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Be S.M.A.R.T. About Your Goals

Cathy, my wife, had big time back surgery on February 28.

She had a laminectomy, a fusion of two disks, a stabilizing cage attached to her lower pelvis and 8 screws to hold the whole thing together.

She was advised by her doc that it takes six to twelve months to recover from this type of surgery.  He told her that she probably wouldn’t be doing any bicycling this summer.

But Cathy decided that she was going to be riding by August 1 – five months after surgery.  She exceeded that goal.  She took her first bike ride of the summer on Saturday July 20 and has been riding every day since.

And, while she might be a little angry at me for mentioning this, Cathy will be 65 this year.  That makes her recovery all the more impressive in my mind.

Besides being mentally and physical tough and working really hard on her physical therapy, you might want to know how Cathy accomplished this goal.

Simple, she set a S.M.A.R.T. goal for herself – Ride a bicycle for 30 minutes by August 1, five months after back surgery – and then did the work necessary to achieve her goal.

There is some great common sense career advice in Cathy’s story.  Your career success begins with S.M.A.R.T. goals.  These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results Oriented, and Time Specified.

  • Specific – Your goals should be targeted, not broad and general.  They should be unambiguous and explicit.
  • Measurable – You should be able to tell quickly and easily if you’ve met your goal.  Develop a set of criteria that will be indicative of success or failure in meeting each of your goals.
  • Achievable – Set goals that are challenging but not incredibly difficult to achieve.  A challenging goal is motivating, an impossible one is demotivating.
  • Results Oriented – Focus on results; avoid the activity trap.  Your goals should focus on the results you want to achieve, not the activities you will undertake to get there.  For example, “improved presentation skills” is a result; “participating in a presentation skills training program” is an activity.  It’s possible to complete activities and not achieve the desired result.
  • Time Specified – Set deadlines for achieving your goals.  Well-developed goals come with time limits.

Let’s take a look at how well Cathy’s goal meets the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.

Here’s the goal…Ride a bicycle for 30 minutes by August 1, five months after back surgery.

  • Specific?  Very.  Cathy committed to being in good enough physical condition to ride her bicycle, not a stationary bike, for at least 30 minutes by August 1.
  • Measureable? Yes on two fronts.  Cathy set a date, August 1, and she set a minimum time that she would ride.  There would be no ambiguity about whether or not she achieved her goal.
  • Achievable? Also yes.  She did it – the best proof of an achievable goal.  But from conversations with her physical therapist and personal trainer, she knew that she was in good shape prior to the surgery.  She also had some data from a similar experience a couple of years ago when she had a full shoulder replacement.  She recovered quicker than expected from that surgery.  So her goal of riding a bicycle for 30 minutes five months after surgery was realistic and achievable.
  • Results Oriented?  Yes here too.  Cathy didn’t set a goal of doing physical therapy (an activity).  She set a goal that was a result – a 30 minute bike ride.
  • Time Bound?  Yes.  She set a date of August 1.  Either she would ride for 30 minutes by then, or she wouldn’t.  She did.

Cathy set a goal that met all of the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and she met it.  I’m proud of her.

I remember the day after surgery when it was a major effort to get her out of bed and walking with a walker.  I brought her home three days after surgery when she was in great pain and using the walker.  A week after surgery she and I took a walk around the block.  She wasn’t using the walker then, she was using a cane.  I watched her do exercises at home and then work hard with her physical therapist – all with the goal of being able to do a 30 minute bike ride by August 1 and recovering quickly from major back surgery.

That’s the power of S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals – and doing the work necessary to achieve them — is an important key to creating the life and career success you deserve.  When you set goals you are harnessing the power of tweet 23 in my career advice book Success Tweets.  “Goals are important.  You can’t get what you want if you don’t know where you’re going.” Setting goals is the first step toward life and career success.  Sharpening your goals until they are clear and concise is the second step.

If you don’t have written goals for your life, and for this year, write some tonight.  Then check them against the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.  Make sure your goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.  If you take these two steps you’ll be well ahead in the career success game.  You’ll be a winner in the career success game if, like Cathy, you do the work necessary to achieve your goals.

Read more posts by Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., The Common Sense Guy, a career success coach, leadership consultant, motivational speaker, bestselling author and influential blogger for JenningsWire.