Go Goals, Go! 

First, read my article about goals published by the State Bar of Wisconsin. Back already? Great! I’ve convinced you that goals matter. They help guide priorities. They provide freedom, catalysts, and momentum. So, let’s get started.  

What makes a good goal? I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goals, but I encourage you to take SMARTIES.  

S – Specific  
M – Measurable  
A – Actionable  
R – Relevant  
T – Time Bound  
I – Intrinsic  
E – Extra  
S – Stated  

There are thousands of write ups about the SMART part. Go read some. For now, I’ll provide what helps me stay on target with them. 

S – Specific: Specificity is key. How do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you are going?  

M – Measurable: How can we know when to celebrate if we don’t know when it is complete?  How do you know you’ve made progress? 

A – Actionable: A fast track to failure is to set goals for someone else. I love to set “future Erin” up for failure by pretending that I am clearly someone else. Someone who already knows how to code, wakes up at 4:30 am, and doesn’t need to eat. Guard against that. Future you will thank you. That doesn’t mean a goal can’t require you to learn something new (See E below), but it does mean you have to recognize and plan for that. Is there actual time on the timeline? Look at T below. Is that realistic given my priorities? 

Also, use action verbs. Goals propel you forward. They are made for movement, for action.   

R – Relevant: Remember the Pareto Principle? Yeah, that matters. If your short-term goals don’t align with your long-term goals, then what are you doing? Make sure these are in alignment with your big picture. For Simon Sinek devotees, does the goal fit with your “Why?” 

For Grant Cardone followers, is it worthy of your obsession? As he says, “The key to tying your obsession to your purpose is to continue to set new goals for yourself.” Be Obsessed or Be Average, 2016.  

T – Time Bound: If “Goals are dreams with deadlines,” then goals without deadlines are just dreams. Dreams are fun, but they aren’t productive. Put some timelines together.  

I – Intrinsic: Are your goals coming from you? Tal Ben-Shahar is a teacher and writer in the areas of happiness, positive psychology, and leadership. In his book, Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment (2007), he has a whole chapter about setting goals. He posits that those people who set goals (you know, those with explicit objectives that are challenging and specific with clear timelines and performance criteria) are more likely to succeed and better perform. And if those goals are self-concordant, then those people pursuing them, not just achieving them, are happier. Self-concordant goals are those connected to a deep personal conviction or a strong interest. It’s the “heck, yeah or don’t do it” approach.  

Again, if you are a Simon Sinek fan, consider making your goals aligned to his The Infinite Game thesis: 1) exist to further a just cause, 2) build trust in teams, 3) find worthy rivals, 4) display existential flexibility to make extreme strategic shifts, and 5) find the courage to lead with an infinite mindset.

Not a Sinek fan, that’s fine, but do make sure your goals matter to you. Find goals that matter to you, not ones you “should” have, but you want to have.  

E – Extra: Set BIG goals. “I will judge myself less for coming up short than never going for it,” exhorts Mr. Cardone in Be Obsessed or Be Average. You probably have been asked what your BHAG is. BHAG = Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Remember Mr. Ben-Shahar’s thesis: Goals work best if they have explicit objectives that are challenging and specific with clear timelines and performance criteria. Challenging isn’t something you know you can do. It’s something that you think you can do with effort. Big growth only happens if there is the opportunity for big growth. Or put another way, if you don’t set yourself up for growth, you won’t grow.  

S – Stated: By simply writing it down, you increase your chances of success.  Really want to get something done? Share that writing; tell people you are doing it. Then ask them to check in on you. Maybe it is something more formal like an accountability group or partner. Maybe it’s the fear of someone asking how its going and you having to say you’ve done nothing. Perhaps it’s an app like Asana, To-Doist, Trello, Microsoft or Clio Tasks. [Or perhaps it is evil genius.] Set a goal with timelines. Then, if the deadline passes without the action being completed, donate money to an organization that you DON’T agree with. Diehard Democrat? The GOP is always raising funds. Avid hunter? PETA makes it easy to give. And vice versa. 

Thanks for reading, Erin.