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Setting SMART goals: A great way to inject purpose into your year


DATE: 01 February, 2021

I’m a glass half full guy. Every year I start the year full of optimism and excitement for what the year will bring. I also try set myself a few goals.

But this year was different. In December, two days before a planned three-week trip to Tasmania we went into lockdown on the Northern Beaches of NSW. I know there are worse places to be in lockdown, after all, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it was the ‘same old’ that got to me. I had been sitting at my dining room table since February and now I was having Christmas and new year at that same dining room table.

Work blended into holiday, which blended into Christmas, which blended into new year — none of which was helped by two weeks of wet weather. Before I knew it, I was back at work but minus the normal excitement, optimism, and expectancy which comes at the start of most years. At lunchtime on the first day, after going through all my emails, I felt an overriding need to kick myself up the backside and put the engine into gear.

Grabbing a handful of white board markers, I marched purposefully to one of the meeting rooms, closed the door and for two hours I wrote down two sets of SMART goals (more about that later) – one for business and one personal.

Those two hours kickstarted my year. It shifted my thinking. Three days later I had already put some of the goals into action, I was on my way.  I had purpose and direction.

From starting the year in a very ‘iffy’ frame of mind, I managed, in those two hours, to flick a switch in my brain. I now feel like I am seizing the year — the year is no longer directing me.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now and I was starting to let the uncertainty dictate terms. No longer.

Those who know me well will recognise uncertainty and lack of direction is not a characteristic of mine, but it was happening, and it was creeping insidiously into my life.

I took a conscious decision to show uncertainty a middle finger and it’s been the best thing I have done this year. It shifted my frame of mind for 2021 from idle into third gear and I’m excited about the potential to shift this into fourth and fifth gear as I work through my goals.     

SMART goals do not have to be complicated

I mentioned SMART goals earlier. Look it up if you want more detailed guidance but for me it is simple — I only have three personal and three business goals. Each has several actions. The key is they are real, measurable, clearly defined, some have numbers attached to them, some have names and most have a time by which I will do them. Because SMART goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

I shared my personal goals with my wife and after chatting about them I changed a few. I will do the same with my work ones with a peer at work. The point is once you’ve done them, share them with someone you trust but also someone who will question them.

The perspective my wife brought to my personal ones was invaluable. It not only made them stronger, but I now have an extra commitment to achieve them and someone else to hold me to account. This is important, we all have times when things go off track, we lose interest, we received a curved ball, and we feel we’re failing to achieve our goals. That’s the time to pull them out, share them again and ask for help or validation from your trusted family member or colleague.

There are three columns to my SMART Goals – Goals, Action and Outcome. I look forward to filling in the outcome column as I work through each goal.

I’m a lot more excited about the year than I was a week ago. Goal setting works, trust me, I’ve experienced it first-hand.

And, for a bit of extra excitement, you may want to throw in one mighty big stretch or audacious goal, one which takes you out of your comfort zone. Who knows if you write it down and visualise it you might just achieve it. I’m still pondering mine, but I’ll be sure to write it down once I have it.  Good luck with yours.