What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?

What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?

Why is that we sometimes find it so hard to turn a goal into reality?  For many of us, even the most burning ambition remains forever an idea that we seem unable to make happen. In my experience, turning vague goals into SMART goals can be the key to unlocking success.  And the good news is that it’s really not rocket science if you are prepared to invest a little time into smart planning.

Back in 1981, George Doran first published his article ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives’ and it has been used by HR and business leaders as a goal setting tool ever since for good reason: it is simple to use and effective because it eliminates ambiguity and holds the goal-setter accountable.  This article sets out how we can all use SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) to plan for success, whether our goals be personal or work-related.  You’ll also find a goal-planning template at the end of the article that you may find helpful to set you on your way.

SMART versus vague goals.

Specific: An unclear goal will lead to unclear results.  Therefore, you need to start with a description of your goal that includes the details of not just what you want to achieve, but how and when you want to achieve it too.

Vague:  I will write my book about coaching in my spare time.

Specific:   I will write my book about coaching over the next two years.  In order to achieve this, I will set my alarm at 6am on weekdays, so that I can work on my book for 90 minutes before work.  I will also set aside 3 Saturday afternoons a month, between 3pm and 6pm, for reviewing and editing.

Measurable: It’s really important to be able to assess how well you are progressing towards your goal and also to know when you have achieved it (particularly if your performance at work will be measured against it!).  If you can’t measure your success, you can’t manage your progress and know when to make changes or adjustments to your plan to keep you on track.

Vague: The book will be substantial.

Specific: The book will be at least 10 chapters long.  I will complete an overview of the structure of the book and what each chapter will contain next week.  Once I have this overview, I will designate a specific number of chapters to be completed each week in order to complete my book by the deadline.

Achievable: It’s a good thing to stretch ourselves with challenging goals, but a goal that has a high chance of being unattainable will soon become demotivating.  The aim is to set challenging, but achievable goals.

Vague: I’m going to write a bestseller!

Specific: I will approach some publishing houses with my book, but will also self-publish online and submit articles to the relevant trade press and social media to garner interest in my book.

Relevant:  It’s important that your goal is realistic and supportive of your overall aims, whether personal or work-related – otherwise what is the point?

Vague:  I’ll become known as a business expert!

Specific:  The success of my book will help me to grow my independent consulting business (I will aim to increase my coaching clients by 50%) and also have more time to write.

Timebound: A clear deadline will help you to avoid procrastination and maintain momentum.  No firm deadline, and you may well find yourself distracted or drifting away from your aims.

Vague:  I’m going to complete the book asap.

Specific:  I’m going to complete the book within two years, by the end of June 2019.

A few extra tips for setting SMART goals:

– Anticipate potential problems or obstacles that might get in the way of you achieving your goals and plan in advance how you will mitigate them.

– Review regularly and adjust your plan if you need to.  Unforeseen circumstances (otherwise known as life!) can get in the way of our best intentions so, instead of feeling stressed or frustrated by these, revisit the plan.

– Use a tool to help you consider and scope out your plan, and to ensure that it is SMART.  I have used the following simple format successfully with many clients over the years (it’s also useful for work-related goal setting in the context of appraisals and performance management):

(click on template to enlarge)


If you are struggling to work on your own towards a goal that is important to you, engaging a coach can really help you to identify your goal, maintain momentum, problem-solve and make real progress.   Please do contact me at kate@arbre.je for more information about performance coaching and/or our free, one hour coaching taster.   

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