Earlier this month, on my blog, I wrote about my discovery that there’s more than one way to set a goal. While I teach my students to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) and I try to do the same, I’ve discovered that sometimes a less-structured goal can work just as well.
Is this just an excuse for laziness? It could be. But I think that, in specific circumstances, a “mushy” goal can work just as well. When the thing we’re aiming to do is meaningful (especially if just doing it is rewarding) and we’re striving to fit it into our lives in an unstructured kind of way (e.g. to merely do more of something), a REAL goal (yes, I just made that up)* is less likely to backfire.
What’s a REAL goal?
Reasonable (we can imagine incorporating this into our lives)
Enticing (we are motivated to incorporate this into our lives)
Attainable (we can reasonably carve out a small space of time to make this happen)
Limited (we can enrich our lives even by doing this only a little at a time)
How can you set and achieve your REAL goals?
Make them meaningful. A REAL goal should be something you want to do because it matters to you. It should not be something someone else wants you to do or something you think you should do. REAL goals are just for you.
Make them accessible. When I made a Lenten resolution to read more, I put my Kindle in my purse so that wherever my purse went, books did, too. At home, I made sure to leave my print books and magazines where I could see them (not all of them at once, of course). In addition to making it easy to grab reading material, even when I had only a few minutes, visibility served as a reminder to make time for my REAL goal.
Accept the ebb and flow. If you want a structured goal that makes you accountable on a regular basis, set a SMART goal. If you want to gradually integrate something of importance into your life, set a REAL goal. Because REAL goals are not time-bound, it’s fine if we spend five minutes on them one day, fifteen minutes the next and, some days, we neglect them entirely. The fact that REAL goals are motivating in and of themselves works in their favor, nudging us to go back to them if we spend too much time away.
REAL goals weave richness into our lives by giving us the opportunity to step back and think about the things that matter to us. When our days seem like endless to-do lists, it’s hard to imagine that will ever change, and it can be a daily challenge to find time to do the things that make us uniquely who we are. REAL goals encourage us to do just that.
What REAL goal will you set for yourself?
*I did a quick search to see if REAL goals were already a thing, just not a thing I’d heard of. While some have written about the concept of real goals, I found nothing that matches my description.
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess