Saving up for the new iPhone X, bringing that B+ in calculus up to an A... If you’re anything like most of today’s teens, you’ve got stuff you want to accomplish! We’ve all got ambitions and goals we want to achieve because goal setting is a huge part of life. I’ve learned that successfully reaching my goals is totally doable, especially when I plan out how to accomplish them.
I used to think goal setting was as simple as making a few mental notes about my grand plans. However, I’ve learned through experience that having a great strategy makes my goals way easier to achieve. From organizing my objectives to tracking my progress, SMART goal setting is an awesome technique that’s been incredibly effective for me. So, let’s break down this entire goal setting system. With the SMART approach, before you know it, your dreams will have become reality.
Why Set Goals
Do you have an idea of what you want to achieve, but you’re not sure how to actually accomplish it? If this is a problem you’ve been facing, it’s time to take control of your life's direction by setting goals to achieve your dreams and keep yourself focused. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between goals and goal setting, how to break down lifetime goals into smaller attainable goals, and how to think about goals within the SMART framework. These techniques will help you build a roadmap for achieving your dreams.
There is tremendous power in goal setting. It helps you plan where you want to go in life and keeps you motivated to turn your vision of your future into a reality. Goal setting enables you to be proactive about what you want to achieve. The results are empowering as you gain more self-confidence with every new goal you achieve.
What is Goal Setting
When it comes to goal setting, many people aren’t sure where to start. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by possibilities and stop yourself from achieving a goal before you even start. Goal setting is the foundation for the things you want to accomplish and without a solid base, you’ll lose focus on your end goals. With this in mind, one tactic that proves to be effective for most people is taking the time to write down goals.
People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t write them down. A Harvard Business Study found that the 3% of graduates from their MBA who had their goals written down, ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together. Putting your goals on paper allows you to move from thinking about your goals to seeing and focusing on what it would take to actually make them a reality.
Types of Goals for Goal Setting
When you sit down to write your goals, you can organize your goal setting around three types: short-term, long-term, and lifetime.
Short-term goals can be anything you want to accomplish in the near future, whether it’s within the next week or the next six months, and can be a small part of a bigger, longer-term goal. Short term goals enable you to break down a large goal, which may seem overwhelming, into smaller, more manageable increments. Setting short-term goals makes it easier to conceive the path to long-term goals, and increases the completion rate of the big goals.
Long-term goals are defined as something you want to accomplish in three to five years. Long-term goals require planning and can usually be broken down into short-term goals.
Lifetime goals give you the “big picture” and are major targets that you would like to accomplish throughout your life. They are the objectives you’d like to work towards to bring you satisfaction in your future. These types of goals can take ten years or more to actualize and are the benefits of the hard work and dedication you put in now.
While these three types of goals will keep you organized, there’s a type of goal setting to truly unleash the power of writing out goals: make the goal SMART.
Why SMART Goals for Goal Setting?
Save time and energy by making the goal setting process more efficient and productive by setting SMART goals.
SMART goals stand for the following:
S - Specific: set precise goals which have been broken down as much as possible.
- Ex: Instead of saying you will “take a coding class”, say that you will “sign up for a class that will teach me how to make beautiful websites.”
M - Measurable: by putting times, dates, places, and amounts, you will be able to measure how long a goal should take and work toward completing it within the allotted time.
A - Attainable: it is important to set goals you can achieve, instead of setting yourself up for failure; identify the obstacles that can stand in your way or the possible difficulty you may face.
R - Relevant: ensure that all your goals are relevant to what you want to eventually accomplish.
T - Time-bound: making sure that you give yourself a deadline to accomplish your goal will give you the motivation you need to get on your feet and get it done.
Now that we know how to organize our types of goals and make them SMART, we need a process to unleash the power of goal setting.
