Beyond SMART: Other Things You Can Do to Achieve Your Goals
Updated: Oct 8
Employing the SMART method would have been a smart thing to do when I worked towards keeping my Air Force ROTC scholarship. But it’s not the only tool for achieving success. Here are three other things I could have done to make my path to achieving my goals a whole lot easier.
1. Define the Goal and Write it Down
Defining the goal is no different from the specific part of SMART.
You have to know what goal you’re working toward, otherwise you’re just moving around aimlessly. But you also have to understand what it takes to achieve that goal.
A person who sets a goal to run 26.2 miles needs to understand the amount of physical exertion, time and dedication it takes to be able to complete a run at that distance.
A person whose goal in life is to be a parent needs to understand all the responsibilities that come with being a parent.
A young girl who applies for a scholarship to pay for school needs to understand what it takes to keep that scholarship.
I had applied for the Air Force ROTC scholarship on a whim. My friend happened to have an application she wasn’t going to use and gave it to me. I figured why not? The worst that could happen was not getting the scholarship.
And if I did get the scholarship, school was paid for. And the service commitment simply meant I didn’t need to look for a job after graduation. My dad was a retired Air Force officer, so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.
I should have paid much more attention to the commitment required on my part to keep the scholarship. I had to maintain a certain GPA. I had to maintain fitness and health requirements. I had to take certain classes and go through military training. It wasn’t just free money.
According to Forbes, you have to know what you want to accomplish in order to define your goal.
I knew I wanted school paid for, but I was only prepared to do the first part - the application. But as a young teenager who was just trying to find a way to pay for college, I didn’t read the fine print. When you set out to achieve something you must understand not only what it takes to get there, but also what happens when you do.
It's easy to research information on what it takes to achieve a goal. You can scour the Internet or talk to other people who have done it before to learn what challenges they experienced and seek tips for success.
Once you’ve defined your goal, write it down. You’re more likely to commit to that goal if you’ve written it down. The act of writing down your goals will reinforce to you what your dreams are and can serve as a reminder of what you’re working toward. You should take it to the next step by writing a plan of action to achieve that goal.
2. Don’t Talk Yourself Out of the Goal
It was an exciting day when I found out I had earned a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship to study Chinese. The private university I had been accepted to was expensive and the scholarship would offset the costs greatly.
Award of the scholarship was contingent on a lot of things, but the biggest hurdle I saw was passing the fitness assessment by the time fall semester rolled around in order for tuition to get paid. Reading about the fitness requirements was nearly enough for me to quit. (In case anyone cares, the requirements at that time consisted of a 1.5 mile run, a 600 meter sprint, standing long jump, flexed-arm hang, sit-ups and push-ups.)
Fitness, exercise and sports were not my thing. When it came time during PE for team captains to pick their teams, I was always picked last. Who could blame them? I’m extremely athletically challenged. I basically spent my entire childhood avoiding anything that required physical exertion.
(Okay, so anyone who digs deep enough will find a photo of me on my freshman track team. I joined only because I heard being on a sports team was good for college applications and it was a sport that didn't require tryouts. I ran the 800 in four track meets. I made sure no one else had to come in last at any of those meets.)
By the time I graduated high school, the only exercise I got was walking from the far end of the parking lot into the grocery store where I worked. And it was only because employees were required to park that far away. Needless to say, I couldn’t do a single sit-up or push-up, or run a lap without my sides pinching.
But, I had a lot of money riding on this scholarship. I dedicated time in the summer after graduation to improving my abilities so I’d be ready to activate this scholarship. I went to a track near my home to run. I went irregularly, always finding excuses why I shouldn’t go: I ran yesterday, or it’s too windy to run today, and it's too hot to run today.
And if I actually made it to the track, I’d only run if I were alone. The moment someone else showed up to use the track, I’d stop and go home. Why let a stranger witness how slowly I run?
The summer passed quickly and before I knew it, I was out of time.
The week before the fall semester began, my ROTC detachment hosted a picnic to welcome all the freshmen. At this picnic, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in a practice fitness assessment. My heart sank as I watched the upperclassmen effortlessly push the ground, execute dozens of sit-ups like a bunch of synchronized whack-a-moles and sprint around a quarter mile track six times, like it was no big deal.
What had I gotten myself into? I was nothing like them. I was going to lose my scholarship before the semester even began. Why did I even think I was remotely qualified for this?
The thing was, I could have been ready. I spent too much time giving myself reasons not to work towards this simple goal when I should have just buckled down.
I talked myself out of working toward my goal on so many occasions that it hurt me in the end.
As John C. Maxwell states in his book Put Your Dreams to the Test, dreams are at greatest risk of never coming to fruition when the dreamer lacks confidence in themselves.
Notice how I stopped running whenever someone came to the track? Being self-conscious did me no favors.
Self-doubt is normal, but instead of coming up with reasons why you can’t, focus on the reasons why you CAN. One way to do this is to examine the excuses you’ve given yourself. What is the reality behind each reason and is there a way to work around it? If you’re worried about what people might think, ask yourself why you care. Are they going to make fun of you? Are you trying to impress them? Remember, the only person you should be concerned about impressing is yourself.
3. Have an Accountability Partner
People rarely achieve goals and experience success on their own. Tell a trusted friend or family member about your goals so they can hold you accountable.
You might feel embarrassed or afraid to share your goals with others. I get it. But that’s why you have to pick the right person to share that with. There are always going to be people out there who are negative about it, whether it comes from a place of envy or a well-meaning person trying to help manage expectations. But you need to find a someone who will champion you and not let you quit.
Ideally, the person you share your goals with is someone who can help you with your journey as you move toward achieving your goal. When you know someone is checking up on you (in a supportive way), you’re more likely to commit to putting in the work needed to achieve the goal.
I wish I had someone who could have kept me accountable. Ideally that someone could have worked out with me and pushed me to work harder. If I had, maybe I would have been better prepared for the fitness assessment. Maybe this person wouldn’t have let me lean on the excuse of a too windy or too hot day, or showed me that running two days in a row wasn’t going to be the end of the world.
In the End, I Barely Passed
When it came time to finally take my fitness assessment to activate the scholarship, I did my best. I managed to pass and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I was too exhausted to celebrate school getting paid for, but it was done!
Then I realized if I wanted to keep this scholarship, I had to pass this test again. Every. Single. Semester.
It was time to reassess my exercise habits.
Comment below: Have you ever talked yourself out of trying to achieve a goal? Or, what are some reasons that people tend to do this?