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How to Make Your #SMART Goals, SMARTER

“Don’t think or do anything without having some aim in sight; the person who journeys aimlessly will have labored in vain.” — Mark The Monk, On The Spiritual Law

William Ballard, MBA
Mar 8, 2018 · 13 min read

Many have heard about the concept of SMART goals, but only few have the know-how to take their goal-setting processes to the next level.

In fact, so many have missed the mark when it comes to goals because they have focused more on the idea of goal-setting rather than goal-achievement.

For instance, did you know that back in 2002 General Motors set a goal to increase their market share to 29%, which was a industry level that they hadn’t held since 1999.

In order to achieve this goal they offered crazy buying incentives to increase sales, and to keep the goal in the forefront of their employees minds — executives would wear lapel pins with the number 29 written on them.

One business analysts said that GM had become so focused on the goal that the firm undercut its own operations to try to achieve their target. But even with this kind of determination, GM still failed. And because of reckless decision making, they ended up going bankrupt and having to rely on a government bailout in order to keep them afloat.

Taking that story into account, and many others like it, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that the practice of goal-setting is really nothing more than counterproductive, however.

I’ve been studying the art of goal-setting for too long to just dismiss the practice altogether. But what most miss is the difference between goal-setting and goal-achievement. One is not a synonym for the other, but they work in unison, or in lock-step.

In short, it was the gap between goal-setting and goal-achievement that GM couldn’t seem to effectively build the bridge necessary to crossover.

The Power of Written Goals

Believe it or not, there’s a commonly cited Ivy League study that demonstrates how writing down goals helps us to achieve them, however. The study is actually fake, and when people find this out, they tend to think that the benefit of writing down our goals is also fake.

Nonetheless, if you’ve been studying goal-setting (and more importantly goal-achievement) for any amount of time, then despite this one dishonest study, you know there are still many more honest studies that highlight just how accurate this practice is.

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Photo Credit: Dominican University of California

For instance, Gail Matthews, a professor at the Dominican University of California, conducted a study of her own where she gathered 267 entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists, healthcare professionals, academics, lawyers, and many other professionals from several different countries.

She then divided each of these participants into five groups where she could then track the groups effectively over the course of several weeks.

One of the major discoveries of her study was that the mere act of writing down one’s goals actually boosted their achievement rating by 42 percent.

Now, with that said, there is one thing I would like to show you about how powerful writing down your goals really is. You see, for starters:

Writing Causes Thinking

Thinking Creates an Image

Images Control Feelings

Feelings Cause Actions

Actions Create Results

The fact of the matter is: There’s actually something spiritual that takes place when you put pencil to paper. Something ignites within you, and then begins to circulate all throughout your being. It’s at the point where the pen or pencil meets the page where a thought is then transformed into a working and verifiable idea.

In fact, we know that the writers of the Bible wrote when they were divinely inspired by God. Inspired simply means to be in-spirit. You see, when we write, our spiritual man goes to work in the same fashion as our physical body does when it engages in physical labor or exercise.

Committing your goals to writing is not the end of the process, but only the beginning. Because, as you see, writing causes you to think more clearly, and as you begin to think more clearly, thinking begins to create an image.

In other words, writing out your goals forces you to clarify what you want.

“Writing down goals helps you overcome resistance”- Michael Hyatt

Secondly, it also helps to overcome resistance. You see, writing down goals takes the practice of day-dreaming or visualization one-step further than just the mere activation of one’s imagination, but it also engages our intellect.

You see, the moment you commit to writing down a goal, the process from thinking, to picturing, to feeling happens at the speed of light. In other words, the moment you write, the moment you begin to feel something is the moment you begin to experience doubt or uncertainty — resistance.

However, Michael Hyatt goes on to say, “Just the mere act of writing down our goals helps to combat our negative feelings that tells us we can’t achieve what we have set out to accomplish.”

Third, staying in that same vein of thought, just as much as writing can produce negative feelings of doubt or uncertainty, so too can it produce feelings of motivation and deep desire.

In other words, writing down your goals motivates you to take action, even more so when you share your written goals with others.

Lastly, writing down your goals clears out any distractions that may come your way. Think of it like this: It was Michelangelo who was noted for saying that when he would look at a block of clay, he didn’t see the block, but he saw the end result. If you don’t write down your goals it’s easy to get distracted and focus on the block rather than the sculpture of David.

Just ask any writer suffering from writer’s block. You see, the blank page is no reflection of the world going on inside the imagination of a writer. When we write out our goals, like Michelangelo’s chisel to a block of clay, we are chiseling out the distractions and getting ourselves that one-step closer to achieving our goal, seeing our sculpture of David completed.

