A better way to set goals

Zig Ziglar has been quoted as saying, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” This may be the case for a few but I believe that most of us are pretty good at aiming at something.

However, one common mistake we may make when setting a goal is that we make them too ambiguous. Here are a few examples… 

  • I want to get into better shape
  • I want to learn a new language
  • I want to spend more time with family
  • I want to travel more
  • I want to read more

These are all good goals, but with one fatal flaw. They’re too vague

In the 1980s, George Doran came up with the acronym SMART with the intention of setting better goals. Here is a quick rundown of each letter in the acronym…

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Actionable / Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Time sensitive 

These parameters can be a great guideline for setting better goals for ourselves. For instance, let’s take the goal of learning sign language.

First, let’s be more SPECIFIC.

Instead of setting the goal, “learn sign language”, you could instead set the goal of having a conversation with someone using ASL (American Sign Language) or setting a specific number of signs to learn each week.

Then, think of how you can MEASURE your progress.

Especially in the beginning, it can be really helpful to write down the signs that you learn… this can be a great visual reminder of how much of the language you have learned and can be easily measured. Also, you can keep track of how many times a week you spend time on learning the language.

The “A” can represent a few other words like “Attainable” or “Achievable”, however I personally prefer “ACTIONABLE”.

After all, goals without action don’t do us much good. So, take a little time and think about actionable things you can do to make progress on learning ASL. Can you set up a consistent time for you to study? How about reaching out into your local community and find a deaf event nearby? 

We also want to be REALISTIC with our goals, even setting up smaller goals on the way can be really helpful.

For instance, try setting micro goals like learning 100 signs, having a conversation with someone using only sign language, going to a Deaf social event, or spend time every week learning something new about the language or culture. 

Finally, think about how you can bring TIME into the equation.

Time can be a really powerful motivator. Especially so if it is something that is reoccurring. For instance, if you can set up a goal that can be completed on daily, weekly, or monthly basis… now you’re talking. For example, if you set the goal to learn at least one sign a day, you are not only accomplishing a goal, you are also creating a habit, a SYSTEM that becomes more about the process than the outcome. 

If you’re interested in learning how you can turn your goals into habits that will help you gain momentum and make real substantial progress on your goals, check out our article “Establishing habits that work for you”.

In the meantime, try creating a SMART goal for yourself and see what you can come up with!

4 thoughts on “A better way to set goals”

  1. I like this. I’m gonna bookmark this for later. Reminds me of when I’m doing a business plan. I have to do goals and tactics, exactly like SMART. I need to get into the habit of thinking this way for personal goals as well.

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