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The secret to SMART goal setting

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Glenford Smith, Career Writer


Have you taken the opportunity of a new year to make resolutions or set goals? If so, you need to be smart about it.

Almost any personal-development book or basic management course will deal with goal setting. One of the first concepts covered is the importance of setting S.M.A.R.T goals.

For the uninitiated, this acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These represent the major criteria for 'proper' goal setting. 'Specific' includes what, why, when and how.

Of course, every S.M.A.R.T. goal setter also knows the importance of writing down his goals. After all, the leading writers and management instructors would have cited a February 2003, USA Today study of people who had set New Year's resolutions the year before. It showed that there was a 1100 per cent difference in success rates between those who wrote down their goals and those who didn't. Other studies reveal similar findings.

So far, so good.

Here's the rub though, many people are good at setting S.M.A.R.T goals but don't go on to getting them. If you've set career and personal goals but didn't achieve them, then you understand how frustrating this can be.

Which begs the question: what separates a mere goal-setter from a goal-getter? Here's the answer: execution. Daily actions are what bring goals to life. Even if you've set the S.M.A.R.T-est goal, you'll fail to get it if you don't act.

The real secret

So, what's the real secret to transforming yourself from a S.M.A.R.T goal-setter into a smart goal-getter? Answer: The master key of self-discipline. You are truly goal-smart when you can exercise the discipline to do what you need to do, regardless of whether you feel like it or not. Without this ability, the S.M.A.R.T-est of goals is just words written down.

The golden key to the vault of self-discipline is the answer to the question: Why must I act? Your answer must be personally meaningful. This is a key distinction. If it's just for your boss, or because it would be nice, your motivation will be weak.

Having a powerful personal reason why you must act is the awesome secret to outstanding career success. Identify the reason why you must - not should - stop smoking, start saving, lose the weight, find a job, or win the deal. When you've discovered that powerful driving motive for urgent action, you may transform any dream, any desire into its physical reality.

Here are some reasons that have propelled some goal-setters to become outstanding goal-getters: revenge - I'll show them; love - I must provide for my family; fear - I must avoid embarrassment; wealth - I must be rich; ambition-I must be number one; desire-I must own that car or house; adventure-this is really fun!

An unstoppable force

A burning, passionate motive transforms the most ordinary individual into an unstoppable force for achievement. Being goal-smart is about discovering what motivates you to act beyond fears, self-doubt, the procrastination habit, setbacks or limitations.

So, do your S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting but be smart about it if you really want to be a goal-getter and not merely a goal-setter. Discover your personal motivation to act.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement strategist.