The “SMART” way to set personal goals

How to set goals you will actually accomplish

 At Northwoods Ranch & Retreat, we teach our students how to effectively set goals. Goal setting seems to have become a lost art. When you talk to most young men about what goal setting means to them they often have difficulty explaining it, and believe it is simply stating what you want to accomplish. Although it CAN be as simple as this, it will ultimately be ineffective if you don’t put some more thought into the process.
We ask our students to set three overall goals once they have been in the program for about two weeks. 1. first goal is regarding something around the reason they came to us in the first place. Examples would be poor self esteem, anxiety, depression, or substance use. 2. A goal that is physical in nature such as lose weight, get stronger, run faster, eat healthier etc. And 3. A personal growth goal. This goal can be whatever they want it to be, some students choose to learn another language, learn to play the guitar, build a solar space heater etc.
We all have experience with setting a goal we failed to achieve don’t we? My personal favorite to observe in others (and I have my own share) are the new years resolution goals. Every year since I started going to the gym I have noticed this crowd. Awkwardly lifting weights and tying up machines and treadmills they have difficulty operating. You see them drop like flies around February 1st (when their one month membership to the gym expires). Being a people watcher, I tend to make observations and try to guess which ones will stick around for a while. One thing that I have noticed is that the ones that tend to stick around have a specific routine (often written on a piece of paper they carry with them) and are at the gym rain or shine, snowstorm or no snowstorm, before or after work, almost without fail. This says to me they are dedicated, have done their research, have an actual plan they have thought about and have developed a pattern in their life that will likely be sustainable and eventually become a positive habit in their life.
People who don’t do these things and also jump on the scale everyday after a rigorous workout expecting to see a decrease in their weight, only to be disappointed, are often “no shows” come spring. Why you ask? I think it mostly has to do with a need for immediate gratification, and inability to delay gratification and set realistic goals, but more on that in another post.
In order to effectively set goals you must set objectives, waypoints, or milestones so you know you are achieving what you set out to do. The best way I know how to do this is with the SMART acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time oriented. 
If your overall goal was to lose weight an objective might be to “lose 10 pounds by Christmas”. As long as you have a few months to pull that off you have made a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed objective that will get you closer to your goal of losing weight. That objective alone probably won’t cut it if you want to guarantee it happening and want it to be a longer term sustainable change so you will probably have other objectives including what you do at the gym, for how long, what days, what you eat, how you shop etc, but you get the idea.
I like the saying “If you fail to plan you might as well plan to fail” when it comes to setting goals you will actually attain, this is certainly the case. A little planning put into your goals, coupled with some determination and ability so see the plan through the tough parts and you will attain your goals. Go out and achieve them!
Rory K. McLaughlin, CEO