It's always good to get SMART

Growing up, I lost count the number of times that one of my parents (and the occasional teacher) said these words to me, "Don't you get smart with me, young man!"  Maybe you've heard those words, and you know exactly what they mean (if that's not the case, they mean "don't talk back" and/or "don't be a smart alec {we didn't use the other a-word}").

There does come a time for us, though,when we do need to get smart.  No, not sarcastic and smarmy, but actually intellectually engaged in making decisions based on prayer, thoughtful reflection, and quite often, the informed input of mentors, coaches, or friends we trust.

Over the past year and a half, I have become very engaged in continually setting goals for every area of life.  So much so, that I hardly had anything new related to "new years resolutions" to set.  My resolutions pertain to setting and reaching goals.  Resolve to set goals, then resolve to stick to the strategy to reach them.  This has become a continuous part of my life-style.

Recently, I've noticed few people admit to having New Years resolutions or setting goals for their lives.  The phrase, "don't let life pass you by while you're making plans," has come across my social media feed a few times, along with "while you're making plans for your life, I'm living mine."  Fun, happy-go-lucky philosophy for sure... and I certainly relate to the sentiment (being prone to my lucky going happy, myself).  While random amazing destinations can happen by chance, along with note-worthy experiences along the journey, I have found that if I hadn't at least made some plan of some kind, I would not have been where I was to experience that random goodness. You don't arrive where you want to be by accident. The cliche is true: failure to plan is planning for failure.

In order to set real goals, as opposed to dreams and aspirations, they need to be "SMART" goals.  The same is true when it comes to reaching goals.  I was introduced to the SMART acronym a while back, but over this past year, it has become a part of my lifestyle.

Set goals that are...
SPECIFIC.  "I want to read the Bible more this year" is not a goal, although it sounds good.  A goal would be, "I will read one chapter from the Bible every day." 1 chapter x 1 day = specific.

MEASURABLE. How would you measure, "I want to read my Bible more"? You can't really.  "More" than what... or who?  On the other hand, you could definitely measure "1 chapter every day."

ATTAINABLE. Something I did last year was set some goals that were not really attainable for me. I'm learning.  If you were to say, "I'm going to read the Bible cover-to-cover... today!" that would be an example of a Specific and Measurable goal, but definitely not Attainable.  An attainable goal could be, "I will read the entire Bible in this year."

REALISTICALLY HIGH.  Reading "one verse a day, every day this year," would certainly be a place to start for someone who isn't reading the Bible at all.  And it would certainly be attainable.  But would this goal really cause you to grow?  Does it cause you to stretch yourself? While goals need to be Attainable, they must also be high enough to cause us to work to reach them (and maybe we struggle with working for the things we desire?).  "I will read the entire Bible in this year" is a great example of a realistically high goal.  Take it from someone who studies and teaches the Bible for a living - this is a challenge!

TIME-BOUND. My favorite definition of a goal is "a dream with a deadline."  I have found that without a due-date, most things don't get done.  When we're missing that sense of accomplishment, it's often because we haven't set any goals and set a date to accomplish them.  "I will read the entire Bible in this year" is a goal that is time-bound, and requires a time-bound strategic reading plan.  Marking things off my goals list as the due-date arrives (and sometimes before!) has become something that brings me a great feeling of accomplishment and self-worth.

It doesn't have to be reading the Bible.  Setting SMART goals will work for every area of your life: physical, personal, relational, educational, occupational, financial, and spiritual.  Ready to get SMART?

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