Our ability to achieve goals is highly dependent on what we define as success. This statement applies to many parts of our lives. It certainly governs our fitness.
When I look back over goals I stopped pursuing a major reason I gave up was because I didn’t feel like I was getting results. In talking with others and doing some quick research it seems many others are struggling with this same thing.
Lets dive deeper…
Have we set a clear point at which we can declare victory? Are we leaving outs for ourselves from the start? Do we even believe success is possible? When will we know we are successful?
Success can come down to how we have framed our goals in the first place. Did we actually define our goals in a way that we can affirm success?
In this post we are going to dive into how making S.M.A.R.T. goals can better set us up to achieve our goals.
By using this criteria to set your goals your end point is defined and you are putting systems in place to support you along the way.
There should be no guessing about whether you have crossed the line. You have either arrived, or are still working towards it.
The goal should be as specific as possible. Cut out ambiguity.
“I want to be faster” is a very general goal. It is also very relative.
Dial it in.
How much faster is enough to declare success?
Just like your baseline metrics, your progress and goal should be measurable in some way. This is critical in accurately tracking your progress, and arrival at your goal.
Let’s say you have made up your mind to be a faster swimmer. People keep passing you in the water and you think you could do better.
While you might FEEL fast swimming one day, and slow the next, when you could actually be moving at the same pace on both days. Feeling and knowing are two very different things.
Measure to confirm.
Previously, we talked about the importance of reviewing where we are starting from when setting goals. Figuring out what we are working with and defining that starting point, or baseline, with specific metrics.
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For instance, right now I can probably swim a time trial session of 10x 100 yards, with 10 seconds rest, averaging about 1:30. Let us say I recently completed that exact workout, at that pace.
The 1:30 average per 100 yards is now my baseline metric. A starting point.
Which of these starting points is easier to determine progress from?
- “I feel slow.”
- “I can swim average 1:30 per 100 yards for 10x 100.”
Ding. Ding. Ding. Number 2!
If after a month of regular swim training I do the same pool session and average 1:25. I can declare success. I have indeed gotten faster, even though those 1:25’s made me feel like crap.
In the business use of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym the “A” stands for Achievable. I think Achievable can be folded into the next criteria. I also think Accountable is a better fit.
Lack of accountability is a major reason goals are never achieved. I know for myself if I am not accountable to something there is a higher chance I will shy away from my goal in the long run. Being accountable to something, or better yet someone, makes your goal bigger than yourself.
This makes me want to do my best.
A great example of this was while I was rowing crew in college. Six days of the week I would get up before the crack of dawn and pull so hard on an oar the skin would peel off my hands. It was THE hardest sport I have ever done and the schedule was no cake walk either. The reason I stuck with it was because I wanted to do my best and so did the eight other guys in the boat with me. We were all working hard. Depending on each other and none of us wanted to let the others down.
An accountability partner is a great way to get a similar comaraderie. Build your own accountability support with a P.I.C. (Partner In Crime).
It could be your partner in life. My wife and I often are on the same training cycles. Being accountable to each other is a great way to ensure the work gets done and we do it together.
If that isn’t a possibility you can also use a friend, or even someone over the internet. There are now many active social sites, like Strava for cycling, where you can connect with other people trying to do similar things as you.
The point is to find someone who also wants to be accountable for a goal they have set, that you can help them with in some way. They in turn help you. Even if that is as simple as having a monthly 10 minute conversation about your progress.
It doesn’t matter if your goals are not the same, only that you are committed to supporting each other and regularly reviewing the steps you are taking with each other.
P.S. A monthly check-in is a good amount of training to assess changes. It also isn’t taxing on the schedule.
There is also the bet option.
Put up a significant amount of money, or something else you value. Have a third party hold this prized possession. If you lose this will get donated to someone you don’t want it to go to.
Yes, I did say “don’t”.
Accountability can be rough, but necessary.
Is the goal worth the time and effort? Will completing it better you, make you healthier or fulfill your needs?
Do your lower priority goals align with your #1 highest priority goal?
When things get complicated and time gets tight keep it simple. You can always default back to identifying if what you are doing is a step towards achieving your most important goal.
No matter how small the step staying relevant to your needs will keep you moving forward.
Setting a time limit for your goal strengthens its priority and gets you to re-evaluate your time management choices.
When will you reach your goal by?
Easy answer: “I don’t know. I’ll get there when I get there.”
Easy answer = Never get there + Watching way to much Netflix.
Dial it in. I know this isn’t easy, but think about your goal. What is a reasonable amount of time to complete it in? Be honest with yourself.
Then add 20%.
I know I tend to underestimate. Life happens. You get a set-back injury. You win a trip to Bermuda. You get backed up at work. You get sick.
Complete your goal early, you’re a super star. Don’t add 20%, and don’t make your goal, feel lousy and most likely add that extra time on anyway. Your choice.
Using the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework will set you up to avoid many pitfalls. The biggest being our tendency to set ambiguous goals that lead to unfulfilling results. Dial it in now so you will know when you have reached your goal and can jump around like Rocky.