Welcome to Day 2 of my series on SMART goal setting!
The acronym is SMART but we’re going to be starting with R for Relevance today. Aiming for goals is great, but first you need to know where you’re going. If you travel a thousand kilometres west it won’t help you get closer to your destination a thousand kilometres to the east.
To set good goals we first need to know why they matter to us. It isn’t about marking off specific steps to achievement yet. It’s about setting signposts. On any journey we need to know where we’re going so we can take the right steps to getting there.
The first step in goal setting is to let yourself dream some big dreams. What do you really want? If money, time and health were not an issue, what would your ideal life look like? As I said, dream big. There aren’t any wrong answers and no one else needs to know but you.
I would recommend writing them down. There’s something about writing down a dream that makes it feel more concrete, more fixed in the real world. Once it’s down on paper we can start to work on it.
Let’s look at Grace again, our imaginary, or not so imaginary author with the big dreams.
Grace’s dream life sees her living in a cottage by the beach, with big windows to let in the sun and a secluded garden out the back. She doesn’t have to go out to work, which is probably just as well, since cottages by the beach in locations where the inhabitants can also make a living tend to run into the millions. Grace dreams big, but she still needs money to live. In Grace’s dream she is slim, healthy, attractive (even though, says the little voice inside, all three of those boats sailed years ago and have never been seen again).
It isn’t a very complicated dream. It’s a far cry from her current life of working two full time jobs just to pay for a dingy house that swallows natural light like a black hole, well before it can reach inside the house. As for slim, healthy and attractive? Grace is not slim, her health is poor following two years battling critical illness, and beauty… is in the eye of the beholder.
Let’s unpack this little dream.
What is it about the cottage by the beach that is so attractive?
Well, duh. It’s a cottage by the beach. Aside from that, though?
Before her illness, Grace used to go to the beach a few times a year. It was always a special day, even though travel time meant that she could only spend a few hours there before starting the long trip home. The beach is relaxing. There are no obligations, no stress. There might be some chick with her skivvies off trying to wiggle into her swimming costume behind a towel, but there isn’t anyone who feels like it’s their lot in life to police Grace’s time.
If Grace lived in a cottage by the beach then every day would be like that. Right? Sure.
Already we can see that the dream isn’t necessarily about specifics. It’s really about how this dream life makes Grace feel. No obligations. No stress. No interpersonal problems. No financial problems. Being slim and healthy would mean that Grace could get around easier. She wouldn’t have to schedule her activities around pain. She’d be able to do more of the things she used to enjoy.
It’s still sounding pretty unrealistic, isn’t it? That’s the purpose of the next few days, going through these goals and making them more realistic and achievable, but right now we need to know where we’re headed. It’s fairly safe to say that by this time next year Grace won’t be living in a cottage by the beach. It’s possible, though, that she will have reduced the stress in her life and has moved a few steps closer to achieving her goal.
For the record, though, the cottage on the beach is the ten year plan.