SMART Goals

I’ve written a lot about SMART goals and I thought I would use this post to explain what I mean by that, for those of you who might not be familiar with the acronym. I first learned of SMART goals in a PE class I had to take while pursing my recent degree. At the time, I didn’t pay as close attention as I should have. I’ve always been a goal setter. I routinely set 1, 5 10 and 25 year goals and review them every year right after New Years. I know this is a somewhat cheesy time, with all the New Years resolutions being made and soon dropped, but I don’t have an active lifestyle in January and so it’s a good time for me to review how things are going.

I was taught to make goals by a high school teacher. He said it was good to have a roadmap of where you wanted to go, so you could use it to help make difficult life decisions. That sounded good to me. I knew at the time where I wanted to end up… Academy Award winning actress with a long list of movie credits to my name. If you’ve been reading the rest of my blog, you’ll know right away that somewhere along the line I detoured far away from that path. It was on my goals list, but I never even came close to achieving it and there’s a good reason why.

In the past, I made goals much the same way most people do. I thought about where I wanted to be in 1-25 years and wrote it all down as “goals”. Maybe I wanted to be a millionaire in 10 years? I would simple write down, “have a net worth of $1,000,000” on the 10-year page and move on. The goals were general, had no supporting interim achievements, and the time limits were rather fuzzy. That “have a net worth of $1,000,000” goal has been on my 10-year page since high school. Since I wasn’t near achieving it, I never moved it to the 5-year or 1-year page. It was more like a wish than a goal, and that was the problem with the vast majority of my goals. Sure, I achieved a few of my goals here and there… most often the shorter term goals that I was already working on and had a plan to finish.

When I completed the PE class, I quickly forgot about SMART goals. After all, they were only for fitness and who had time for any of that in architecture school! I was busy, busy, busy and my singular goal was to graduate, first with my bachelors and then with my masters degree. I knew exactly what I needed to do to achieve my goal. I showed up for the classes I was signed up for, I did the work to the best of my ability, I increased my abilities, and then I was permitted to take the next semester of classes and repeat the process until I finished. School is an easy goal. Sure the work is hard and the hours can be brutal, but most schools have the path laid out for you… all you have to do is walk along the path until you reach the finish line. Many others have walked the same path and achieved the same result. When you are setting your own goals, the path isn’t always so clear.

In my 5th year professional practice class, our professor asked us to write goals and whipped out that long forgotten SMART acronym. This time, I paid closer attention. Turns out, it wasn’t just for fitness, but for all goal setting exercises. The key to a SMART goal is that it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely…. SMART! This is what my goal setting needed all along and is why getting through college is such a good example of how to set a goal. Lets break this down.

  • Graduating college is specific. It requires you complete a set number of credit hours in specific subjects, maintain a specific grade point average while doing this, and show up to class a minimum number of days. It is incredibly straightforward in its specificity.
  • It is measurable. At any point along the way, you can measure your progress, You can determine how many credit hours you’ve completed and what your GPA is. You also know exactly how many credit hours you have yet to achieve.
  • It is attainable. As I said before, many people before you have made it through the process and many will make it through after you as well.
  • Is it relevant? Not every career requires a college degree, but for me, architecture does. If I want to be an architect, I have to have that degree to even begin the testing. Therefore, in my case, it’s relevant. It’s aligned with my other goals and essential to their achievement.
  • It is timely. There is a time limit. A bachelors degree is supposed to take 4 years, and in my case, the master of architecture degree was scheduled to take another one year. You could argue that some people take breaks, or do fewer classes at a time and stretch out their degree, but an architecture degree doesn’t make that option very practical. In architecture school, you take a studio class each semester. Each studio follows the one before it and is only offered one time a year. This means that you put yourself an entire year behind if you don’t stay on schedule. This timely schedule forced me to hustle down the path instead of talking my time. Regardless, when you take on college, you usually have a target graduation date and a plan to achieve it.

You don’t start college by just opening up the course book and playing a game of eenie-meenie – minie – moe or picking classes on a whim. If you just said, “I want a degree” and started taking whatever classes you wanted to, you might one day take enough of the right classes to earn a degree. However, this is not the best strategy… it’s not SMART.

The same is true for my $1,000,000 goal. If I keep putting it on the 10-year list, I may one day achieve it in spite of myself, but I’m not as likely to. The better option is to look at those who have done it before me and figure out a clearly defined SMART path that I can take to achieve my financial goal. I’m currently still partially in the research phase of this goal, but I’ve also taken positive action in several areas. I’ve set up my accounts to generate long-term passive income, instead of just paying my bills today. I’ve invested money in BitConnect and have watched it achieve a 30% ROI in only 45 days. I’ve taken specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely steps towards ensuring my achievement of this goal and the goal itself has changed. My goal is now to achieve this first million in 3-1/2 years and I have the skeleton of a plan to get me there. I will flesh out this plan as I learn more from my research.

