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2 Ways of Setting Goals Without Being SMART

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How to set goals

When you are looking to set your very first life goals and start to do some research, chances are, you’ll discover a method called the “SMART” goal setting strategy very early on. Sure, this is a great method that you can use in order to ensure each of the goals that you set can be achieved, but the SMART method can also be a little complicated for those who are not used to the entire process.

Furthermore, a lot of people are just looking for a way they can set up a few goals in the simplest way possible and then strive toward reaching them. The good news is that there is more than just one way to go about setting goals.

While the SMART method is certainly one of the more popular options that you can opt for, you can also go with any of the other options that people have developed and still be able to reach the goals you wish to achieve in life effectively.

Plus, if you’re used to the SMART method, introducing a few alternative methods often stimulates different thinking patterns, which in turn may expand your thinking or scope of goals!

Here are 2 Alternative Goal-Setting Strategies To the SMART Method:

1. Simple Goal Setting Strategy

First up is the easiest option that you can opt for if you wish to set goals without having to go through a time-consuming process – a simple goal setting strategy. This primarily involves setting your goal in a specific timeframe, and then determining what needs to be done for you to be able to achieve that particular goal.

With a simple goal setting strategy, you start by defining the goal you want to achieve as specifically as possible. Try to avoid goals that are too vague like “I want to save some money.” Be specific, like “I want to save $5000 for a new car” or “I want to save $2000 to install new kitchen cupboards.” When you are specific, you know exactly what you are striving towards. This also makes it easier to know exactly what needs to be done and keeps you focused.

Afterwards, you need to determine an appropriate time frame. Specify when you are going to start implementing actions to help you reach the goal and also when you wish to achieve the goal.

Be realistic when it comes to setting a timeframe – if you need to save up $2000, but you can only spare $200 per month, don’t expect your goal to be reached within just a three-month period, for example. Unless you’re going to drastically change habits or start a side hustle for extra income.

Finally, determine what you need to do, what actions you need to take, and what should happen between the start and finish date of your goal. Action planning is often overlooked when setting goals, however it is proven to be one of the most valuable behaviors that contribute towards success in meeting goals.

Write down every step of the process in order to make things as simple as possible for yourself. This way, you’ll be able to check back on the list at any time in order to see what you currently need to do, and what actions to do next if you wish to achieve the goal you have set.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

2. CLEAR Goal Setting Strategy

The CLEAR Goal Setting Strategy is similar to the SMART one. It has also been growing in popularity with many people moving toward this method. There are various reasons for this, but the flexibility offered by the CLEAR method is one of the main reasons people are starting to convert their SMART goal worksheet into a CLEAR goal worksheet.

CLEAR stands for:

  • Collaborative – Who else do I need involved? Who is my core team? Who am I serving? Why do these connections matter?
  • Limited – What is the scope? How can I keep focused? When do I start? And when do I need results by?
  • Emotional – Does it serve my larger purpose? Does it meet my needs? Does it stimulate me?
  • Appreciable – What are the small actions? How to make this more actionable? What are my stepping stones?
  • Refinable – What do I see changing? What paths or options do I have, and when? Can the goals change as I change, or my circumstances change?

It’s important to note at this point that the CLEAR strategy was mainly invented to assist businesses where teams need to work together to achieve a specific goal. This, however, does not mean that the CLEAR method cannot be used in your own life to set personal goals for yourself.

When you set a goal with this method in mind, the ultimate goal or the big picture that you are aiming for should have a few qualities:

  • Both duration and scope of the goal should be limited – in other words, you should be able to limit the amount of time it would take you to reach the goal, and the goal should be specific enough for you to understand what you are aiming for truly.
  • The goal should have an emotional connection for you. Something that has meaning for you as a person. If your goal is to lose weight, then the emotional connection will likely be related to your own health, how you feel about yourself, and how other people view you.
  • The goal should be specific, but, at the same time, be flexible. Life is unpredictable – so if anything changes in the period of time that you are striving to achieve a specific goal, then the goal you have set should be adjustable. You need to be able to make modifications to the goal in order to accommodate the specific changes that have occurred in your life.

“Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor.” – Brian Tracy

Even though the SMART goal setting method is very popular, it’s not the only option out there for people who are looking to set their first life goals. If you are not too keen on the SMART method, then look at the alternatives listed. They are all very powerful and will be just as effective in helping you achieve the goals.

How do you go about setting your goals? Share your processes with us below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Greg Dorban is a Marketer, Educator, Investor and Coach. Having grown from an intern to business owner, he now leads strategy at a multi-national, award winning marketing agency. Greg also helps other millennials achieve more success, wealth and happiness in life. You can check out his Career Accelerator Program here.

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What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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