In the book What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells about a study of Harvard MBA graduates. After tracking the graduates for 10 years, the survey found that 3 percent of the graduates earned more than the 97 percent combined! Was it a particular skill, trait or industry that differentiated the two groups? Surprisingly, it was much simpler than that. Researchers found that the 3 percent had clear, written goals for their future, while the other 97 percent did not. Simple goal-setting set the two groups apart. Studies show that goal setting is one of the most important keys to success in our personal and business lives. Setting proper SMART goals provides focus, prioritizes your resources and helps you make the most of your life.
The best goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals, a handy acronym for five important components of well-designed goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals help you get where you want to go in the context of your vision and purpose for your life.
- S: Specific – Create goals that are clear and well-defined. Be as detailed and precise as you can.
- M: Measurable – Create concrete criteria to measure progress and know when it has been achieved. If it isn’t quantifiable, it doesn’t exist!
- A: Achievable – Create goals that are realistic, not too difficult, or too easy. It needs to be big but attainable.
- R: Relevant – Create goals that matter and will move you forward. The goals need to be appropriate and applicable to your mission and vision!
- T: Time Bound – Create goals with a time-frame and target date. You want deadline and reminders to continue to meet them.
Goals with the S.M.A.R.T. components have a higher chance of success than vague and unrealistic goals. As the Harvard MBA graduates proved, proper goal-setting is a potent tool that can turn dreams into reality, boost your self-confidence and channel your energy so you feel a sense of achievement. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals with your co-workers, family and friends can help everyone be accountable, and can provide encouragement and motivation for one another.
Next you want to prioritize your goals. There is an old proverb that states “The hunter who chases two rabbits chases none.” It is easy to chase many goals at once. The problem is that you will not be able to accomplish all of them. From personal experience, I can be more focused at being unfocused! Prioritize your goals by giving them a numerical value and dividing them in needs, wants, and wishes. For example:
- Needs: 10, 9, 8 (Retirement goals)
- Wants: 7, 6, 5, 4 (Traveling or education goals)
- Wishes: 3, 2, 1 (Buying a new car or house renovation goals)
Once you have set and prioritized your S.M.A.R.T. goals, look at them periodically and continually evaluate them. Make necessary changes to continue to make your goals S.M.A.R.T. After you have reached your goals, don’t forget to take time to congratulate yourself and appreciate your accomplishments!
Elbert Hubbard, a renowned American philanthropist, once stated, “Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.”
Life is too short, and you owe it to yourself to set goals and accomplish what you want in life!