From #SMART Goals to SMARTER Goals

The majority of us, by now, have heard of the concept of of SMART goals. Simply put, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound.

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Over the years, many have expounded upon this concept, and one particular improvement is the transference from SMART to SMARTER that I found in Micheal Hyatt’s latest work, “Your Best Year Ever: A Five Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals” (AFF). Micheal’s improved goal-setting system is based on insights from the best goal-achievement research currently available and is designed to drive results.

I’m sure you’ve heard that it is better to work smarter than harder, and the same is true for writing out your goals. Micheal Hyatt gives us an smarter (easier) way to approach goal-setting (as well as goal-achievement).

With that said, let’s take a few minutes to breakdown each attribute of the SMARTER goal-setting system:

1) Specific

The first key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is that your goals must be specific. In short, your ability to focus is your greatest asset. The more you are able to narrow in on what you are trying to accomplish, the more likely you are able to engage all of your creativity, intellect, and persistence.

For example, let’s say that one of your goals is to write a book. Well, to just write, “Write a book”, is too vague. What kind of book are you wanting to write? How can you make that goal as specific as possible?

What if your goal is to learn how to shoot. Well, just to write down, “Learn how to shoot” is too vague. What kind of gun would you like to learn how to shoot? Perhaps you want to learn how to shoot a bow-and-arrow as appose to a gun. A more specific goal would be, “Learn how to shoot a bow-and-arrow by attending a local archery class once a week.” Now, that’s more like it.

2) Measurable

The second key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is that your goals have a built-in measuring system. How else would you know that you have reached the goal, or are getting close to reaching it?

It is not very inspiring (or even motivating) just to say I would like to make more money this year than last year, or that I want to exercise more often this year than last year. Goals with out measurements are like going on a trip without a destination.

Let me put it to you like this: When was the last time you ever heard of a military unit not setting measurable objectives. It is not very bright to go into battle without planning your attack, and without pulling out a map and charting your course.

“An objective target allows you to set markers and milestones along the way. That means you can chart your progress, and half the fun of goals is in the progress we make.” — Michael Hyatt

With that said, let’s say your goal is to write more articles for Medium.

For one, that is not a specific goal because we don’t know how many articles you want to write, or exactly how much “more” is.

Secondly, how do you know when you’ve completed such a goal? No, a SMARTER goal would be to write four new articles for Medium by this weekend.

3) Actionable

The third key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is to make your goals actionable. Similar to goals that are measurable, what you want to do is make sure you include one or two action verbs in the goal that you write down, however.

Don’t use a being-verb, such as “Be more consistent in writing Medium articles.” Instead, use a verb that is more clear and direct, such as “Write two Medium articles a week.” Now that’s more like it.

4) Risky

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The fourth key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is the art of setting risky goals. Usually, the “R” in SMART means realistic, but what researches have found is that when we start by asking ourselves what is realistic, we are more likely to lower the bar to what we are actually able to accomplish.

In fact, scientist have proven that it takes the same amount of creative energy and drive to achieve a small goal as it does to achieve a big goal. With that said, if there is no difference in the amount of energy involved, then why waste that energy on something small?

In the 10X Rule Grant Cardone compels us to take our first target and then multiply it by 10. In other words, let’s say that your first thought is to make $100,000 dollars with your writing.

Well, what Grant suggests is that, by changing that number to $1,000,000, what is destined to happen is this: Even if you end up falling short of the million, you are still more likely to surpass your original target of hundred thousand. It’s the same idea as to say, Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

You see, it’s the risk involved in your goals that drive the results and compels the creative energy necessary to accomplish your objective.

There is a linear relationship between the degree of goal difficulty and performance.” — Edwin A. Locke & Gary P. Latham

You see, looking over the results of over 400 studies, Edwin and Gary observed that the performance of participants with the most risky goals was 250% higher than those with the less risky goals. In short, when we are presented with a challenge, we as human beings always tend to rise to the occasion, but take away the challenge, and we naturally fall back to our default of “taking it easy.”

However, nothing that is has been of any real significance ever happened when we “took it easy.”

5) Time-Keyed

The fifth key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is setting goals that are timed and/or have a deadline. You see, making a goal of “get more views to my Medium articles” is not only vague, unmeasurable, and ascent of action, but it is also missing a sense of urgency.

In fact, there was a TED Talk I viewed not too long ago that was made up of a panel of writers and creatives that were talking about this very topic. What they describe was, in essence, the power of a deadline and how it can trigger or ignite the fires of creativity.

