Smart goals are just goals optimised for easy achievement. We make SMART goals because that’s how our brains are most efficient at getting them done. Then we apply razor sharp skills to keep us on track.
The science of goals
As a driven man myself, I’m a fan of goal setting – it gives me focus and is very effective in moving me forward consciously in life and shedding redundant ways of thinking and being. In writing this, I became curious about the science behind goal-setting strategies and fascinated to discover the urban myths around old university studies on the subject, which are often quoted but completely unsubstantiated. Here though is a verified international study completed by 37 men and 112 women on various type of goals#1
Don’t need the science? Skip ahead
Study on how to achieve goals
The goals research study split participants in to 5 groups:
- Group 1 – Think about a goal and rate it according to preset effectiveness criteria
- As Group 1 + write the goal down and rate it according to the same criteria
- As Group 2 + formulate action commitments
- As Group 3 + send the goals and action commitments to a supportive friend
- As Group 4 + Send weekly progress reports to the supportive friend
At the end of 4 weeks, participants rated the accomplishment of their goal.
Group 5 mean result was 7.6 compared to group 1 at 4.28 – a 77% increase. Of course we’re not accounting there for people who don’t set a goal at all.
I am surprised at this result because personally when I write down a goal, stick it in a drawer and forget about it, the next time I look, it’s accomplished. Mysterious? I don’t think so – I believe in the laws of attraction and positive thinking. I think I programmed my mind to get it done – set and forget, it still got done.
Let’s accept the study#2 showing that
“specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, do-your-best goals, or no goals”
and the study#3 concluding that
92% of people don’t achieve their New Year’s resolution
Let’s then look at what the other 8% may have done to increase their chances of success and what you can do too, because if you are a Type A driven entrepreneurial guy, failure to achieve goals is very demoralising and with discipline it can be avoided.
The other 8%: goal achievers
These tips activate your brain the most strongly to achieve your goal.
Write down a challenging goal
Set a goal that is challenging but no too hard and write it down in a vivid way. Writing improves Encoding – the biological process by which things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analysed and stored in long term memory or discarded. You will remember things better after you’ve written them down AND if they are your own thoughts rather than consumed ideas.
Put the goal in the present tense
Articulate a goal as if it is happening now. That’s how your subconscious mind receives instruction to action it NOW.
Visualise your goal every day
See or speak your goal vision and enjoy the success ahead of time. The more vividly you see your goal and the more positively you feel about it, the more motivated your brain is to make it happen.
Know WHY you want this goal
Your WHY is a great motivator when commitment flags. Reflect on how you expect to feel and what achievement will give you. Feel gratitude now.
Become the achiever
Ask who you need to be to achieve the goal and discover how this person thinks, feels and acts. Practice being that person now.
Anatomy of a goal
The concept of SMART goals contains fundamental truths about the way our brains work and can achieve goals. It also avoids pratfalls of goal-setting.
I like to add in the context of life coaching that they must be ABOUT YOU and not rely too much on other people or factors outside your control, as for example a work team goal would. So SMARTY goals.
Here’s an example I used for myself when I was setting up a new online program:
S – Launch program on achieving goals
M – Program is launched ready to receive applications – Course written, loaded online, tested, published, distributed
A – I already have the skills, experience and technology required
R – I need this to start my new clients learning how to get what they want in life
T – Launch by 30th September 2018
Y – I will action the complete plan and it is for my own business
This goal took me 10 days to complete and launched on time. I must admit it was a big ask, but determination and a decision that published was better than perfect got me over the line.
How to be successful in nailing your goal
People who are successful with goals share some characteristics and approach. I used all of the points below to help me succeed with my goal above. Here’s what I suggest:
- Commit and motivate yourself to start and finish
- Plan how to achieve the goal and break it down in to smaller sub-goals with their own action steps and deadlines
- Use feedback to track progress – get small wins on the board towards your big goal and celebrate them – it’s proved to increase motivation
- Don’t multi-task – constrain yourself to one goal at a time
- Get support – working with an expert mentor or peer on your goal is proven to increase success rates
- Don’t sideline your goal based on external feedback or other priorities
If you have a goal in mind that you’re keen to get started on, download the free Goals Worksheet below to clarify your thinking and get started.
If you would like more help with this, contact me for a free consult and we can talk through the best way to set and achieve your goal.
Image Becca Schultz on Unsplash