Goal setting. If you’re anything like me, you probably cringe when you hear those words. I myself am not that much of a planner and begin to feel that deep-in-your-chest dread feeling when it’s time to make plans or set goals, especially long term ones. However, I’m finding that my tendency to leave things too open-ended also has a tendency to drain my inspiration and stifle my muse. When I have no idea what I really want or where I want to go with my creative projects or in my life in general, then I really get no where at all. To summarize what the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t really matter which way you go.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the S.M.A.R.T goal setting acronym but I must confess, I don’t use it half as much as I should. Okay fine, I seldom use it at all. Yes, I’m totally calling myself out on this one. But while we’re on the topic, let’s break it down.
Is your goal…
- Specific? I know for me, one reason I rarely reach goals is because I haven’t defined them well enough. Saying “I want to start a blog” is one thing, but saying “I want to have at least 1,000 subscribers or more on my personal development/artistic blog in eighteen months or less” is quite another. With the second, I have a clearer idea of where I want to go, and now I can set my mental GPS to create a roadmap to get there.
- Measurable? What’s the point of setting a goal if you don’t know when you’ve reached it? This ties in with being specific. For example, saying “I want to sell my paintings” isn’t measurable enough. Okay, what would ‘selling your paintings’ look like? Now saying “I know my goal is reached when I sell at least $10,000 worth of art within the next 12 months”. Now you can measure that. So when I’m struggling with this step, I ask myself “what would that look like?” Or “how will I know when I get there?” Then I take it from there.
- Attainable? This one is personally the most difficult step for me. It can be hard to define what is and isn’t attainable or realistic. We have so many voices in our heads (most often the voices of our well-meaning loved ones) that are telling us what we can and can’t do. One good place to start is asking “what is it going to take to get there?” Then go from there. Sometimes, I like to look at the stories of people who were successful in what I want to do, and see how long it took them to get to where I want to currently be. I guess my thinking is ‘if they did it in this amount of time, why can’t I?’ I also try to hit that beautiful in-between of challenging yet possible. If the goal is too unrealistic for me, it’s just demoralizing. If it’s too easy, I don’t grow and I don’t learn anything. That sweet spot looks different for everyone, so find what that in between would be for you.
- Relevant? A lot of people use ‘realistic’ as the R in the SMART acronym, but I prefer relevant, because I feel like attainable and realistic are kind of one and the same. We hardly talk about goals that are relevant to us. This is (at least in my opinion) the biggest reason why people don’t reach the goals they set for themselves. We set goals that we think we should have or set goals that we think society or our loved ones think we should set without asking ourselves “is this what I really want?” Quite simply, we won’t put in the effort for goals that we don’t actually want to reach. If the goal isn’t relevant enough to you, you will end up giving up the moment it gets hard. Ask yourself “is it truly worth the time and effort it’s going to take to get there?” If the answer is no, find another goal, regardless of what others think or tell you. The truth about reaching goals that even I struggled with for the longest time is that working towards goals isn’t about the end result; it’s about the process and enjoying the journey. I’m still working on wrapping my head around that one too, but from what I understand, being obsessed with the destination is no good if you’re grumbling every step of the way towards it. So to sum this part up, make sure your goal is what you want and not what someone else wants for you, and that you’ll be enjoying the process of reaching that goal and not just focused on the end result.
- Timely? Lastly, I’m learning that goals must be set in a proper time frame. I feel this ties in with attainable as well. If you try to reach a big goal too fast, you’ll just end up stressing yourself out for no good reason and you’ll get all discouraged and give up. On the other hand, if you set the goal for too far out in the future, either you’ll start to become complacent or discouraged by how long it’s taking. So once again asking yourself “what will it take to get there?” Might be a good place to start when deciding the timeframe that you want to reach your goals.
Yes, I’m probably going to go back to this post to remind myself of what it means to set goals and how to do it. However, in the long run, I know it will do me good and once I get to it, inspiration will begin to have room to grow.