Don't worry, you don't have to throw out all of your goal-setting resources just yet. Teaching about the importance of setting a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Oriented goal is still an important part of the process. In fact, I still use SMART goals when developing micro accomplishments on the journey to an athlete's ultimate vision.
Each time you check off a SMART goal you will feel a sense of accomplishment and know that you are progressing in the right direction. But what about when you don't accomplish that SMART goal? It is easy for the pragmatic response to look at where you went wrong, correct and move forward. The problem with this standalone approach is that emotion controls all behavior. So while from an outside perspective, or a very small percentage of the population who are neurotically consumed by the process of their goals, this concept seems to work. When you put yourself in the shoes of a hockey player who has been putting in an extra hour each day on his wrist shot, but hasn't scored in 10 games, the prospect of getting excited for his next training session may become daunting.
Change things up: Try setting a DUM goal. A DUM goal taps into a human being's best friend or worst enemy, emotion:
Descriptive: Your goal must be deeply embedded with detail. Write a story, draw a picture, create something that when you think about it, you absolutely light up! In fact Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos banned using Powerpoint presentations in meetings and instead requires each participant in a meeting to quietly read a "six-page memo that's narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs and nouns." Storytelling has been a part of human culture since 700 B.C. and there is something telling about that. Why not use the art of storytelling to paint the picture of the life you want and evoke the emotions you need to get there?
Unbelievable: This one is my personal favorite. As a teacher and coach of teenage athletes I see the power one's identity has in shaping behavior. Teenagers and adolescents have the amazing power of coming back from a weekend with a whole new identity, which can be positive or negative in its own right, while adults usually find themselves on the other side of the spectrum as their identity stagnates into their role in life (as a parent, profession etc.)
Regardless of where you find yourself on the spectrum, the identity you "choose" for yourself has a profound impact on your day-to-day behaviors, as you will unconsciously continue to behave in ways that justify who you identify yourself to be. The purpose of writing an "unbelievable" goal is to break the mold of what you think is possible and begin to shape your identity around the ultimate vision in your life. As referenced in my last article, the amygdala and frontal lobe work together to keep you focused on and moving toward situations and behaviors that lead to the achievement of a goal, while simultaneously causing you to ignore and avoid situations and behaviors that don't. This in conjunction with people's tendency to overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can in 10 years, speaks to the importance of creating an unbelievable goal. There is truth in the old adage of if you don't believe it, you can't achieve it.
Meaningful: This may be the most important one in today's day and age. With social media permeating our society, the concept of social comparison has become an increasingly important one to consider. It is nearly impossible to scroll through a news feed without seeing someone seeming to be having a better day than yours.
Whether it is aesthetic, social, economic etc., it is hard to avoid comparing your current situation to those you see through a filtered and carefully selected view of themselves. Social comparison has many implications for us and one of these is the goals we aspire to and the lives we want to live. One of the greatest tools to combat this influence is to take some quiet time to write and reflect. Whether a vision board, free association writing or other technique, take some time to ensure that the goal you are setting is intangibly linked to your core values and intrinsic vision.
Let's consider the example of weight loss:
- Specific - 10 pounds
- Measurable - Yes
- Actionable - Dietary and exercise adaptations
- Realistic - 1 Pound a week
- Time Oriented - 10 weeks
- Descriptive - The focus here is to get into the details of the story that will act as a visualization of you realizing your goal. On a vacation in Australia, the ocean extends for what seems like forever. I look into the miracle of the clear blue waters and vibrancy on the coral reef and feel the sun warm my body. My ears perk up hearing Ottis Redding gently playing from the speakers. This is the intended recovery phase after 10 weeks of hard training to reach my goal.
- Unbelievable - The focus here is to bring to mind something that is almost unbelievable to fathom from where you stand setting your goal. As I take my shirt off to dive into the water, it hits me, I am proud of my physical appearance. Thinking back to when I wanted to lose weight seems like another lifetime. As I dive into the ocean I feel strong and confident as my strength and cardio has improved along with my aesthetics. I take a deep breath, dive under the water and take a second with the world completely quiet and finally congratulate myself for every single challenge I overcame in order to be here right now.
- Meaningful - The focus here is to unearth what this goal means to you. Gone are the insecurities as I take my shirt off. I feel grounded in who I am as a person as my physical body is a representation of my health mentally and physically. I feel deeply proud that I am utterly comfortable in my own skin.
Although SMART goals definitely serve their purpose, I hope this article has touched on the importance of incorporating some DUM goals to help align yourself with your greater purpose. To provide a visual that may inspire you to get out your journal now consider this: a SMART goal is one that you can see your progress and overcome obstacles along the way to reaching your goal. A DUM goal is one that you feel in your chest, makes you smile when thinking about it as you go to sleep at night and makes you forget that your alarm has a snooze option when you wake up in the morning.
Photo Credit: grinvalds/iStock
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