Having aspirations and dreams of success is different from setting up goals. Dreams and aspirations are useless if there is no chance for them being actualized. They will remain to be mere fantasies if no corresponding action is done to make them come true. Of course, these dreams and aspirations should be within the capacity of a person to accomplish or at least the circumstances can be modified.
A person cannot achieve anything significant without first setting goals. Efforts will be directionless without any intended end or aim. Similar thing can be said if the goals are too vague. An unclear set of goals is almost as useless as not having any goal. If the goals are too difficult, then they are also less likely to be accomplished even if they are clear.
Setting up goals can be guided by the simple acronym S.M.A.R.T. This is a mnemonic device was first used in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. It is used to identify and define key performance indicators. The letters stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely or time-bound.
Sometimes the acronym is expanded to SMARTERS. The additional letters stand for E(valuate),
R(evaluate), and S(satisfactory). The SMART mnemonic is applicable for setting goals for both organizations and individuals.
Specific: A goal must be as clear and as detailed as possible. One can start from a vague or general objective and work on the details from there. For example, a vague goal could be to lose weight. To make it more specific, the questions of who, what, when, where, which, why, and how should be answered. Hence, the previously vague goal can be re-stated as: “I will workout for health reasons at least three times a week in a gym with a qualified instructor.”
Measurable: Parameters or criteria should be established that will allow for the measurement of work progress. These can also correspond to the short-term objectives that are intermediate in achieving the ultimate goals. It can also refer to the allocation of resources. Case in point, a student who is striving to become a physician must first pass the required curriculum and take the necessary board exam.
Attainable: A goal that is attainable is not necessarily easy. It simply means that there are ways which to achieve it. Efforts in terms of learning new skills or improving skills, working hard, and raising necessary resources will be needed. Oftentimes, it will also entail sacrifices. Greater efforts are needed as the goal becomes more difficult.
Realistic: This may seem synonymous with being attainable. However, realistic goal emphasizes on the level of commitment and dedication. Sometimes achieving higher goals becomes realistic because of the motivational factors involved. Being realistic also means working within abilities and external circumstances.
Timely: Goals can only be accomplished if they are time-bound. There must be a specific timetable for achieving goals. It could be days, months or years. Having a clear timetable will provide the sense of urgency and prevent procrastination. The achievement of goals become closer as every milestone is reached given a specified deadline.