Do you set S.M.A.R.T goals ?

- By Kashish Uppal

“The moment you put a deadline on your dream, it becomes a goal.”

Harsha Bhogle, The Winning Way: Learnings from sport for managers

Have you ever felt like you are adrift in the world? Doing what was assigned, going with the flow? A feeling like you work very hard but seem to be getting nowhere. One can often feel this way, and the right thing to do is ask oneself, what does one want from life? You might not always know the long term answer but you do know what you want deep inside. Giving time to self is the most important exercise to be able to understand what it is that we want to achieve personally or professionally. Setting goals is not an age dependent activity. It should be inculcated from early childhood. Remember, critical thinking is the key. It enables you to assess your strengths and weaknesses by overcoming your personal biases, weigh your chances and thus take informed decisions.  Once, you figure out what you want to achieve, it is suggested that you use scientifically proven methods to work on them further to ensure that they are achieved

Research studies show us that our brains use the neurotransmitter “Dopamine” as an internal guidance system to reach goals, thus making it important for our functioning to set goals! You can identify goals and prepare plan to achieve the goals using proven techniques such as SWOT and WOOP. Then the goals can be broken down into simpler and smaller subgoals.  Now add a deadline to this and voila! You just transformed your dream into a goal! While this seems simple, it often isn't, because we set unattainable goals that are too broad and immeasurable. That is why it is crucial to ensure that you assess your goal. The S.M.A.R.T goals were first mentioned in the November 1981 issue of Management Review that contained a paper by George T. Doran called There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. A good goal whether personal or professional should be S.M.A.R.T i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timely.

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman strongly recommends to buy a notebook and make it a habit to document the decision making process. Mauboussin endorses the decision notebook as a source of "accurate and honest" feedback. He further emphasizes how the decision notebooks can help us revisit our decison making process and thus prevent us from commiting same mistakes again or pursue a particular set of steps that yielded favourable results. Thus. promoting mindfulness. "When you are writing something down with a pen and paper, you are stimulating a collection of cells in the base of your brain known as the reticular activating system. The RAS is the filter for all of the information your brain needs to process and it gives more attention to what you are currently focusing on. In other words, the physical act of writing brings the information to the forefront and triggers your brain to pay close attention." . Thus, techniques such as SWOT, WOOP and SMART utilize the cognitive and affective benefits of writing to identify, plan and achieve goals. Such techniques when explained to children at an early age can also have long term benefits.

Think and Reflect: 

Have you ever set a goal for yourself that you couldn’t achieve or haven’t achieved as yet? Try introspecting and reframing that goal as a S.M.A.R.T. goal. 

About the Author

Kashish Uppal is an applied psychology student from the University of Delhi. She believes that to truly understand the world, one must understand oneself. She is an avid reader, skill trainer and food enthusiast. Her life mantra is to live life mindfully and with gratitude because life is not waiting forever for the storm to pass, it is learning to dance in the rain !