A Goal Setting Technique to Keep You On Target

A Goal Setting Technique to Keep You On Target

There is the classic quote in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” that goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”.  Many of us have the best of intentions in terms of getting things accomplished in our life.  However, we often wind up frustrated when we don’t make the progress we want toward our goals.

Goals can many times feel overwhelming to us, particularly if there is a great deal to get accomplished to reach them.  When you set a goal for yourself or help someone else to achieve their goals, you help yourself immensely when you set up a well designed action plan.  If designed well your plan includes:

Specific step by step processes on how you will reach your goal.

Measurable checkpoints which help you to quantify you have completed a specific step.

Achievable steps in the plan you are constructing.

Reasonable expectations that what you are saying you are going to be able to do can be done at the current time.

Time specific date and time when you will complete each step in the process.

An action plan which has steps which meet all 5 of these characteristics is considered a S.M.A.R.T. plan, (note how the acronym forms by taking each of the steps in the plan building process).  Many people have accomplished a great deal by both developing and following their SMART plans.

However, many times, even the steps to accomplish a goal can overwhelm us if the detail involved in completing them takes a great deal of time and effort.  During my studies at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC), I was introduced to an addendum to this approach which aids in addressing step by step overwhelm.  Known as the AIM SMART process, it still uses all of the steps outlined above, but additionally helps one with managing the individual steps of the plan.

The A in the AIM of AIM SMART stands for the “acceptable minimum” you are willing to do toward completing the first step in your plan.  If for example your goal is to clean out your bedroom closet an “acceptable minimum” toward completing a first step may be to determine what you will do with the items in the closet you do not want to keep, (ie. throw out, donate, sell, etc.).  The “A” in the AIM gets you started and it better than doing nothing.

The I in AIM represents your ideal completion of the 1st step.  Using the closet example again, perhaps your first step has you removing from the closet all items that you will no longer store in it, and having accounted for where each and every item is going to go next.  Depending on how cluttered the closet is, and also how organized you are in terms of knowing what you choose to do  with the items you are discarding, this could be a very involved first step.

The M in AIM stands for what is the “middle” or a realistic stretch goal that you can reach in an agreed upon time frame to help you get up your momentum.  Again, in our closet example, if your closet is filled with a large number of shoes, maybe your realistic first step is to go through all of the shoes and decide which pairs to keep and which to send elsewhere.  When setting the realistic stretch goal, again the key is to make it Time Oriented, so as to provide you both a Measurable checkpoint, but also to provide you a sense of accomplishment toward reaching your goal.

I myself am currently in the process of using this technique tackling a major initiative in my life.  When I was remarried, I moved into my wife’s condominium.  The condominium I owned had a great number of items, (particularly in the basement) from my first marriage.  After my first wife’s passing, the prospect of tacking this project was too overwhelming to me.  Frankly, beyond items which had sentimental value, frankly there were a good number of items in excellent condition, that just did not seem right to throw out.

However, with the major assistance of my spouse, we built our own AIM SMART plan to tackle the job.  We visited my condominium once each weekend for several months, each time targeting either a particular section of a room to tackle, or a particular category of item.  We targeted an interim goal of Independence Day to have our items to donate ready for a church rummage sale.  Upon reaching the completion of that step, we focused on a next step of determining how we were going to merge furniture from my place into our current residence.  Having now accomplished that, we are focusing on the next step of identifying and accounting for whatever remaining steps need to be taken to be able to bring my place to market.  All along, we have done this on a time scheduled that worked for the two of us, and have reached our goals in a controlled, non-stressed manner.  Additionally, when any one task appeared to get too large, we took a step back and broke that step up into smaller, manageable, shorter time duration steps to complete.   The AIM SMART process is completely iterative, keeps you on track to accomplish your eventual goal, and at the same time provides you measurable check points and accomplishment recognition points along the way.

That brings me to one last point.  While it is noble to go it alone to reach your goals, it isn’t always the most effective way to accomplish them.  One of the surest ways to get to your goals is to involve a partner.  While that partner may not actually participate in the completion of any of the steps, just holding yourself accountable to them in meeting your time commitments, measuring your progress and most important celebrating your successes, is one sure way to enhance your ability to meet your goals.