This is the better path to actually creating a set of goals and not just a simple wish list. My next step is to take all of the other items on my lists and transform them into SMART goals. I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion and you will consider transforming some of your own goals into SMART goals. Please tell me about them as you go along.

By the way, I ate the frog again this morning! Day 2 of accomplishing my treadmill and clutter reduction goals… Woot!!! Now THAT is SMART!

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I Ate the Frog!

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” or alternately, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This is a quote popularized in the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, which provides multiple strategies for procrastinators to get over their procrastination and get things done. I am a procrastinator and this morning I ate the frog… in fact, I ate two of them.

Yesterday I talked about how I was neglecting my SMART Goals in certain areas of my Level 10 Life, including the Health & Fitness and Physical Environment categories, and needing to focus more on those areas. I was specifically struggling with a seemingly simple goal of getting on the treadmill for 10 minutes each day and getting through the additional accumulated clutter in my home due to emptying my storage unit.

This morning I got on the treadmill and walked for 10 minutes before I even allowed myself to have my daily cup of coffee. It felt good to get it done and I checked it off as complete with a little more flourish than normal. It made me happy to see this accomplished. Many of you may be thinking,, “Only 10 minutes walking on a treadmill? That’s nothing. Why don’t you try for more?” Well, I have tried for more…. and failed. I’ve had a gym membership for 5 years, but almost never go. I used the excuse that it took too long to drive to the gym, work out, shower and drive home. It was an easy excuse because my lifestyle at the time didn’t allow for that amount of time to devote to anything for myself, including for my health. So, last fall I bought a treadmill. It was expensive, but I figured after spending that much money on equipment and having it conveniently located in the living room of my home, I would have no more excuses. Yet, I seemed to find them in spades. I didn’t have time at the end of the day; I had to get up too early to drive an hour to school every day; and I didn’t want to walk for an hour every day. Remember, I’ve allowed myself to get used to a very studious, sedentary lifestyle. This is why my writing and reading goals are so much easier to accomplish. So when I devised my fitness goal, I wanted to make sure it was something that would create a habit. It’s not going to make me lose 50 pounds by January, but it will develop the habit of getting on the treadmill every day and walking. The only problem was, even that was challenging me, until I made it a frog that needed eating. Yep, walking for 10 measly minutes on my treadmill is currently one of my frogs. But today, I did it. I felt a lot better about myself than I have in weeks just by eating that darn frog. Tomorrow, I will get up and eat it again… before my coffee. The next, and the next day, and for many days after that, I will get up and eat that 10-minute frog until it doesn’t feel like a frog anymore, but more like a lifestyle. When that happens, I’ll gradually increase my time. For now, getting on it and walking for those 10-minutes is enough.

The second goal was to reduce clutter and I ate that frog after I enjoyed my coffee to wash down the first. I went through 4 drawers of clothes in my bedroom and 2 boxes from the storage unit. I now have a whole garbage bag for Goodwill, a few well organized drawers full of clothes I actually enjoy wearing, and a little more space to get around my dining room. I spent an hour on this project today and didn’t find it to be as difficult as I was imagining in my head. I will put in another hour tomorrow morning and then take a day off. I’ll continue with the 2-days on / 1-day off schedule until I’ve made my way through the whole house. What’s more successful than before? I used to wait until I thought I had time to complete a whole room before I would start and then I would be frustrated by the time I was finished because it always took longer than I anticipated. This time I set a timer instead and focused on smaller areas. I worked on one drawer at a time until the timer went off and then spent a couple minutes over the hour organizing that last drawer. Like with the treadmill, I felt accomplished. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but by focusing on smaller chunks, it no longer seems so overwhelming.

How are you coming along with your goals? Are you feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start on them? If so, maybe you have to find a way to break them down into smaller pieces so they are manageable and start taking small actions in the right direction. If I can do it, I know any of you can.

I leave you with the fortune cookie from my dinner tonight, which I think is actually quite fitting for this point in my life, maybe in yours as well. Feel free to share with me.

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Needing to Focus

As I review the first couple weeks of my Level 10 Life, I’m noticing some disturbing trends. It seems that certain habits aren’t getting done at all and others are done every day. Writing this blog is an exercise designed to improve the career segment of life and it has been going well. I’m enjoying the writing process and hopefully you’re enjoying being along on this journey with me. Reading 30 minutes every day is designed to improve my personal development sector and something I generally don’t have a problem accomplishing. But there are other categories, especially 3 of them, where I’ve given myself the simplest habits and still can’t seem to accomplish them.

In the family and friends category, I find myself avoiding my “call or meet a friend once a week” habit despite it’s apparent simplicity. Only, it isn’t simple. You see, as I reflect on why I’m not making those calls, I’m realizing that many of my friends are in very negative places right now and I’m struggling to not feel drained. I am usually the one who reaches out and then I feel emotionally drained after the conversation from being supportive of all the stuff they’re going through and never getting reciprocal support for the things I’m struggling with. While I do want to continue to be there for those friends, I’m considering an amendment to the SMART goal. I’m thinking my goal needs to be to find additional friends who can be mutually supportive to balance out my time with the other friends. On the surface, this feels selfish, but as I look closer, I think it’s probably better for all of us. No one deserves to have a friend who is resentful of the time they give you, and I’ve become that; I’ve become resentful of one-sided relationships that take away all of my energy. In order to be a better friend, I need to stop relying on those relationships for something they aren’t giving and expecting to get something our of them that I’m not. I am not really sire if changing goals is “technically” allowed, but I think this is a good call.

