Last week, we talked about the first two components of setting SMART goals for your dreams, i.e., Specific and Measurable. (Click here for that article.) In this week’s article, we’ll look at the remaining three components: Actionable, Realistic and Time-trackable.
An important ingredient for a good action plan is that your goals must lead you to action. Great but abstract ideas do not make for a good action plan. Let’s say you want to meditate regularly to develop your connection to your inner guidance. What would you set as your actionable goal for “meditating regularly”? Perhaps, it is something like, “Starting tomorrow and for one full week, I’ll meditate for 5 minutes first thing every morning before I do anything else.” A goal like this is specific, something you can check off at the end of one week, and it clearly spells out what action you will take.
When what we set out to do is so big that it stretches us too much too fast, we risk feeling resistance to it, getting discouraged, and giving up altogether. Set your goals big enough to move you out of the status quo gradually, but not so big that it feels too scary a leap. I cannot prescribe for you what that looks like precisely, because only you know how far you are ready to stretch yourself. You want your goals to be realistically what you can act on. If you are a night owl like I am, setting a goal to do an exercise boot camp at 5:30am every morning is simply unrealistic – and you will feel crummy if you do not accomplish your goal. Why set yourself up to fail? Instead, you will be more likely to stick with something later in the day.
Last, but not least, try to bind your goals within a timeframe. Goals with clear start and end dates have a much higher chance of being achieved. You are less likely to forget about a goal if there is a start and an end date. Some examples are, “Starting tomorrow, I’ll…”; “By June 1, I’ll…” When you find it challenging to set an end date for your goal, it is usually a sign that one or more of the SMART action planning elements is/are missing. For instance, your goal may not be specific enough. You may have the overall good intention of exercising more, so an end date seems irrelevant. However, if you think about it, that overall intention of exercising more will probably look different over time. You can always set a goal for going to a certain exercise class in the next three months. After that time, you will re-evaluate whether you like it and whether it is effective. Then, you can decide whether to continue or do something else. While the intention of exercising more may not have an end date, the specifics of how you do it can always be bound by a timeframe.
Another reason why you may have difficulty binding a goal within a timeframe is when the goal is outside of your control. You cannot easily set a deadline for someone else’s behavior, nor can you dictate how soon the universe aligns events to fulfill your goal. Unless you are already a manifestation master, and you are sure you have absolutely no hidden barriers left in your creative field, setting a deadline by which someone else or the universe needs to respond will likely lead to disappointment. Again, why set yourself up to be disappointed?
Instead, set goals on the parts of your dream over which you have complete control. Usually, those have to do with preparing yourself. Let’s say that your dream is to be (re-)married by a certain time in your life. Reframe that into an intention around which you can develop specific goals on which you can take conscious action. Your reframed intention may be something like, “In the next 6 months, I intend to prepare myself to be the man/woman for whom I want to be loved by my spouse.” From that intention, you can set specific goals around releasing any and all lingering self-limiting beliefs, getting clear about what being a happily married person feels like, and envisioning that, etc. In short, your plan is about taking steps to become the wife/husband for whom you want to be loved – to become magnetic to your dream.
When doing action planning, the timeframe itself needs to be as realistic as the goals you set. If your goals are too ambitious time-wise, you run the risk of not being able to achieve them. Once you miss a few goals, instead of REACHing your dream, it suddenly feels very much out of reach! So, let me repeat: Do not set yourself up to fail. Give yourself time.
This concludes our two-part “Taking SMART Action” series. Have fun taking SMART action on your dreams!
This article is based on the Act Chapter of my book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life.