As we mentioned in last week’s article on living a life of continuous personal growth, one reason your resolutions fail is that your goals aren’t clear enough. Intentionality starts with setting clear and measurable goals. In part 1 of our Lifestyle of Continuous Personal Growth series, we will be looking at the SMART principle, which is a simple, practical and easy approach to setting clear goals and working towards them effectively.  


Without Intentionality, Your Goals Are Meaningless

A goal is a vision that you have for a certain aspect of your life; it can be career-oriented, related to your relationships or mental and physical health. If you are not intentional about pursuing your goal, it will remain a vision—you have to be deliberate about going for what you want. If the goal is the destination, intentionality is the vehicle that will get you there. Part of being intentional is taking practical steps to realise your goals; it is going beyond the dreaming to step into the doing, and this can be achieved with the help of the SMART principle.

Most of us are familiar with the SMART principle; it is taught at almost every team-building workshop and at many sessions with a life coach. But how many of us can say that we have actually put it into practice? The SMART principle is an acronym that has been developed to help guide the process of setting and working towards your goals.  It is simple, practical and easy. Adopting this approach is the first step of being intentional about achieving your goals.


SMART goals are most likely to materialise

The SMART approach to goal-setting helps you create a framework within which you can work towards your goals. It helps you keep track of your progress and it makes every step in the process measurable, making it easy for you to see clearly what you're working towards. The SMART approach also adds a touch of accountability to the process, which is what you need if you are to see real results.


To determine whether your goal is SMART, it has to be:


Is your goal specific?

Having a specific goal will make your vision less vague and more tangible. To make sure that your goal is specific, you have to ask and answer the following questions:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve? E.g. I want to write an 8-chapter memoir.
  • By when do I want to have achieved the goal? E.g. By the end of November 2019.
  • How will I achieve my goal? E.g. I will write one page a day; this will take me two hours.
  • Why do I want to achieve my goal? E.g. I want to share my story and empower others.

Being specific about your goal will make it more tangible and it will make it easy for you to see, clearly, what you are working towards, which will make the endeavour less overwhelming.


Is your goal measurable?

A measurable goal is one that is quantifiable and has evidence that you can see. For instance, if your goal is to write a book and you have set out to write one page every day, by the end of the week you should have written seven pages; the seven pages are the measurable elements of your overall goal. Having measurable elements will give you an indication of how far you have come since visualising your goal and they indicate how far you need to go. Additionally, they will give you a sense of accomplishment because you have actually done something! A sense of accomplishment will keep you motivated and it will keep you moving.


Is your goal attainable?

To avoid disappointment, you have to set goals that are actually achievable; this means reckoning the resources needed to achieve your goal against the resources you have—do you have the time, money and health required? Using the writing example: If you are a parent who has a fulltime job, you might not have two extra hours in the day to write; you might only be able to get in 30 minutes of writing, meaning you will most likely only be able to complete four pages by the end of the week. Setting attainable goals means being mindful of your limitations as an individual—it doesn’t mean that your goal isn’t worth pursuing or that you will never achieve it, it just means that it will take longer than you would like it to, and that’s okay. Slow and steady wins the race.

Is your goal relevant?

Is your goal actually YOURS or is it based on something you think you should be working towards because of societal or familial pressure? Moreover, is the goal based on your values and the true longings of your heart? This is important to consider because working on a goal that isn’t genuinely yours is not sustainable at all—you will lose steam along the way, which is a waste of your time and other valuable resources. There is nothing empowering about pursuing something you are not passionate about.


Is your goal timely?

Setting deadlines for your goals is a great way of being intentional. Setting a deadline will help you get into action and will make it hard for you to renege on your goal-oriented commitments. Sure, you will be tempted to procrastinate but the deadline will hang over your head and you will be kicked into gear. When you set your deadlines, remember to take into consideration how much time you actually have. You need to be realistic at all times throughout the process—don’t set yourself up for disappointment.


Be SMART but Have Fun

Working towards your goals need not be a stringent endeavour. You have to enjoy it! You’re working towards the realisation of your dreams, isn’t that great? Yes, it’s important to keep focused and fight the fear of failure but of equal importance is enjoying all the lessons you will learn along the way.

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