How to Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals (Part 2): S is for Specific
In yesterday’s blog post, I introduced the “The S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goal Setting System.” In today’s post I will discuss the importance of setting Specific goals.
If you want to be successful in goal-setting, you need to be as specific as possible. Vague goals are not very motivating. Specific goals provide clarity and focus. Instead of setting the vague goal to “lose weight,” determine precisely how much weight you want to lose.
Let’s assume that you wanted to lose eight pounds in eight weeks.Since a pound is equal to 3500 calories, you will need to reduce your caloric intake and/or burn up 3500 calories more than you consume during this weekly time frame.
Instead of saying “I will eat healthier,” describe the goal in more detail. What will you start doing and how often will you do it? “I will eat three fruits and four vegetables daily.”
Instead of saying, “I will go to the gym more often,” say, “I will go to the gym every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Instead of saying, “I will be a better parent,” choose a specific behavior that you can measure. An example of a specific goal would be to spend at least thirty minutes playing games each day with your son.
The more specific your goal, the easier it is to stay focused and take action because you will know exactly what you are trying to achieve. In contrast, you are much less likely to accomplish vague goals because they do not provide you with direction on what exact steps to take.
Vague goal: “Become a happier person.”
Specific goal: “Write down 5 things each day that I’m grateful for.”
Vague goal: “Help those who are less fortunate.”
Specific goal: “Volunteer at the homeless shelter once a week.”
Vague goal: “Get in shape.”
Specific goal: “Lose 25 pounds and reduce my waist size from 40” to 34.”
Vague goal: “Start exercising regularly.”
Specific goal: “Join a health club and workout three days a week.”
Vague goal: “Communicate better with my spouse.”
Specific goal: “Take my spouse on a date night once per week, and listen closely as she shares her joys and struggles.”
In addition to choosing a specific goal, it is also helpful to write it down and review it regularly. Gail Matthews, Ph.D., a professor at Dominican University in California, conducted a groundbreaking research study of goal setting in 2007. She found that people who wrote down their goals were 39.5 percent more likely to accomplish them, compared to those who didn’t write down their goals.
It is also important that you don’t work on too many goals at one time. I call this the “magnifier principle.” Did you ever play with a magnifying glass when you were a kid? When I was a young, my friends and I would use a magnifying glass to set fire to dry leaves or old newspaper. Yet, even if it was a very sunny day, it would not start a fire unless I kept the magnifying glass focused on one spot. If I moved it around, nothing would happen.
It is the same way in our own lives. It is better to focus on two or three goals than to dabble with twelve. For example, you may want to set a health goal, a relationship goal and a career goal. Don’t give up on the other goals. Write them down in your journal, and work on them later. By limiting your goals to two or three in number, you will be able to make progress and reduce the frustration caused by being overextended.