Move beyond the common approach of SMART goals to achieve lasting success for the rest of your life.
There’s a popular construct for setting meaningful goals that set you up for success. You may have heard of it or seen it in an annual performance review.
It’s called, “SMART,” and it stands for:
- Specific. Spell out the details of the goal.
- Measurable. Craft your goal so you know when you’ve reached it.
- Action-oriented. Make a goal that involves you doing something rather than an outcome just happening.
- Realistic. Goals should stretch and push you, but still be possible.
- Time-bound. Give yourself a deadline to keep you pushing forward with purpose.
While SMART works well, what happens when you achieve your goal? Or what if your situation changed or your goal just was not a real fit for your life? This is where the “-ER” comes in with SMARTER goals by adding:
- Evaluate. Look honestly at how you have been doing against your goal and why. This goes for any goal, whether you’re struggle to achieve it or you’ve already completed it. Was it too hard? Too easy? Did it not fit with your life, or did you not change your life to achieve the goal? Is it relevant anymore? What has achieving your goal set you up to do next?
- Revise. If you didn’t succeed, craft a new version of the goal by adjusting for what you unearthed when evaluating how you did. If you did succeed, use what you learned during the evaluation to create your next goal to keep your path of success going.
I’ve put this into action in both my professional life and my personal life. Professionally, I was part of a business during the Great Recession, and we found that our business plan was just not tied to reality anymore.
If we tried to stick to the top line number, we’d have to sacrifice any chance at profitability due to having to slash our prices. If we wanted to maintain our profit goal, we’d have to abandon the revenue target.
We evaluated the situation and our performance within it to see whether our goal and strategy were still relevant. We revised our goal and our approach to achieving it to balance the new pressures we were operating under against our long-term business objectives.
We decided to balance still growing so we could own business our competitors may not survive long enough to compete for, while not growing as aggressively as we had planned to ensure we were still profitable so we, too, could survive to compete in the future.
Personally, when losing weight in my 30s, I set a goal of hitting a certain weight by the end of 2011. I ended up hitting it ahead of schedule.
Rather than calling that good enough, I evaluated my performance to understand why I had done it faster (which was due to a mix of not being aggressive enough in my goal setting, and also doing better than I expected in my performance). I used that knowledge to revise my objectives for the year into a new goal, which I hit by the end of the year. I kept my foot on the gas, and kept driving toward more and more achievement.
I’m a firm believer in the virtuous cycle of success. That is, success begets success. When you do well, you feel good, and you are more likely to do well again.
We create a path to win our way to overall achievement. And that is very rewarding and uplifting. I say this to everyone I have ever coached or mentored, “You will win your way to success.”
We don’t set goals that we hit, only to fall back into our life the way it was. We set goals that transform our life in a way that endures. Remember, we are motivated by something enduring, so we need a path of goals that keeps up with our motivation.
Evaluate and revise our goals to stay relevant. Win your way through your life of improvement through a series of goals that build off each other, with each success leading to the next.
This post is inspired by my best-selling book, “Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Every Day” available in print, ebook and audiobook formats. It originally appeared in my Inc.com column on July 26th, 2017.