Which brings us to the Health and Fitness category. I’m struggling with 2 of the 3 goals in this category and doing pretty well at the third. The problem is, that this category is one I feel really needs a lot of work right now. I quit smoking 5 years ago, when I started school, and have doubled in size since then. I get out of breath easily, ache all over, and feel like if my body & health don’t get the attention, I might not live long enough to accomplish the things on my bucket list. I’m just now starting to have grandchildren and I want to be around, and actively able, to participate in their lives for quite some time. So for the remainder of this week, I’ll be heavily focused on the 3 SMART goals for that category. I will be getting on the treadmill for at least 10 minutes, 5 days each week. I will be getting to sleep (or at least laying in bed in the quiet dark trying to sleep) by midnight each night. I will continue to restrict my calorie window to no more than 10 hours. The 10-hour calorie window has been going well, but neither of the other 2 have happened a single time in the last 3 weeks and that just cannot go on. For the next couple weeks, these will be my priority and I will “Eat the Frog” by trying to accomplish the treadmill first thing in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.

The third area I’m currently struggling with is the Physical Environment category. This was going quite well initially. You might remember reading about emptying out my storage unit and letting most of it go. The only problem is, I brought home some of the more valuable and unique items with the intention of selling them and they are now cluttering my daily personal space. I need to spend a day photographing and posting these items for sale so they can move on to new homes where they will be useful or bring their new owners joy. Their presence (this overwhelming clutter) has also alerted me to the added items I have laying around the house that are not useful, or beautiful and don’t bring me joy. So after everything is photographed and posted for sale, I need to go through every corner of the house again and purge the clutter. I think once the physical clutter is gone, I will feel much happier in my physical space and hopefully be able to focus better on the other habits I need to work on.

So those are my 3 struggles and how I plan to tackle them in the next few weeks. I hope you will stick around to hold me accountable here and maybe find a couple things you need to work on as well. If you are looking for someone to be accountable to, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll check in periodically to see how you are coming along. I hope we can all help one another get closer to lives we want and deserve!

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2017 Road Trip – Day 1

The road trip was a lot of fun. I feel like we accomplished quite a bit in a very short amount of time. Here are the final stats:

  • Elapsed time: 5 days, 4 nights
  • States visited: 7 (Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana)
  • Major Cities visited: 2 (St. Louis, Memphis)
  • Miles driven: 1430
  • Steps taken: 34,438 (we did really well the first couple days, then fizzled out)
  • Attractions/Sites visited: over 20
  • Hard Rock Shot Glasses added to collection: 2 (St. Louis & Memphis)

In addition, we stayed pretty close to our $1000 budget for the whole thing.

So you may be wondering what all we did. I’ll touch a little on the first leg, day one, here.

We left Michigan and travelled about 2 hours before getting out to stretch our legs at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. We did a short (about an hour) hike to St. Louis Canyon. It was beautiful, even though they’ve had a bit of a dry spell and the water fountain was actually more of a trickle. Starved Rock is easily a day, weekend or even week-long trip on its own, but we have both been before and the purpose of our stop was just to stretch our legs a bit.

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We continued on for about another 2 hours before stopping for lunch and a quick drive through Springfield, IL. It’s the capital of the state and worth a look if you’re driving nearby. We found the beautiful capital building… architecture geek moment.

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About 45 minutes after leaving Springfield, we arrived at Cahokia Mounds. It’s the site of a native American city that was actually larger than London in the 1200’s. Unfortunately the interpretive center had closed just before we arrived, so we didn’t get to learn as much about it as we’d hoped; but the park was still open and we were able to climb the insane amount of stairs up the top of 10-story tall Monk’s Mound.

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It was from the top of this mound that we got our first glimpse of our destination for the day… St. Louis., Missouri. Even though it was pretty cloudy at this point, the skyline was definitely visible; we knew we were close.

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Before we left the Cahokia Mounds, I hopped online quickly to book us a hotel. We only had about 15 minute left to drive, so the Cahokia site would be easily accessible to anyone on a visit to St. Louis. Our last minute hotel, Hotel Lumiere, turned out to be quite beautiful with a large indoor courtyard and attached to a casino.

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We arrived in the city, checked into our hotel and walked out into the historic Laclede’s Landing neighborhood to find some supper. There aren’t a lot of options there right now (although there is a lot of construction), but Morgan Street Brewery turned out to be a good choice… lucky for us, because not much was open.

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After a nice supper, we tucked in for the night, ready for a full day of sight-seeing in St. Louis the next day. We saw the Arch from a distance this evening, but in the morning we will be going up inside… stay tuned…