I’m sure you have all heard of the SMART acronym for the setting of goals and objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. SMART was authored by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham and first appeared in issue 70 of Management Review in November 1981.
There is nothing wrong with SMART it has been very successful and served people well but it has also become something of a cliché. This year Michael Hyatt in his annual goal setting program Five Days to Your Best Year Ever has created a new acronym AACTION, (and yes the double A’s deliberate!) AACTION recognises and corrects some of the problems associated with SMART goal setting.
No goal can be achieved without AACTION. Get clear, get motivated get started .
So what does the acronym AACTION stand for;
There have been many academic studies on the effectiveness of writing down your goals, not least those ascribed to a study of Harvard students but many of them simply didn’t happen they are urban myths that have been debunked. However, In a study done by Gail Matthews Professor of Psychology at Dominican University, she found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals by the simple act of writing them down, even without action plans, reviewing or sharing these goals.
But in order for these goals to be actionable we have to give ourselves a direct instruction and so we have to start with a strong and direct action verb e.g. stop, run, write, quit, finish etc. We should not make the mistake of watering down these important instructions to ourselves by starting with a wishy-washy ‘to be’ verb.
It is important that all of our goals are aligned in three important aspects of our lives
a. Aligned to the seasons of our life. All of us are in different seasons of life as well as being in a different season in the different aspects of our lives.
It is also important to understand that seasons don’t necessarily follow age and accordingly we are not all in the same season as those around us and so we should be careful not align ourselves with other people just because they maybe of a similar age and in a similar situation.
b. Aligned to our values. We need to align our actions with our personal value system and those actions and behaviours that we hold dear to ourselves. Sometimes we come under pressure from social norms to accept goals and objectives that are not aligned with our personal values and this will sabotage your efforts.
c. The Goals are aligned amongst themselves. It is vital that we ensure that there is no conflict between the different goals in the different areas of our lives. For example, you should not focus on the financial or vocational aspects of your life to the detriment of all other areas, it is important to realise that it is unlikely that you will achieve a balance in all areas of your life but they must be aligned
I use the following areas you may less but probably not more
- Physical– Time spent developing and maintaining your body. e.g. – diet, exercise, lifting weights, sleep
- Emotional –Time spent understanding who you are and your awareness, control, and expression of your emotions.
- Developmental– Time spent assessing your skills and qualities, in the realisation and maximisation of our potential.
- Relational– Time spent with our loved ones. e.g. – spouse, significant other, parents, children, extended family & friends
- Personal – Time spent doing things that we specifically enjoy. e.g.- hobbies and R&R
- Vocational– Time spent doing the thing that is your calling in life and probably produces an income.
- Spiritual– Time spent becoming conscious of our inner being and consciousness beyond our ordinary existence.
- Financial – Time spent focusing on controlling your money and growing your wealth e.g.-budget, investing, saving
In the SMART acronym, the R stands for realistic; this is where I believe AACTION is more appropriate to achieving success. We do ourselves a disservice by setting realistic goals. Let me explain, I’m not saying that we should be setting goals that are clearly beyond our capability and capacity, but these goals should be challenging. Unless we set goals that stretch us and that take us out of our comfort zone these are likely to be unfulfilling, after all, nothing worthwhile ever happens when we are in our comfort zone. Unless we experience a degree of fear, discomfort and doubt over the goals, we are not pushing ourselves enough, we need to lean into these feelings, embrace them, not shy away from them if they are really worth our time and effort.
4. Time bound
Without a deadline, a goal is nothing more than an aspiration or dream. Without a deadline there is no urgency and urgency is the key issue if we want to grow. With time-bound measures we can track our progress and adjust our course as necessary in navigating our way to completion of the goal.
Our goals cannot be boring they need to be personally compelling, inspirational and exciting if we are to be motivated and passionate about achieving success. In the journey towards the achievement of our goals, there will be times where we will be dispirited and disheartened, without motivation and inspiration we will surely fail. We have to truly excited and engage our whole selves if we are to be willing to put the hard work in that will be necessary to achieve our goals.
In the truly great sports of the world, no one in the audience is ever in any doubt when a goal has been achieved. In the same way, we need to know when we have hit the goal and so it needs to be specific and measurable. We need to know when to celebrate our wins and feel like we have achieved. We need a clear yardstick by which to measure progress, after all, we’ve all heard of the adage that ‘what you can’t measure you can’t manage’
Lastly, our goals should be narrow. By narrow, I mean very specific with what we want to accomplish and not generic. For example, it would not be inspiring or challenging for me to set a goal that says’ I want to lose some weight’ we need to narrow this down to saying I need to lose 10Kg’s of Fat by 1 June 2016 or I need to achieve 15% total body fat by 12 September 2106. This is very specific and it will be unequivocally clear whether we have achieved our goal or not when the Time comes.
In order to write your goal effectively, we need AACTION. What are you doing to take AACTION?