While cleaning out my home office and organizing the book shelves I ran across several of my old journals.  My journaling style changes from time to time.  Some of my journals were like diaries, some like devotionals, others were merely a book of lists. In nearly every journal was at least one attempt at creating successful goals.

creating successful goals

The lists were the most interesting: goals I wanted to achieve, habits I wanted to start (or break), to do items checked off or deferred. I’ve been a goal-setter for as long as I can remember. I was surprised at how many goals from 20 or 30 years ago I have accomplished. (There were a lot that I didn’t accomplish, but that part didn’t surprise me.)  Even more surprised at how many were achieved months or years after my self-imposed deadline had passed.

I was taught years ago to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.  I don’t remember exactly when or where.  I don’t even remember who; I do remember latching on to the idea and have been creating goals this way for over two decades now. The acronym was immensely helpful in creating successful goals.

S. = Specific
M. = Measurable
A. = Attainable
R. = Realistic
T. = Timely

I’ve discovered two problems with creating successful goals that are S.M.A.R.T.

The first is that “attainable” and “realistic” too often become code words for “safe” and “comfortable”.  I don’t want safe and comfortable goals.  I know of some people who write down what they have already accomplished just so they can check the items off as completed.  That’s not me.  I want to set goals that get me out of my comfort zone.  Goals that cause me to stretch and grow.  I want to do hard things. Because I know that my nature is to stay on the couch.  My natural inclination is to let someone else do the hard work.  And while that has a certain appeal to me I just don’t want to be that guy.

Somewhere along the way I decided to change the “A” to “Ambitious”.

I fail more often now than I used to.  (Mostly because I still have trouble with the “T” – timely.  I consistently think I can do more in a specified amount of time than I can actually pull off.)  At the end of the day, I feel better about almost making an ambitious goal than in having a list of mundane activities checked off.

I have recently changed the “R” from “realistic” (also safe and comfortable) to “relevant”.  Or maybe it will be come “related”,  as in related to my life goals.  I don’t want short or intermediate term goals that aren’t consistent with the quality of life I am trying to achieve.  For example, some friends and colleagues have encouraged me to expand my public speaking. I don’t want to.  I enjoy speaking and am willing to talk to groups in the Tulsa metroplex but I don’t enjoy traveling for business.  The last time I checked, professional speakers travel.  A lot.  I could set a specific, measurable, ambitious, time sensitive goal to increase the number of speaking gigs I do this year but it won’t get me closer to the kind of life I want to lead.  In fact, I would be moving in the opposite direction.

So now I am setting goals that are S.M.A.R.T.(er)

S. = Specific
M. = Measurable
A. = Ambitious
R. = Relevant
T. = Timely

The second problem?  I’ll get to that next week in part 2 (I ran out of time!).