Steps to Unleash the Power of Goal Setting
Time for a little introspection. What are your biggest ambitions in life? Is it to become a national news correspondent? Or, maybe you’ve always dreamed of climbing Everest? In my late teen years, I decided I wanted to move to Africa. Yep! I set a major lifetime goal, kicked off a SMART plan of action, and made my dream a reality. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Set Lifetime Goals
Does the idea of setting a lifetime goal sound daunting? Don’t panic—your stress is totally normal. The good news is there are major benefits to setting lifetime goals. For starters, you’re putting your wishes out there and setting high ambitions for yourself—which is super empowering! And, once you decide exactly what your lifetime goals are, you can begin the exciting process of reaching them by breaking them down into smaller, more achievable goals.
So yea, that big goal I had of moving to an African country? While exhilarating, the idea was admittedly overwhelming. I mean, how was I really going to make it happen? And on top of my own nerves, my family thought my drastic plan was a bit insane! And they kind of had a point— moving all the way from New York to the African continent? How on earth would I even begin to tackle such a huge lifetime goal?
My first step was to break it into lots of tinier, bite-sized goals. As you’ll see below, this strategy worked amazingly for making my move to Africa a reality!
Step 2: Set Long-term and Short-term Goals
So here I was with this hefty “I want to move to Africa” goal. It was time for step two of SMART goal setting: separating my lifetime goal into several short-term and long-term goals. I needed to chisel away at my goal piece by piece. These smaller goals were like my “move to Africa roadmap” and they felt so much less intimidating.
Here’s a look at just how simple breaking down a “move to Africa” goal can be!
Lifetime goal: Find a job in Africa and move there by the age of 26!
- Graduate from college.
- Get accepted into a teach abroad in Africa program.
- Save up to pay for my program out of pocket.
- Get my TEFL certification.
- Learn how to speak an African language fluently.
- Research programs to teach abroad in Africa with and pick my favorite country and programs.
- Sign up for a local language course.
- Sign up for two classes: TEFL certification course and a language class.
- Make a budget of my teach abroad expenses.
- Open up a savings account at my local bank.
- Get a part-time job to start saving for my program fee and extra travel expenses.
The biggest take away from this process? Well, I found that ticking off my smaller goals was much more realistic than trying to tackle that big one all at once. This strategy made all the difference in helping me to successfully reach one of my life goals, step by step.
Step 3: Write Down Goals the SMART way.
Now my “move to Africa” goal was separated into easily achievable smaller ones. Remember how I mentioned the importance of actually writing a goal down on paper? I took it a step further and wrote them down the SMART way. Take a look at what I did below (yes, this was a few years ago!).
To fulfill my dream of living in Africa, I’m going to join a teach abroad program and move to the continent by January 2011. In January 2008, I’ll open up a savings account and get a part-time gig to start saving up for program fees. I will put away 80% of each paycheck. In January 2009, I’ll sign up for a TEFL course and get my certification by April. In January 2010, I’ll apply to my favorite teach abroad programs.
Once I receive my acceptance letters (speaking this into existence!), I will pick my top program and country. Next, I’ll enroll in a language course in Manhattan in April. By September, I will have paid all of my program fees. And in October, I will buy my ticket and start shopping for my teach abroad packing list. I’ll also reach out to program alumni for their in-country travel advice. And, in January 2011, I’ll depart for my move to an African nation.
Bam! Do you see how specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound my goal was? This approach seriously helped me visualize exactly how to achieve it—and, in January of 2011, I moved to Namibia as a foreign teacher!
Now you should have no doubt about the power of SMART goal setting. Want to score a 1300 on your SATs or step foot on three continents before graduation? Whatever your goals, know they are very attainable with the right plan of action.
One last word of advice: it’s perfectly normal to not reach a goal. Goals can be fluid or sometimes they just end up taking way longer than we planned. It happens, but it’s not the end of the world or your aspirations. I’ve learned to re-group, adjust or make a new goal, and keep on setting goal setting the SMART way.
So carry this three-step goal-setting routine with you wherever you go, and soar!