Getting smart about goals

SMART goalsPeanuts Philosophers Charlie Brown and Linus are talking:

Do you ever think about the future, Linus?
— Oh, yes, all the time.
What do you think you’d like to be when you grow up?
— Outrageously happy.

(That’s a much better answer than my response when I was very young: I wanted to be a fire truck!)

From another of my favorite comic-strip philosophers: Calvin is ranting at a stony-faced Hobbes: “Resolutions? ME?? Just what are you implying? That I need to CHANGE?? Well, Buddy, as far as I’M concerned, I’m perfect the way I AM!”

On to real life: one boy’s handwritten-in-pencil “Goals for grade 3”
     1. learn the gases pushed from Hyper Novas
     2. Drink 1 gallon of milk in 1 day without going to the bathroom
     3. Find if you are sent in a Worm hole or traveling in time when Entering a black hole
     4. Play COd with Ethan and Matthew
     5. become a nerd
     6. Eat a rack of ribs that is covered in bacon

Worthy aspirations, each one!

What are your ambitions? You might agree with the wit who said “Having less to do, and more time and more money to do it.” I know I do!

And while there’s no doubt that keeping a healthy sense of humor is critical to advancing through the issues of life, if we’re going to get serious about our future, we need to get smart about setting worthwhile goals.

Goals that work, that are realistic and achievable, share five simple traits that not only establish the end results, but by their very design assist us in achieving them. Such are SMART goals—those that are:

Specific. As Lewis Carroll pointed out, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Determine what the specific end result looks like with as much clarity as possible. Answer the 6 W’s: who, what, when, where, which, and why.

Measurable. In the popular sport of orienteering, competitors navigate a course in diverse and unfamiliar terrain with just a topographical map and a compass to find “control points.” It is only when they are located on the ground that the navigators can match them to those on the map and know exactly where they are—and how far they must yet contend. Map your route to your objective with a series of waypoints to both control and measure your progress. What are your target accomplishments and dates?

Attainable. Although you cannot traverse the entire Appalachian Trail in a single effort, you can conquer it by placing one foot in front of the other in an ongoing series of attainable steps. Each dawn offers just a day’s worth or new opportunities along the way; tackle huge endeavors through a series of achievable goals—one day at a time.

Relevant. A dog sniffing out a rabbit feverishly tracks a baffling maze of leads here, there, and everywhere. All new directions are promising, and it eagerly and endlessly follows them—around and around, back and forth, to and fro. Such rabbit trails can keep you both engaged and confused. So avoid the pointless meanderings, the fruitless obsessions, the wasteful frivolities. Intentionally pursue only those actions that are relevant to reaching your destination.

Time-oriented. A goal should be grounded within a time frame. Without it, there’s no sense of urgency. Writers participating in November’s annual National Novel Writing Month pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, starting from scratch and reaching “The End” in just 30 days. “Someday” as a goal doesn’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, say “by November 30,” then you’ve set your conscious and unconscious mind into motion to work toward the goal.

As Albert Einstein, Unified Theory philosopher and all-around smart guy, said: “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal. Not to people or things.” So be SMART—and outrageously happy!

MasterPoint: Be smart, live smart with SMART goals.