self. He also believes that our brain deals with the way we think about the future and the present differently.
We set goals for the future
When we set goals, we are making plans for our future self. We visualise what we want our life to be like in the future. And, because we are thinking about the future, we tend to think expansively and creatively. We are able to imagine an ideal situation in the future because our future self values long-term rewards. We can see the logical and emotional value of taking actions that have long-term benefits. As a result we are able to set goals that promise future rewards quite easily.
We can only achieve goals in the present
But, goals only become reality in the present, and it is our conscious mind that is concerned with the present, not our subconscious. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, long-term goals do not receive the same priority in our mind as compared to things that are more immediate.
We can only take action in the present, and it is our present self in the form of our conscious, logical thinking mind that makes decisions about the present. Our present self, according to James Clear, is more concerned with immediate gratification, and not with something that may benefit us in the future. Pleasure now is far more important than pleasure in the future.
Emotion drives all human behaviour
All human behaviour is driven by emotion, and emotions are powerful feelings. If something is pleasant, it gives us a nice feeling, and we like doing things that give us nice, warm feelings. When something is unpleasant, it generates negative feelings, and we tend to avoid things we don’t like.
If a task is emotionally difficult because it is unpleasant, very challenging or difficult to do, our normal reaction is to put it off until some other time. Putting something off to a later date is known as procrastination, and procrastination is one of the most common reasons why we don’t achieve our goals.
This presents us with a huge challenge. How do we reconcile what we want to achieve in the future with what we have to do today. We tend to focus on what is important for success now; what is going to give us the greatest satisfaction now – in the present, not in the future. If something is important and has to be done, but is difficult or unpleasant to do, our natural instinct is to put it off until later.
If we want to achieve our long-term goals, we have to link the future with the present. We have to translate those goals into something that our conscious mind can and is willing to act on in the present. The way to do that is to translate our goals into SMARTWAY objectives.
The difference between a Goal and an Objective
We need to define our goals as clearly as possible, and a goal that is clearly defined becomes an objective.
An objective is a clearly defined short-term goal
A goal is the end result. We achieve our goal by breaking it down into one or more clearly defined objectives. While the goal is the end result, objectives are the stepping stones to get to the end result.
I have found the SMARTWAY method developed by Russell T. Westcott, very useful for crafting meaningful and worthwhile objectives. The method builds on the traditional SMART objective by adding three very important elements: worth, accountability and yield.
When you translate your goals into one or more SMARTWAY objectives, you significantly increase your chance of achieving them.
When you craft an objective, make sure that it meets the SMARTWAY criteria.
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Realistic
- T – Time-Bound
- W – Worthwhile
- A – Accountable
- Y – Yield
An objective must be specific. It should focus on a single topic and should have only one outcome or result.
Ask yourself this question: “What specific outcome, or result must this objective achieve?”
You must have a way to measure when you have achieved your objective. Most objectives produce some form of physical deliverable, and it is the production of this deliverable which indicates when the objective has been successfully achieved.
Ask yourself the question: “How will I know when I have achieved this objective? What will success look like?”
You must be able to perform the objective. It must be possible to do what is required to achieve the objective with the knowledge, skills and resources you have currently available.
Ask yourself the question: “Can I achieve this objective with the knowledge, skills and resources that I currently have?”
The objective must be practicable. This means that you must be able to do it or put it into practice successfully within the time available or allowed. The amount of time you have to complete the objective determines whether the objective is realistic or not.
Ask yourself these questions: “Is this objective realistic?”, “Can I achieve the objective within the amount of time I have available?”
An objective must be time-bound, or time-related. You must set a deadline for when you have to achieve the objective. It is this deadline that differentiates an objective from a goal. A goal usually has a general timeframe by when you want to achieve it. An objective has a specific time or date for when it must be completed. An objective has a specific deadline.
Ask yourself these questions: When do I want to complete this objective?” or, “When do I need to complete this objective?”
Deadlines impose a sense of urgency in our conscious mind. But unrealistic deadlines impose a sense of panic.
These four elements form the basis of the traditional SMART objective. It’s the next three elements that make a SMARTWAY objective so powerful. These three elements almost guarantee that you will achieve your goal.
You are going to have to spend time, effort and possibly money, to achieve your objective. One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself is whether this objective is going to be worth that time, effort and money. This is critical, because if it is not worthwhile, your conscious and subconscious minds will work together to ensure that you will not achieve it. Successful people set worthwhile and meaningful goals. They achieve those goals by setting and achieving worthwhile and meaningful objectives.
Ask yourself this question: “Is trying to achieve this objective going to be worth my time, effort, or the money I am going to have to spend?”
The letter ‘A’ can refer to either accountability or assignability. If this is a personal objective, you have to accept personal accountability and responsibility for achieving this objective. If this is a business objective, it must be assigned to an individual. And this individual must be prepared to accept personal accountability for making sure the objective is achieved.
When I facilitate strategic planning workshops with senior executives, I know that if I cannot get every strategic objective assigned to a specific individual, and get that individual to accept personal accountability for that objective, it will not get done. The executive may very well get someone else to actually do the work, but they still retain the accountability for the objective.
When I coach an individual, I have to get that individual to accept accountability for their goal and the action plan they have developed to help them achieve their goal.
Without individual accountability, the objective will not be achieved. Successful people hold themselves accountable for their actions.
Ask yourself this question: “Am I prepared to be accountable and accept responsibility for achieving this objective?”
This is possibly the single most important factor in ensuring that an objective will be achieved. Someone must be accountable and be held personally responsible for achieving the objective.
For an objective to be meaningful and worthwhile, it must generate, or ‘yield’ a positive result. It must generate the returns we expect for our time, effort and money.
Ask yourself these questions: “Will this objective deliver the results I want? Will it deliver the results I need?”
If you follow the process outlined above, you will have a carefully crafted SMARTWAY objective that is realistic, meaningful, worthwhile, and will deliver a specific result by a specified time, by an accountable individual.
Make your SMARTWAY objectives work for you
All you have to do now is to make it happen by developing an action plan, and taking decisive action to make the plan work to achieve the SMARTWAY objective.