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How The S.M.A.R.T. Technique Took Me From Good To Great

Justin Sullivan / Staff

Goals.

We all have them.

Have you told anyone about yours?

Have you written them down?

Is your goal S.M.A.R.T.?

Everyone has a dream of being a bigger and better version of themselves. It’s human nature to do so. What separates the wheat from the chaff however, is those who set goals and devise a plan to accomplish them.

Everyone has a dream of being a bigger and better version of themselves.

Goals are inherit within sport, whether it’s personal goals, team goals or organisational goals. You may personally want to achieve a time or place on a podium. The team may want to finish with a certain overall standing. The organisation may want to produce the most consistent performances over time.

Goals are in essence a dream you wish to turn into a reality. They narrow an athlete's mind in to understanding the steps involved in accomplishing their vision. Without a properly designed plan to achieve that goal, an athlete could well be training very hard, but not very smart. It’s for this reason that I am constantly shocked by the number of athletes who don’t properly prepare and map out specific goals and targets for themselves.

We are all very good at seeing the big picture, but what we often neglect is the journey – the series of events that will ultimately culminate in the success of the goal.

People often come to me with their goals, which are usually sporting or fitness based to ‘check’ if they are right.

“My goal is to lose weight”

“In 2017 I’m going to get fitter”

“I’m making the A team this year”

These are all great goals, and the fact that these individuals have come up with and shared their ambitions is a great start.

Broad vs. Specific

But these three goals are far too broad. My personal understanding of what getting fitter in 2017 entails will be vastly different to what yours is. A broad goal opens us up to the dangers of potentially changing the original vision/dream. This change in our ‘vision’ can occur from realising how hard attaining the original goal may be, with our targets possibly never being realistic in the first place, or perhaps us never putting a timeline on when we aimed to achieve this goal.

A broad goal opens us up to the dangers of potentially changing the original vision.

It’s for this reason I always suggest using what has become known as the S.M.A.R.T. technique. This technique has shaped my own goals for years, both in and away from sport. I’ll break it down for you step by step, but let me preface it by saying that each section moulds and interacts with the others. It is therefore important that as you work through these steps, that you don’t look at each letter individually but as a working part of a whole process.

The Steps

S: Specific

If written down, your goal should be clearly and easily understood by anyone who reads it.

M: Measurable

Does your goal have a measurable aspect to it? Distance, weight, time, etc.

A: Achievable

Is your goal physically attainable? Myself, for example, as a 105kg, 6ft4 rugby player, becoming a champion horse jockey is definitely out of the question…

R: Realistic

Is your goal realistic? Are you able to achieve the measurable parameters and do so within your designated timeframe?

T: Time-Based

How long do you have to achieve the goal?

S: Steps

What are the next steps and research needed to achieve the goal?

Soooooo How Do I Do This Goal Setting?

This quick example should make it a bit clearer. I’ve taken two of the most common goals I hear and help friends and family with everyday.

  1. Eat Healthier
  2. Get Fitter

From the outset, these two goals are riddled with potential misinterpretation and invite laziness coupled with a distinct lack of accountability. By applying the S.M.A.R.T. technique, you’ll see how they become more clearly defined and improve the overall end result.

Neither of our two goals are very specific. A professional athlete wanting to be fitter is obviously not going to be the same for Joe Blogs office worker wanting to get fitter. So let’s narrow them down a bit.

By applying the S.M.A.R.T. technique, your goals become more clearly defined


Specific

  • I want to reduce the amount of take-out I eat and start to eat more vegetables
  • I want to be able to run a marathon

Excellent. Our two goals are now specific to the point that anyone who was to read them understands exactly what we are trying to achieve. The downside of this statement is that again a reduction in take-out is left up to interpretation of the reader, and a marathon could be run in 12 hours with a break every 2km if the runner wanted to. This is why we need a measurable aspect.

Measurable

  • I want to reduce take-out to zero times a week and have vegetables at every meal
  • I want to run a marathon at an average pace of 5min per kilometre

Happy days. Our goals are taking shape. We’ve now specified our goals, and by adding a measurable component created a sense of accountability. The rest of the S.M.A.R.T. technique is for checking and to make sure it’s all achievable. This is where the Achievable and Realistic aspect come into play. I usually nail them together.

Achievable/ Realistic

  • Eating vegetables every meal is attainable. However, my mornings are very rushed and cooking vegetables may not be realistic. Therefore, I want to reduce take-out to zero times a week and have vegetables 2 out of 3 meals.
  • Competitive runners achieve 4hr marathons which is roughly 6min/km. The record was run at 2.55/km so the goal is attainable. With my build and running background however, I want to run a marathon at an average pace of 6:30/km.

Our goal is nearly complete. We’ve shaped them to the point that we could nearly go out and achieve them. We now just need to increase the accountability. We do this by making our process time based.

Time Based

  • How long are we going to try this new diet out for? It’s unrealistic to say forever, so let’s say, I want to reduce take-out to zero times a week & have vegetable 2 out of 3 meals a day for the next 3 months.
  • I want to be able to run the Sydney Marathon on the 17th September 2017 at an average pace of 6:30/km.

We could easily leave our goals there. And many people do. Surely there has to be an aspect of how we achieve these goals though? We can’t just go headfirst into the deep end without a plan. This will lead to one of two things, either failure, or at best an aspect of working hard but not at all smart. So let’s go through our next Step.

Steps

  • Learn new recipes
  • Food Prep on Sundays
  • Cook extra for healthy lunch next day
  • Create weekly meal plan and buy ingredients on Sunday
  • Get new running shoes
  • Get heart rate monitor to help with training
  • Talk to a coach about running program
  • Do smaller races in lead up to final event
     

There we have it. Two perfectly constructed goals that have narrowed our vision and left us accountable to a plan. I’ve made both quite brief for blogging purpose so feel free to add more information when you do yours.

Cory Lum / Stringer


What Now?

So we’ve written down our goals and feeling all pumped up ready to go out and achieve them. Remember that feeling because I promise you it’s going to fizzle. So, my last little tip, check yourself. I literally put calendar reminders in my phone that remind me to take stock of my goals. When I do, I sit down and see how I’m going against the Steps I originally planned.

It’s ok if you’re not tracking too well; it’s hard to predict exactly what the process will be from day one. By revisiting your goals and seeing how you’re going, it allows you to shift and re-attack them from a new angle. You’ve already got the measurable, you’ve got the time-period, rejig the steps to still make them possible!