goal setting 101 - part 1

This essay is an excerpt from my book, The Way of The Karma Yogi.

Learning how to set effective goals is a master skill of success. A major reason why goal setting doesn’t work for many people is that they make a wish list, put it in a drawer and wait around for life to change. We simply can’t say “I want” and expect things to happen magically. Goal setting is a process that starts with a careful and deliberate consideration of what we want to achieve and requires consistent actions. We need to have well-defined steps that are in sync with the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps and executing them is crucial to accomplishing the goals that we set for ourselves.

Another important piece that a lot of us miss is that we need a reliable management and control system to operate our plan, keep us on track, measured and monitored through our journey, and through any obstacles that we may face. Goal setting, in essence, is all about drawing a map about how we are going to reach our destination and define the resources that we’ll need to arrive safely.

Many of us set goals of different kinds. Although we may see some progress, these goals never get realized. Regular and random goals come with many drawbacks and lack metrics that make it difficult for us to accomplish these goals. As Robin Sharma has remarked, “Vague goals lead to vague results.”  A common tenet of goal setting that has been discussed exhaustively in all the major personal development books and holds great truth is that they should be SMART i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. 

Setting SMART goals helps us clarify our ideas, focus our actions, use our time, attention and other resources productively and increase our chances of achieving what we want. As we sit down to write our goals, we need to make sure that we check all the following boxes:

  • Specific – clear and concise
  • Measurable – the ability to track our progress
  • Attainable – challenging but still realistic and achievable
  • Relevant – they matter to us and align with our overall life plan
  • Time-bound – each goal has a target date so that we have a deadline to focus on