The other night a friend, speaking to a small group of small business owners and entrepreneurs, tossed out a question to the audience.
“Does anyone here know the difference between a dream and a goal?”
People, understandably, began looking around and at each other.
Suddenly a voice from the back of the room quietly replied.
“A dream is in your head. A goal is written down.”
My friend smiled broadly, his eyes lighting up.
“Yes,” he said, “did everyone hear that?”
Everyone’s eyes turned back to the front of the room.
My friend, repeating the answer volunteered from the rear of the room, shared with everyone how a dream in your head is really nothing until you take the action of writing it down and converting it into a goal.
Sitting near him I began to think through his words.
Everyone ‘dreams’ – be it to lose 10 pounds, write a book or start a new business. But rarely does anything develops with any kind of lasting power until someone gets it from between the ears and onto a piece of paper.
But as hard as this step is, my friend explained that is just the first step on the road to success.
He then shared with everyone a simple acronym to help everyone: SMART.
“In order for your goals to be effective, they’ve first got to be ‘specific’,” he said.
Giving yourself a general target is not enough, he emphasized. Your goals must be tangible — for example someone saying they’d like to start exercising – a broad-based and general statement. Saying you’ll start walking for exercise, however, is a specific action.
This is key, particularly if you wish to successfully employ the second step: ‘measureable’. Committing to start walking is much different from committing to walk 2 miles each day.
“But,” he warned, “your goals must also be ‘attainable’.”
Continuing the walking example, committing to walk 10-miles in the morning and evening – although admirable – is probably not likely to work for most people. Running kids to school, working late at the office, or even just spending needed time with your family are very real challenges most of us would face if we made such a commitment. And when life did interrupt our aggressive goal, we’d become disappointed in ourselves and eventually discouraged. Progress would then stop and goal would crumble under the weight of the overzealous commitment.
Working his way through the acronym, he presented the next step.
“Your goals must be ‘relevant’,” he said.
Most of us are busy – and more so for those starting and operating a small business. Our ability to focus on what contributes to the forward success towards our goals means separating them from those that needlessly occupy our time. Sometimes that can mean leaving something undone – but if it is not helping your achieve your goals, then we really need to consider it a distraction and leave it behind.
“And finally,” he said, “your goals must be ‘timely’.”
Giving yourself deadlines is one of the best ways to keep you focused on making progress towards achieving goals. Committing to walking around the block –without any timeline of when you’ll begin or do it – allows you to ‘kick the can down the road’ without any recourse. Holding yourself accountable is one of the best ways to make sure your goals move from ideas to reality.
Most of us know people who are wildly successful – and many times we might joking say they are ‘a little different’ than the rest of us. Well, the truth is – statistically speaking – they are. Maybe they aren’t all that different most of us… maybe they are just SMART(er).
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