Goal Setting 2.0: get SMARTER about Setting Your Goals

Okay, I’m going to say what you’re all thinking - “a goal-setting blog in August? I thought I had 4 more months before I had to think about my goals again.”

Am I right?

Here’s what I think: August is the perfect time to revisit the idea of goal-setting. It’s been over half a year since you set your New Years goals… how many of them did you accomplish? How many of them are you still working on? Or how many of them have you given up on or forgotten? Goal setting is essential for self-improvement, and because of that, there is absolutely no reason that we shouldn’t be setting goals during any time of the year.

You may have heard the acronym SMART goals when goal-setting, but did you know there’s an even SMARTER way to set goals? That’s right, we have two more letters to add to your acronym.

Help me catch up… what is a SMART goal?

S - specific

M - measurable

A - achievable

R - realistic

T - time-bound

Let’s take the example of the goal: Beat Usain Bolt in a 100 meter sprint

Step one, make sure you are as specific as possible when you’re writing a goal for yourself. One way to do this is to think about the who (me), the what (sprinting the 100 meter race), the where (on my track), and the when (in the next 6 months) of your goal. Step two, determine how you will measure your goals. In other words, ask yourself the question - “what tangible steps do I need to take in order to get to my goal, and how will I know when I have successfully achieved my goal?” In this example, you might consider hiring a trainer and dietician to assist you in determining what best steps you can take toward your goal. Step three, assess your goal to ensure it is something you have control of. If your goal is “beat Usain Bolt,” you might not be able to achieve your goal, because not only is Usain Bolt incredibly fast, you cannot predict or control how much training and preparation he is going to put into this race. Instead, consider adjusting the goal to, “Run the 100 meter sprint in under 15 seconds.” This is a goal you have full control of carrying out. Step four, make sure your goal is realistic. If you’ve been training to run the 100 meter sprint and your average time is 18 seconds, it’s unrealistic to cut that time in half (and therefore beat Usain Bolt). A more realistic goal might be to shave off 3 seconds, and run the 100 meters in 15 seconds. Finally, set a timeline. This will provide you with the necessary focus and sense of urgency to make your goal happen. (Additional note: if your goal is long-term, then make sure to set short-term and medium-term goals along the way to keep yourself focused and on track).

Therefore, if we use the SMART method to change the original goal, we now have: My goal is to decrease my 100 meter sprint time from 18 seconds to 15 seconds over the next 6 months by training 5 days a week with a trainer who will track my progress and by following a personalized weekly meal plan written up by a dietician.

Sounds better, right? Now that we’ve reviewed that, let’s get to the good part - how to be SMARTER. Going off of the ‘T’ in SMART, set times within your goal’s timeline to:

E - evaluate

R - reassess

When you’re evaluating and reassessing your goals, consider whether you’re making strides to meet your goal or not. If not, what needs to be modified, the goal or your mindset? Furthermore, can you change what isn’t working to make sure it starts working?

Now it’s your turn - Using the SMARTER goals formula, write out up to three goals for the next month, up to three goals for the next 6 months, and up to three goals for the next year.

Important tips and reminders:

“Ink it, don’t think it” - writing goals down helps with accountability, adherence, and awareness.

Consider sharing some goals on social media, or with trusted friends and family. Asking for their support and feedback is not a bad thing. They can see your hard work, behaviors, and goals from an outside perspective.

Vary your goals - set personal goals and work goals, health goals and social goals, short term goals and long term goals. Varying your goals helps to keep things interesting and prevent boredom, which can often lead to giving up.

Increasing Your Self-Efficacy Can Help you to Reach your Goals

First of all, what is self-efficacy? Well, I’m glad you asked. Self-efficacy is defined as “an individual’s belief in their innate ability to accomplish goals.“ Okay, now that we’ve defined the word, why does it matter? Another good question - essentially, our self-efficacy helps us to determine what goals we set for ourselves, and how we go about accomplishing them. In other words, when we feel confident that we might be able to achieve a goal, we’re more likely to go after it.

In turn, if we don’t believe we can accomplish a goal, and therefore have little confidence in our abilities, we feel concerned, worried, insecure, or shameful. We don’t allow ourselves to work toward something we might want for ourselves, because we fear that failure is inevitable. So, if we have low self-efficacy, it can negatively affect our choice of activities, our level of effort, and our persistence. This can affect how we socialize with others, it can affect our ability to progress and grow, and it can affect the way we judge our own character.

So… where do our sources of self-efficacy come from?

Our past experiences can either be positive or negative. When talking about increasing our self-efficacy on something, we want to focus on those positive past experiences. If we’ve been able deadlift “X” amount of lbs before, we know it’s possible, and therefore we have evidence to suggest that we might be able to deadlift that same weight again. If we are attempting to hit a goal that we have no prior experience around, then consider whether you might have experience with a similar task (i.e. maybe we’ve never deadlifted that heavy before but we have moved heavy furniture, or we’ve done other exercises with heavy weight before).

Vicarious experiences can also increase our sense of self-efficacy. If Aunt Sally or our co-worker, Bob, have each successfully gotten promoted at work, we feel that we might be able to get that promotion that we want at work too. Now this might seem kind of odd - what does their ability to climb the ladder have anything to do with ours? Well, when they went through the process, we were able to watch/listen/learn. We unconsciously, or consciously, picked up some tips and tricks around what to say and do in order to get what we want. In addition, just watching them get more responsibility and a bigger paycheck makes us believe that if it’s possible for them, it’s possible for us too.

Verbal Persuasion can be a helpful tool as well, and can either come from within (self-talk) or from others (encouragement). Think about the last time someone you love and respect praised or complimented you. My guess is your response wasn’t one of discouragement or defeat. You likely felt invigorated, motivated, confident, or proud! Being able to repeat that praise or compliment to ourselves can have the same effect. If we think it and believe it, we’re more likely to achieve it.

Emotional Arousal is the final source of our self-efficacy. If we’re too panicked about giving a big work presentation in front of the whole company, we might freeze, or vomit, or both. If we’re not nervous enough, we might under-prepare. Being aware of how much effort you might need or want to put into preparing for this presentation is vital. If you know that public speaking isn’t a strong suit of yours, you might try some deep breathing or meditation beforehand to put yourself at ease. Doing so can help you take control of your nerves, which increases your sense of confidence in taking care of yourself, as well as taking care of the task at hand.

What connects these four sources is awareness, evidence, and familiarity. Hoping to achieve a goal without preparation, training, or experience isn’t self-efficacy, it’s blind faith. We have to rely on what we know to be our strengths in order to provide us with sufficient evidence that we do have the ability to achieve a goal, no matter what that goal is.

Want to learn more about self-efficacy or goal setting in individual sessions? Contact Rikki at (320) 708-9679 or rikki.e.carlin@gmail.com