How many times have you set your mind to accomplish something but ended up forgetting all about it? Then tried again and did pretty much the same thing? We’ve all been there, probably more than once. You might think to yourself - “well, if I didn’t get to finishing this,then this is probably not so important”. But, many times, the lack of goal setting skills can affect a lot of our important choices, and mess with some serious business in our lives. If you’re struggling with achieving a goal, it is more than likely that you are also struggling in properly setting one. And worry not, procrastinator, you are NOT the only one! Cognitive therapists have developed a method to help you with this, and really, the devil’s in the details.
According to CBT, what you need to do about your goals is get S.M.A.R.T.
Let’s say that your goal is to kill the exams on this upcoming term. You have five of them, there is still plenty of time but the key is to organize yourself and keep up with your schedule. So the first thing we did is - we identified our goal. Now, let’s get smart about it:
Specific - You’re preparing these five exams and you say - I’m going to study for them every day. But it’s five of them - have you thought about how you’re gonna do it every day? Get more specific about it. For example I am going to study one subject each day from Monday to Friday, for three hours. This is already a much more specific goal. You can go into as much detail as possible and basically break down the big goal into smaller and smaller goals.
Measurable - What happens when you identify your goal and make it specific by breaking it down to smaller goals, is you’re making your goal measurable. When you are able to measure a goal, it’s more likely that you will successfully follow your progress (or even your setbacks), and you’ll know how to act based on the results. Measuring your goals not only keeps you accountable, but also motivated!
Achievable - You have to get real. You can’t expect to go through all of your exam material in a week and pass everything with perfect grades if you have five subjects to go through. This goal for example, simply isn’t achievable (unless you are a super-human that absorbs and retains information with the speed of light, which we aren’t denying - but do it at your own risk!). When you have a realistic goal, you have a fair chance of achieving this goal within the given period of time. You will work with no pressure and you are more likely to follow your schedule knowing that you have it all under control. So, keep to realistic goals.
Relevant - Set your goals at a proper time in your life. Sort out your priorities. When a goal is synced with what is currently relevant to you in life, then this is a goal you should go for. If it helps you grow, learn, achieve, if it is something that will put you in a better place than where you are now, then this goal is relevant enough to get smart about.
Timely - Like we said before, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to achieve the goal you’ve set. You can’t win a race against time (unless, you are faster than the speed of life, which, again, not denying but do it at your own risk!).
Remember that when you’re achieving a goal you are going through a process, an experience. It is not a straight upward line and some days you won’t have the motivation like you usually do. Setbacks are a normal part of learning and achieving goals, striving and well, being alive. It is important that you learn how to recognize the setbacks and handle them before they take you off your healthy and productive routines. Don’t be afraid of setbacks - but be prepared for them. Sometimes when we are achieving a goal, the closer we are - the harder it gets. Giving yourself the space of mind to reflect and analyze, measure your progress and get better at recovering from a setback are keys in this process going in your favor.
Always, always, always be realistic about both - your progress and the lack of. Being honest with yourself is the best thing that you can do. Keep reminding yourself of the steps - identify, break down the goal to smaller goals, make sure that these smaller goals are measurable, track your progress and give yourself the time to get there. Sweat the details - each part of the way is equally important. Focus on improving your resilience and performance. Don’t forget about the big picture, but also don’t overthink about it. Concentrate on now and what you can do now. Easier said than done, but the more you do it - the easier it gets - guaranteed!
Goal setting skills are something that a lot of us lack, never heard of or never thought about. Although it is great that we implement these skills when children are still young, we still grow up struggling to achieve sometimes. The S.M.A.R.T method is a simple method you can practice with both - long term and short term goals. The more specific and realistic you get about your goals, it is simply more likely that you’re going to achieve whatever you set your mind to. While striving, we build resilience and we learn about ourselves, we test our limits and sometimes, we do things that aren’t the best idea. Don’t let this discourage you. Now go and get smart about it, there’s no better time to start than this very moment! ;)
You can always talk to your therapist about how to set goals properly and how to stick to your schedule, reducing the setbacks and increasing the success!