For instance, have you ever noticed when you had a deadline on something, somehow, the creativity needed to produce that project just seemed to come out of nowhere? I challenge you to discover this phenomenon for yourself.

“Effort dissipates to fill time. But the reverse is also true. Short time horizons concentrate our effort.” — Michael Hyatt

In another study of Locke and Latham, they were able to conclude that workers in one field experiment were able to keep production at 100 percent even when the time given to them was cut by 40 percent.

In essence, the new deadline created a huge gain in productivity. The same is also possible for you when you master the art of being able to set goals that are time-keyed specific.

6) Exciting

The sixth key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is that they must be exciting. Bob Proctor always talks about how important it is to become emotionally involved with every goal that you writer out and set for yourself.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how you can set a goal without being emotionally involved with it. That is, unless you are setting a goal that is not necessarily emotionally motivated, but rather something you know you should be working on.

For instance, going to the gym, or losing a few pounds. If fitness is not something you are necessarily passionate about, then chances are, setting a goal like that may not be exciting to you, per se.

However, when you really dig deeper than just the surface level of a goal what you find is that every goal has some emotional involvement in it somewhere.

For example, staying with the idea of fitness. Even if fitness is not something on a surface level that you are passionate about, the core reason for wanting to improve your fitness has nothing to do with the your passion for exercising, but rather your passion for being healthier, stronger, and ultimately improving your quality of life.

So, as you can see, any and every goal has some emotional element involved, but one thing I want to say in order to bring this point home is this: When you set a goal, make sure you insert some emotional key words or phrases such as “I am so happy and grateful that I am now making seven figures writing 3 to 4 articles a week on Medium.” Notice that that goal is specific, measurable, and actionable — as well as exciting.

7) Relevant

The final key to unlocking the SMARTER goal system is that your goals must be relevant to your current circumstance or life. In short, this is all about aligning your current season of life with your core values, as well as with your other goals. Frankly, this is the area where GM went wrong.

GM was able to master the art of setting a goal, but they failed in their ability to align their goal with their current circumstance, their core values, and with the other goals of the organization.

It is this alignment process that builds the bridge between goal-setting and goal-achievement.

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If we’re going to succeed, we need goals that align with the legitimate demands and needs of our lives.” — Michael Hyatt

Let me ask you this: Are you a stay at home mom with kids to take care of? Well, your life circumstance and goals would be extremely different than say a single solider in the Army working to put himself through college.

In short, there are some goals and dreams we would like to do or achieve that are not necessary possible at this current stage in our life. These are the kinds of goals that would actually put a strain on our ability to progress towards our desired targets.

That isn’t to say that these goals are not worthy objectives, they are just not worth pursuing right now.

With that said, your ability to progress toward achieving your goals becomes that much easier when you have mastered the art of goal-alignment.

You see, you also need to set goals that are aligned with your core values. In fact, this is an area more and more people tend to overlook or neglect, and is one of the core factors for unhappiness and frustration.

We all tend to want to set goals that are pressured upon us from outside sources, which could be social or professional, but don’t match up with the core of who we are. It’s important to resist this temptation and focus more on setting goals that are more rooted in the person we are within.

Finally, you need to set goals that are symbiotic to other goals that you are working on. Symbiotic simply means in-relationship to.

Take that of a writer for example. If a writer was to set a goal to play more sports, but then had another goal of writing more books and articles, those two things don’t necessarily align quite well, do they?

You see, setting multiple conflicting goals will only maximize frustration and dissatisfaction, because, then, you have to pick which one is more important to you. And the mere act of writing both goals show that they are both equally important to you, but then having to choose between one or the other becomes that much more undesirable —and that goes for setting too many goals in general.

Instead, when it comes to sitting down and writing out your goals for the year, I would suggest keeping yourself within three to seven symbiotic goals that align perfectly with your current circumstance or stage in life, your core values, and the dreams and aspirations you currently have.

In Closing

SMARTER goals are specific, measurable, actionable, risky, time-keyed, exciting, and relevant. Now you are ready to start crafting some of your own goals using the SMARTER goal system.

William Ballard, MBA is a highly sought after business strategist and content marketing expert. He is a highly respected master copywriter whose passion is to help struggling firms go from merely surviving operations to truly thriving organizations.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

William Ballard, MBA

Written by

CEO | Content Marketing Strategist | Business Coach | Marketing Consultant |Freelance Writer | Author | Entrepreneur |

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

William Ballard, MBA

Written by

CEO | Content Marketing Strategist | Business Coach | Marketing Consultant |Freelance Writer | Author | Entrepreneur |

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

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