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How to Set a SMART Goal

When my youngest brother was in high school, he set a significant goal for himself—he was going to dunk a basketball. But there were some up-front problems with this goal. For starters, he was the shortest kid in our family, topping off at 5’8″. Plus he had never played scholastic team sports. But Greg was determined.

dunking basketball

We had an adjustable-height basketball goal, and Greg would go out and practice. But it wasn’t until years later in the college gymnasium that he finally dunked one. To my knowledge there were no witnesses, and I’m not sure if the feat was ever repeated. In fact, I never heard another word about basketball from him after that. But he did achieve his goal.

Speaking of goals, what goals have you set? Are they SMART?

The word SMART can be a useful way to set your energy management goals.

S: Simple and Specific

The goal should be easy to understand and share; simplicity is key to setting goals. If it has too many components or dependencies, or is difficult to explain to others, it’s probably too complex.

M: Measurable

The goal should be measurable. You’ll need a way to demonstrate that you accomplished the goal. Identify the appropriate metric(s) and then measure regularly.

A: Achievable

The goal should be achievable. This can be a tricky goal. If the goal is too easy, then there will be little sense of accomplishment in attaining it. Goals should be attainable, but should also take some work. You shouldn’t even set a goal if you don’t have the knowledge, skill or the funding to achieve it, because failure will be frustrating for everyone.

R: Relevant

The goal should be relevant to your job and organization. Choose a goal that deliver tangible benefits and value, so that people are willing to work to achieve it. So make the goal relevant and real to the team.

T: Timebound

The goal should be timebound. Setting a timeframe and/or deadline creates a sense of urgency. Without a timeframe, nothing generally gets done. If this is a new concept for your organization, make sure to start small. Focus on the small changes that will result in measurable results. Early small successes will build support for grander long-term goals.

Now that we’ve got a blueprint for SMART goal setting, let’s return to the basketball court and analyze my brother’s goal by working backwards.

Greg’s goal wasn’t Timebound. He never set a deadline, and was apparently plugging away for some years. I’m inclined to say it wasn’t Relevant either—short on tangible benefits and value. And it definitely wasn’t Measurable. There were no photos, videos, or witnesses to prove the success.

But it may well have been Achievable. Spud Webb (5’7″ former NBA star) has proved that shorter guys can dunk!  And it certainly was Specific. But maybe a bit Silly.

Sorry Greg.

Want to read more about SMART goals and successful energy management? Read our new eBook!