Specify Your Aspiration with SMART Goals3 min read

Once you know your aspirations and have magnified them, the next step is to set SMART goals, so that you can implement them in your daily life.

A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Specific means that the goal is concrete enough that you know what success looks like. “I want to be healthy and full of energy” is an aspiration, and it’s not specific—you can’t know when you have achieved it. A specific goal for that might be, “To sleep at least 7-8 hours every night.”

Measurable means that the success is quantifiable, so you can track your progress. There may be a single variable that you are measuring (e.g., money saved, pounds lost, hours practiced, people contacted); or, for more complex goals, you’ll need to break them down into milestones (phases).

Achievable means that your goal is realistic and attainable for you. You need to feel that you can actually do it; otherwise, it will hard to keep yourself motivated. Think of the steps, attitudes, skills, and resources you need to make it a reality. If the goal is not achievable, either get the resources you need to make it achievable or set a different goal.

Relevant, in the context of Mindful Self-Discipline, means the goal is aligned with your deeper values and aspirations, and it is challenging enough to keep you interested. Goals are relevant if they move you toward your aspirations. 

Time-bound means the goal has a (realistic) deadline. If you don’t have this, you may end up procrastinating forever.

SMART goals are clear goals—and with clarity comes strength, conviction, and the motivation to be disciplined in your chosen journey. If your goals are SMART, it’s more likely that you will achieve them.

It might be hard to create specific, measurable goals connected to less tangible aspirations regarding personal growth, relationships, and spirituality. That said, it’s possible—and it’s equally necessary and beneficial. For example, if your goal is to be more positive and optimistic, you could keep a diary of how many times per day you complain or worry needlessly; then your goal would be to diminish that to a specific number.

Considering your top aspirations—ideally no more than three, so you remain focused—create one SMART goal for each. Think them through, and write them down. This makes them more “official”—more real for your brain, and more likely to be achieved.

ASPIRATION #1: ______________________________________

SMART GOAL: _______________________________________

ASPIRATION #2: ______________________________________

SMART GOAL: _______________________________________

ASPIRATION #3: ______________________________________

SMART GOAL: _______________________________________

Please don’t just think them through and move on. It’s very important to actually write down your goals. This makes them more “official”, and it becomes more real for your brain. 

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, ran a study on goal setting and found that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them. Your goals become more top of mind, more real and motivating.

If you want to get the most benefit out of this principle, then don’t just write it down on a piece of paper somewhere. Make it visible. Put it in a place where you will see it often. Frame it on your bedroom wall if needed, or make it your phone’s wallpaper. 

You can also have a symbol, object or image that helps you keep the goal top of mind.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.


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