Be SMART About Setting Goals

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on mars 28, 2011 10:45 am

The following are the opinions of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of the collective group of the CCPA

It’s March.  How well did you do on your New Year’s Resolution?  Are you still working on it?  Have you forgotten about it? Have you ever been in counselling and decided that “it didn’t work for you.”  Have you put any thought into why?

First off, one can argue that there are basically two reasons why people fail at meeting their goals:  1) Either they have no resolve at all, and it is impossible for that person to lose weight, stop smoking, be nicer, work harder, make more money, spend more time with family or whatever the case may be. Or 2) they are setting the wrong goals.

I would prefer to think that in most cases, it is the latter; they are setting the wrong goals,  or they are setting the right goals incorrectly.  It is likely that if a person fails at meeting their New Year’s Resolution, or doesn’t even start to attempt to meet it, they have set their goals without being mindful about making SMART goals: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  Secondly, they may have resolved to not doing something; i.e. stop smoking, stop eating fatty foods, stop yelling at their child.

As you read this, I’d like you pause right now and not think of a blue horse.  You may think of anything else, but whatever it is, avoid thinking of a blue horse.  Thinking of a blue horse is bad for you so you mustn’t think of a blue horse.  The moment you think of a blue horse, you fail.  So think of something else.  How was that?  Easy?  What was going through your head?  If you thought of a blue horse you’ve failed.  That’s pretty damning.  If you are trying to quit something, have you put any thought into what you would be doing instead?  In the coming articles, it is my intention to help you design goals that are SMART and that are worded in positive terms rather than negative ones.  This will apply to New Year’s Resolutions as well as to future articles on relationships and parenting (some foreshadowing for future writings).

Now comes the REALLY important part… doing a reality check on the self.  This is the first step in meeting ANY attainable goal.  I have to remind myself that I am not writing a book here, because this would be a very large chapter on predetermination vs. self-determination.  If you believe that fate, or God’s will, or some other external force decides your outcome, why bother setting goals at all?  If you feel that you have no control over your work situation, your family situation, your personal health, or whatever the case may be, there is no point on setting goals, because you have no control over these things anyway.  You will know where you stand on this issue based on the language you use and by your actions:  “I hate my job, I am powerless over ____, I just snapped”.  The alternative is to believe that you have a choice in everything; the job you are in, the nature of your relationship; even a choice between a trigger and your response.  “I just snapped!” would no longer be in your vocabulary because you made the choice to snap.  “I choose to be in this job, because it allows me to pay my bills on time.”  Even between a “nic-fit” and lighting up, you make a choice.

Whether a counsellor setting goals with a client, or an individual setting a personal goal, decide if you truly feel you have a choice in your situation, then decide to set a goal that is specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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