Do you know the difference between an idea and a goal? With a goal, you have a plan for moving an idea to reality. If you think to yourself ‘Someday I’d like to be a nurse…’, that’s an idea, a dream or a wish; it’s not a goal. While ideas and dreams have a place in our lives, a goal is only a goal when there is a plan behind it.
At Carrington College California we often talk about the importance of goal setting, but did you know there is such a thing as SMARTER goals? SMARTER is a mnemonic device, a learning technique that helps your brain retain information.
When you think about the goals you want to set, whether they are personal, professional, financial, or educational, always think of them in SMARTER terms. It’s widely believed that SMART was first used to guide people when they set objectives by George T. Doran in 1981. Paul J. Meyer’s book ‘Attitude Is Everything’ expanded on the term more recently.
There are a variety of words and terms that can be used to represent the seven letters, but we have picked the following combination for our Carrington College California students to work with.
S Specific. Pinpoint something you want to achieve. Specific is the what, why, & how.
M Measurable. Make sure that your goal is measurable. Set milestones to track your progress.
A Achievable. Your goal has to be achievable; aim high, but not too high. Don’t set a goal of climbing Mt Everest if you get out of breath going up some stairs.
R Relevant. Choose goals that matter – don’t set a goal of ‘getting into space’ if you want to be a nurse.
T Timely. Give yourself a target date. Committing to a date creates a sense of urgency.
E Enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy something, you won’t persevere and see it through to completion.
R Rewarding. Completion of the goal should be its own reward, but if it is a SMART goal then it should lead to greater rewards.
Here’s an example that many of us can probably relate to; the goal of looking great!
‘I want to look great!’ is a general statement; it’s a dream, but not a goal. If you shape that statement into ‘I want to look great by losing weight’, then a plan is starting to form. When that statement evolves further into ‘I want to look great and lose 15lbs’ you are getting more specific. Take it a step further – ‘I want to look great and lose 15lbs before Memorial Day’ then you have added timeliness to your goal.
But you need to make it even more specific, so the statement becomes – ‘I want to look great and lose 15lbs before Memorial Day by enjoying at least five sets of 45 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, and eating under 1800 calories a day.’ That idea of ‘wanting to look great’ is now a SMART goal. You’ve created a specific objective that is measurable, achievable (unless you’re reading this a week before Memorial Day), relevant and timely. If you add in the particular aerobic exercise you enjoy the most, then it becomes enjoyable, and the weight loss will obviously be rewarding.
As you progress through your career, you may find that many larger organizations use SMART goals to promote teamwork, participative decision making, and collective responsibility among their employees. If you get on board with the SMART philosophy now with your own personal and professional goals, then you’ll be ahead of the game if SMART thinking ever comes up professionally in the future.