I have grumbled and complained that I have to take a kinesiology class. I’ve already taken some credits in this area and I’ve resented the three hours a week I have to spend on campus for this one credit class, yes ONE credit. But I’m officially moved from a resentful place, to one of gratitude. I will no longer drag my feet through this class because of what I’ve learned this week. This one lesson, in my opinion, is worth all the inconvenience.
I have set and failed to reach many goals in my life. I actually get very nervous to set goals for myself due to my high rate of failure. This might surprise you because this blog was started at the beginning of a goal I set for myself, a goal I accomplished. I was so surprised and proud of myself for getting to the finish line on that goal, but that wasn’t a typical outcome for me.
I’ve assumed all this time that I am not a good goal achiever, but this week I realized I’m actually just a really terrible goal setter. I’ve read many books about habit formation and habit breaking over the years and they’ve had bits and pieces of advice and even snippets of what I learned this week but somehow this simple acronym was the piece that brought all the information into focus and made it make sense.
The key to achieving goals is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time Specific. This apparently is common knowledge to a lot of people, but the information has missed me until now. I was discussing what I learned with a couple of friends and this information was old news to them. I had never heard it and it was game changing for me. It helped me understand each and every one of my failed goals was a failure.
Since this is a sewing blog I’ll use my failed and successful sewing goals as examples.
The first letter is S for specific. If I set the goal that I want to sew more, that’s very vague. What does that even mean? How much? How often? When is it accomplished? It would be similar to opening a piece of furniture from IKEA and instead of step by step instructions it just said, “Build it.” Yes, that is the end desire but how? What are the details that will get me from a pile of wood to the dresser? Being specific is important in order to be clear about what you are accomplishing and how.
The M stands for measurable. Obviously, if I’m building the IKEA dresser the measure of success is the completed dresser, but what is the measure of success in the “I want to sew more” goal? When and at what point is it a success? When I set my sewing goal of one new thing a week for a year, I unknowingly stumbled upon the S.M.A.R.T. goals recipe. It was specific, one new thing a week for a year. It was also measurable. Success was checked on weekly, if one thing was made, I was still on pace toward the goal.
The A stands for attainable or achievable. If I say I want to sew 10 things a day for a year, is that achievable or attainable? Probably not. It would be very difficult with all the responsibilities I have for me to achieve, sustain and even enjoy that kind of demanding goal. Another good example is, if I want to lose weight and declare, “I’ll lose 20 pounds in a week!” That’s not even close to possible. Using the check in point to determine if you set an attainable goal is important, ridiculous goals are impossible and doomed to failure.
The R stands for relevant or realistic, depending on where you source the information. Realistic seems similar to attainable. Relevant seems to refer to “does this align with what you are trying to accomplish over all”. In business, does it align with your overall goals? I am very specific as a mom when setting goals or modeling behaviors that they aligned with what I wanted to demonstrate for my children. I never dieted in front of my daughters, I laughed off the changes in my body as I aged because I needed all my goals in that area to reflect the values I wanted to pass on which was, our bodies are more than the number on the scale. What are your overall life values and desires? Does your goal align with those, is it relevant to those?
The last letter T is time specific. When does the goal get accomplished? This is perhaps the biggest miss for me in all previous goals that I’ve set. My one thing a week for a year was an example of being time specific and having great success but the next goal I set was making three projects a month failed because while the demand was less I had no specific end time. The ending time or finish line is important. When I crossed the finish line of my one thing a week challenge I felt so accomplished and proud of myself for what I had done. We need that moment! When there is not specific end or finish line, it’s just an ongoing chore and we never get that moment of “We’ve arrived!” Imagine going on a road trip and literally never arriving, you’d give up eventually. You’d have to. The sense of pleasure and excitement of arriving is an important step in goals. “I’m going to sew more”, doesn’t give us that.
I can already feel that this information will be game changing for me not only in my sewing goals but in all of my personal goals. Like I mentioned before, time specific, has been a huge area missed by all of my goals and if I’m being honest attainability of my goals is also often a problem. I think once I make those two aspects more of a practice, I’ll be able to see far more personal goals go in the win column.
P.S. friends, according to the interweb the Smart Goals were developed by these individuals in 1981, yes that long ago. George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham