We all aim to be the best we can, setting goals and striving for them. When we are really motivated, we may even set up SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time oriented). Here’s the thing, SMART goals aren’t as smart as you may think. SMART goals are a 101 solution when we live in a much more complex world.
When establishing goals, there are a few things we must keep in mind if we want to truly develop smart goals. First, they should really be intrinsic, or come from within. A goal should be something you want for its own sake, not because someone or thing external to you deems in important. That’s not a goal, that’s a task. Goals are something we desire, and when we desire something, stay out of our way.
Second, goals need to be congruent which is a fancy word for built upon previous steps. Your big final goal needs smaller goals along the way aiming at it. If your plan for achieving your goal is either one big goal with no small goals along the way or is a mess of smaller goals that are not lined up at your final target, you don’t really have a plan, you have a dream. Dreams are good starts, but they must be formulated into plans in order to become real.
Finally, one goal cannot conflict with another. This sounds obvious, but people…we do weird things. How many times have you wanted to save money for a house but really wanted to go on that European vacation? Those are conflicting goals. Do you see how spending money on vacation is less money toward your house? Of course you do, but we all still do it. Writing out your goals makes sure you are not putting together conflicting ideas.
Once you have your goals properly aligned (intrinsic, congruent, and harmonious), then we can start applying them to the three things people need for self-determination, which is another fancy word for feeling good about ourselves.
In order to feel good about ourselves, people need the three C’s, control, competence, and connection. The first two feed on each other. We need to feel we are in control of our lives, that we have what is called an internal locus of control or the understanding that our life is our responsibility and we have influence over how it plays out. Competence is how we gain control. When we take the time to learn about ourselves or our craft, we have a greater understanding of how it works and can make better informed decisions regarding how we want it to go, we can bestow control over our life’s path. Isn’t that what you want? Control over your life and the ability to make that happen?
Third is connection. A health connection with others makes us feel secure yet free to do as we desire. This is important, relationships provide security and help us feel desired, but they do not take away too much personal control over our lives. There will be some sacrifice, a give and take is imbedded in every relationship, learn to make it work by discovering your character strengths and how they benefit or harm your relationships. Free character strength test can be taken here.
Sports teams and group fitness classes are an excellent way of meeting all three of these needs. You meet people which accomplishes your need for connection, you learn more about your discipline which meets your competence need, and finally you can control your progress by applying what you learned to your performance. With that said, truly smart goals, not just the acronym will help you accomplish this by making sure what you do is what you want, builds upon previous accomplishments, and is in harmony with the rest of your life.
P.s. Did you know I wrote a book regarding similar topics as this? A Vigorous Life, A Guided Journey of Purpose and Fulfillment. Check it out!