Specify My Goal

You have learned repeatedly in the pages of Changeology the power of specifying and tracking your goal.  Vague objectives, like to become “a better person,” beget vague efforts and disappointing results. Lewis Carol summed it up nicely in one of my favorite exchanges from Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to go.

In this exercise, we begin with your goal in mind and then specify it in ways that maximize your success. Decades of research demonstrate that how we express and measure a goal dramatically increases the success rate.

Let’s get SMART: expressing your goals in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific terms. Practice defining your goal(s) below in concise and positive language. Try writing it a couple of different ways to determine what works best for you:

My goal is:

My goal is:

My goal is:

Now, let’s distinguish intermediate, or short-term goals, from long-term goals. Let’s say your 90-day, or long-term, goal is to lose 15 pounds. Your intermediate goals could be to exercise regularly, skip most desserts, keep to a 1,200-calories diet, and so forth. Or perhaps your 90-day goal is to become a better parent by teaching your child responsibility. Your intermediate goals might be to declare your expectations only once with a single reminder, follow through on threatened consequences, and spend 5 more minutes reading to your child at bedtime. In both cases, you would have one superordinate goal with a series of subgoals.

Small steps together equal a giant leap. Start small and then incrementally increase your subgoal activity. If you’re trying to lose weight, increase your exercise or activity level by a maximum of 10 percent per week, particularly for Baby Boomers. Even if you increase it by 2 minutes each week, that translates into 24 extra minutes of exercise several times a week.

Please specify your goal again, using the language you preferred from above. Then, define the subgoals to reach it.

My goal is:

The subgoals are to:

Before we conclude, let’s complete a Check Yourself to ensure that your goal meets all of SMART criteria and the other guidelines.

  • I have written my goal; it sounds and feels right. 
  • That goal is reasonably specific and can be measured or tracked.
  • My goal is realistic and attainable.
  • My goal is for and by me; not for other people.
  • I have delineated a time frame for accomplishing it.
  • Subgoals to achieve the larger goal have been specified.
  • My goal is defined in a positive, healthy direction.

You should be agreeing with all the items here if you are taking full advantage of the science of change. If not, please rewrite the goals (and subgoals). If yes, congratulations!