During a recent coaching session, a client told me that she feels she is being called to help people. She was reading and soaking up information like a sponge, but really had no direction or focus for how she was going to help people. During our session, I uncovered that she is passionate about growing herbs and herbal healing. As she talked about this passion, her eyes lit up, and she was very animated and excited as she went on to tell me that a great grandmother had actually been known in her community as a natural and herbal healing specialist. By the time we finished her session, we had mapped out an action plan that had specific focus, a time frame to complete a knowledge path for said focus, and her next steps for getting involved in community groups with this focus.
The hardest part of reaching your goals is getting started. People are often so overwhelmed with the idea of the process that they often just never start. In order to be successful with any action plan – business or personal – your plan must be S.M.A.R.T. :
S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Achieveable/Actionable
R – Revise for Relevance
T – Timely
A goal must be specific in order to measure success. If you just say, “I want to lose weight”, your expectation is so broad that you will never know if you reached the finish line. However, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you can set up smaller goals along the way until you reach the 20 pounds. Now you have focus to your goal and can ultimately measure success. In the example above, my client started out wanting to “help people”, but by the time we were finished with her session, she had focused her passion into a specific goal of helping others learn about herbal healing.
How will you measure success of your goal? You should be able to break down your goal into smaller steps along the way by which you can measure continuous achievement. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you may decide that you are going to work for losing one pound per week until that goal is achieved. In the case of my client, we set some milestones for knowledge of her focus area: attending workshops, going to community classes, and ultimately getting a nationally-recognized certification.
Have you made your goal specific and measureable enough to actually carry it out? Do you have the resources, including both skill and will, to achieve the goal? Some people miss the first two steps, and by doing so, set themselves up for failure before they’ve even begun. Any goal worth achieving is worth having a plan to achieve that goal. You can’t just jump into it and think you are going to get somewhere. Take the time to map it out – you will thank yourself later. Without deciding first that you will strive to lose “x” amount of weight per week by “ABC” actions, you will never reach that 20-pound mark for weight loss. In the case of my client wanting to help others, she had no end result for which she was working and probably would have floundered about trying to find her place in this world of helping/healing. By sitting down and talking through the steps of a SMART Action Plan, we were able to give her measureable and achieveable pieces for which to strive and by which to measure success once completed.
REVISE FOR RELEVANCE
You may find along your journey a new direction or insight that takes you on a different path than originally planned – and THAT IS OK. It doesn’t mean you have failed the original goal. It just means that the original goal is no longer relevant to where you are at this point in your life. How many people do you know that are still working in the career field of their college major ten or fifteen years later? My guess is not many. We all go to college with one passion or idea of where we want to go in life, but as we experience all that life has to offer, we can often be pulled in another direction. Such is the case with any goal, so stay open and flexible so that you can revise your plan along the way to stay relevant. My client may find along her journey to becoming a specialist on herbal healing that she has another passion that is even stronger than her one for herbal healing – and that is OK. She will just need to revise her plan a little to accommodate the new focus in her life.
Without a time-bound point of completion, how will you ever know if you’ve crossed the finish line? Choose a realistic time frame by which you would like to complete your goal, which is ultimately just another aspect of measurement. By choosing a time frame, you are holding yourself accountable to actually getting the goal completed – even if you realize the time frame you have set for yourself needs to be revised along the way (in either direction – shorter or longer). Choose a time that is relatively soon so that you will have a sense of urgency and motivation to actually get the job done, but that is far enough away that it gives you a realistic time frame for completion. You will not lose 20 pounds safely in one month, but maybe you can lose 20 pounds in 3-5 months. Again, stay open and flexible to revise your time along the way if need be, and don’t consider yourself a failure if it looks like it might take a little longer than originally planned. As long as you are making progress in the right direction, you are successful.
I have a worksheet that I use with my clients in our initial consultation that walks them through a SMART Action Plan. This “Take Action” worksheet aids in taking a large, non-specific goal that may seem overwhelming to tackle and breaks it down into a Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely Action Plan.