Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Your Quick Guide to Setting SMART Goals

Getting to the line
One of the key elements for success in ANY long-term venture, whether it be a career plan, a home project, or even a life-long ambition, is the definition and setting of goals.

Goals are the blueprint for your success and as such need to be thought out carefully. Without them your plans are likely to fail or at least go off track more often than you would like. You could end up bored, disillusioned, even bankrupt, all because you failed to plan properly.

Goals matter because they set a record of your intentions, perfectly clarified and with deadlines. If you intend to do anything big at all it's necessary to set clear and SMART goals.

Setting SMART Goals

You will probably have heard about SMART, an acronym open to interpretation by different experts or management gurus, but essentially summarised as:

  • Specific - goals are clear and well-defined, not woolly or indistinct.
  • Measurable, that is, you need to be able to check your progress as you work toward your goals.
  • Achievable - goals that your particular knowledge, skill, and determination will enable you to get to.
  • Relevant. Of course goals should be relevant to your particular ambition or overall life/health or career aim.
  • Time-bound - meaning that you set the time framework for your ambitions.

Goals can also be divided into short, medium or long term - so you have steps along the way. Setting just long term goals can be demoralising and lead to you abandoning your dreams. Not ideal at all! By setting shorter and medium term goals as well as long, you can link your ambitions and take smaller, measurable steps toward the horizon.

Your goals should also complement each other, be true to your personality and fit your perceived life-style. It's no good setting yourself radically different goals from the way you are or behave. While it is possible to change yourself completely, you should ask yourself first why you want to.

Goals should also be balanced, and physically possible!

Phew, who thought setting goals could be so complicated? Yet without proper goals your ambitions will falter, your enthusiasm wane and your achievements wilt like roses robbed of water.

The Importance of Goals

Goals keep you motivated, because having something to focus on keeps your mind active and your thoughts clear. Your actions should all flow toward your goals. By constantly monitoring, moving along, adjusting and realigning them the stepping stones of your goals will merge into a clear and concrete path.

But goals should be fun to work toward, which is why making them SMART is the best option. Life shouldn't be a slog, but a series of great achievements and balance. With SMART goals you won't fall off the path. You'll have more energy, better intent, a clearer vision and measurable successes along the way to your dreams.

SMART goals are definitely the way to go, but...

Don't forget to enjoy yourself along the way!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Focus on the present, and life will take care of itself


Here's a question for you - why do so many people spend their free time watching TV?

Every day or evening families, loners, boys, girls, men, mothers and sisters sit down and watch hours and hours of it.

Box sets, films, Netflix, catch up, recordings, sports, drama, soaps...the opportunities for distraction are endless.

Why?

It would be easy to say TV is just that, a distraction, and it's true. It distracts us from the everyday, the humdrum, the boredom.

But it also has become a ritual, an intoxicating habit.

When did your life stop?

Of course, a little of anything is good for us: the odd drink, a night out, pizza - it makes us happy.

But take anything to excess, to prolong that fleeting pleasure and,
  1. it becomes harmful 
  2. it's not a pleasure any more. 
That's when it becomes a bad influence on you, and that's where, say, more than 2 hours TV a night sits high on my list of unnecessary evils.

But it still begs the question - Why?

Focus on the Now

Whatever the reason, and I'm not a psychologist, I've got an antidote, and it works for me. Instead of sitting back and letting the distraction, in this case TV, wash over me, I focus on the moment instead.

That's right, I zone into the Now.

It's not a new thing, a modern trend or invention. It just works.

It's Eastern maybe, but it can be Western, and it involves thinking creatively.

Now I don't mean I pick up my brushes and paint a landscape. Or take up the guitar and write a song.

Although I could do any of those things, I just think actively about the present.

The present, to me, is the only place I should be living. The past is full of mistakes, good feelings, bad memories, regrets, highs and lows, whatever they are THEY ARE GONE.

That's right, the past is another city.

And the future, well THAT'S NOT EVEN HERE. In fact, my experience of the future is a place where whatever I imagine happening, rarely happens.

The future is something we worry about. That's what the future does to you. But the only place you can affect the future is now, in the present moment. So that's what I concentrate on, the Now.

Baby steps

Now is:
  • possibly the only reality
  • the place where everything is guaranteed to exist
  • where the past funnels into
  • where the future expands from
Simply put, it's where we should be concentrating our efforts.

But how?

Well, like anything, the truth is rather easy. Don't regret the past, feel guilty about things, dwell on words said or deeds enacted. Just look upon it as experience, learn from any errors, bask in any pleasures and MOVE ON.

Likewise with the future, and this is more difficult, DON'T FRET ABOUT EVENTS THAT HAVEN'T YET HAPPENED.

I know Einstein predicted that Space and Time are interlinked, that the future is different to different observers depending where they are and if they are on trains etc. but that's his problem. Yours is just to live as well as you can.

So, if you are not happy about things - your life, your job, your relationships - the future isn't where you are going to change that.

The only place you can change that is in the present moment, the now.

So switch off the TV.

Tell your wife, girlfriend or boyfriend you love them, and make them a cup of tea.

Do something RIGHT NOW that will positively affect the future - a phone call, a letter, email.

Or learn something, read a book, play the piano, do something creative. And by creative I don't mean create a work of earth-shatteringly genius, but instead book an on line course, or start a diary.

Don't just make plans, do something fine, something positive, something you've been putting off for years.

Be happy.