Setting and Reaching Goals: The SMART and DUMB Way to Succeed

by Kim on January 7, 2010

Light bulb idea

So you’re an entrepreneur with a fabulous plan…you have the confidence to succeed (you did read my other article on confidence, right?) but aren’t sure how to realistically put your plan into action.

Aim too low and you could be selling yourself short. Aim too high and you risk setting yourself up for failure.

What to do? Well, short of telling you that you probably won’t become a multi-millionaire in your first year, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to setting and reaching goals. Every business is different and will require a different plan.

You need to set your own individual goals and you can be SMART or DUMB about it.

Setting and Reaching Goals the SMART Way

First coined in 1981, SMART criteria can help you create reasonable goals for the upcoming year.

SMART goals are:

Specific: Some goals are nice – ‘I want to be a success’ comes to mind – but how on earth do you know when you reach them? What does it mean to be a success? You need to develop specific benchmarks so you can track your progress. ‘I will recruit three new clients a month’ and ‘My sales will increase 10% each month’ are examples of specific goals.

Measurable: ‘I want to be listed on Time magazine’s list of most influential people’ is definitely a specific goal. However, there is no way to measure your progress until you get that magical call saying you’re in. And really guys, you might be waiting a while for that call. You need measurable goals where you know exactly how close (or far away!) you are from reaching them.

Actionable: Our Time magazine goal above is a good example of one that is not actionable. Short of sending the editor love letters each week, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to convince Time to put you on their short list. But if you have a goal like finding three new clients a month, you can be calling current clients for referrals, posting flyers, creating a website, etc.

Realistic: Okay, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings here…but I don’t know how realistic it is that Time magazine will be calling anytime soon. Pick a goal that might feel like a challenge but that isn’t out-of-this-world.

Timely: I recommend to my clients that they set short-term goals that can be completed within three months and long-term goals that can be completed in year. Retiring to Jamaica might be fun but if you have to wait 30 years to get there, chances are you’ll give up before reaching your goal. Try something like putting 10% of your income in retirement savings each month instead.

And that’s how you can be SMART about goal setting. If you want to be smartER, remember to Evaluate and Revaluate your goals and progress at regular intervals.

Setting and Reaching Goals the DUMB Way

If you’d rather not be SMART, you can always be DUMB instead 😉 But a word of caution, DUMB goals have the potential to leave you feeling inadequate and unsuccessful. When it comes to setting and reaching goals, I recommend combining your DUMB goals with your SMART ones.

DUMB goals are:

Dreams: Your Time magazine and Jamaica goals fall into this category. Making the Fortune 500 and franchising out your business model are probably also dreams at this point.

Unrealistic: Unlike SMART goals, which have potential to be reached, a DUMB goal might just be a pipe dream. But you know and understand that when you make it.

Motivational: DUMB goals are the ones that keep you going when life gets dull. No one hops out of bed in the morning pumped up with the idea that they are going to increase sales by 10% this month. Whoo hoo! No, it’s these big dreams – these DUMB goals – that get you excited.

Big: When you are being DUMB, it is time to think big. The sky’s the limit here…but again, the key is to understand when you make these goals that it may be a long time that you reach them. Dream big but keep your perspective too.

You can think of DUMB goals as catering to your right brain – that part of you that yearns for the open road and an open schedule. SMART goals, on the other hand, appeal to your left brain – the logical, analytical you.

Together, SMART and DUMB goals can keep you motivated while providing a step-by-step plan to success.

What about you? Are you SMART or DUMB?

Share some of your goals!

Image via Search Engine People Blog on Flickr

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