SMART Goals: Your Recipe for Success

One can read a lot about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions this time of year. But as you may already know, I advocate setting a vision of your future, which pulls you toward an end goal instead of resolving to push yourself to change. That rarely works and is no fun for anyone.

Positive change isn’t about being miserable; it’s about being the best version of yourself.

So once you have that vision of your ideal future, how do you maneuver yourself onto the right track to making it a reality? By setting SMART goals, of course!

The acronym “SMART” describes goals that are:

  • Specific (clear and unambiguous)
  • Measurable (either in dollar amounts, percentages, number of clients, etc.)
  • Attainable (must be realistic and not overly ambitious)
  • Relevant (must further your purpose or ultimate vision of the future)
  • Time-bound (have a fixed starting and ending date)

For example, if in your ideal future you are a full-time paid blogger, your first SMART goal could be something like:

“Six weeks from now, February 1, 2016 [start date] I will have a wellness blog on the Rainmaker platform in which I post three times a week. I will drive enough traffic to the site using paid ads and guest blogging [specific] to start earning $100 a month [measurable] by August 1, 2016” [end date; attainable].

This is great! You have a specific, actionable goal where the start date gives you enough time to research platforms, brainstorm content, write your ads and find the best places to guest blog, and the end date is reasonable and attainable.

But simply setting a SMART goal isn’t enough to make your vision a reality. A goal is not a ham in a slow cooker. You can’t “set it and forget it” and expect it to be realized.

You reach your goals and bake a cake by the same process

Instead, think of setting and achieving a SMART goal like baking a bûche de noël (French for yule log cake). Baking a bûche de noël takes many steps and a lot of attention over eight hours and, once completed, looks impressive and tastes rich and delicious. (I’ve made four so far. The third one actually looked like the picture in the magazine!)

When setting SMART goals and baking a bûche de noël, you must first set your intention, follow and refer often to your recipe and do it more than once.

The goal is the cake and the cake the goal

            Your ideal future is the bûche de noël, the spectacular end product of many steps. You can see it; you know what it’s supposed to look like.

The task is figuring out how you get from a pile of raw ingredients such as flour and sugar or writing skills and a small client list to that beautiful image you want to be reality.

To achieve the end result, first set your intention

Baking a bûche de noël and creating your ideal future are no small undertaking. To do either, you must first set your intention. Be clear with yourself about what you want, when you want it and how much time you have to devote to making it happen. Your intention will guide you when you write out your SMART goal.

Then gather what you need to get started, whether it’s support from your family, time to yourself to focus or study materials. Think of these things as the necessary ingredients for your own, personal bûche de noël.

You don’t have to pick January 1 to get started. Look at your schedule and figure out the closest, most practical day to set your goals in motion.

Your recipe for success

Now you have your written SMART goal, your recipe for success. Nice work! You now have laid out before you the series of steps you must take to make all those raw ingredients into a sweet end product.

While most of us rely on other people’s recipes for cakes, you are the author of your SMART goals, and your future. You can tweak and change things to your liking, so long as the basic structure supports the end product.

For example, you wouldn’t frost a cake before you bake it, just like you wouldn’t write your way to six figures a year before you have any clients. First thing’s first.

And also like a recipe, you must refer back to your SMART goals again and again. And again.

You need to know not only what step you’re on now, but what step is coming next so you’ll be ready for it. Trust me, you don’t read your bûche de noël recipe or SMART goals once, put it in a drawer and then bust out a cake or an ideal future just like that.

That’s why it’s imperative you post your written goals where you can read them every day. Check the recipe, know what step you’re on and know what you need to be ready for next. The better you know the recipe, the quicker you get to your end result.

Continuous SMART goal setting

You don’t set one goal and then you’re done, you have to set numerous smaller goals before you reach the final end product. Think of the series of SMART goals you set and reach as one elaborate recipe for realizing your ideal future. Each completed goal is one step in the recipe, and you build on each goal until, finally, you’re living your ideal life (or looking at an amazing cake).

People are impressed when you create something awesome, whether it be a bûche de noël or an enviable writer’s life. It’s inspiring and positive, not just for you but for the people in your life.

I don’t bake a bûche de noël every year for the compliments my family gives me, although that certainly warms my heart. I do it for the sense of accomplishment. The feeling of personal pride of having committed my time and effort to a worthy project. (And because the more I do it, the better it gets. By the third year it actually resembled the picture in the magazine!)

Your personal and professional development is the same: worth the effort year after year, and spectacular.

So set your SMART goals, keep them in sight (literally and metaphorically) so you can check your progress and steps often, and reap the sweet rewards of your efforts.

What’s your recipe for success in 2016? What SMART goal will you set to make your vision a reality? Shout out your intention in the comments!

*Note: This article was published on Wealthy Web Writer, January 20, 2016.