Wednesday, March 28, 2012

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

What is a smart goal? This is a term which is different for everyone. But I'm more talking about the word S.M.A.R.T. from a mnemonic perspective. In the end, I guess smart and S.M.A.R.T can be compared at great length and very little difference could be delved from the two meanings. Let me give you a definition of the word smart that you might not think of: adj. "having properties that can be changed in response to stimuli or environmental conditions; self-regulating." Well now isn't that interesting, especially if we are to place it into an adventure context.

In this post, I want to take a closer look at creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. What does that mean? What does it mean to be a smart adventurer? How do we engage ourselves in being smart or S.M.A.R.T. in better attaining our achievable goals? These, I feel, are great questions. Lets discover the answers.

  • having properties that can be changed in response to stimuli
  • or environmental conditions;
  • self-regulating.
If we take the 3 parts of the definition above, and transfer them into our definition of S.M.A.R.T., we should be able to see a very direct correlation.

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timely

All five of these terms, in this context, are having properties that can be changed in response to stimuli, or environmental conditions, and/or are self regulating. In essence.. in the end it's all in your head. I sincerely hope I haven't lost you, I'm not speaking a foreign language here. This is all very real and a very real part of our taking on our various adventures and general challenges in life. 

But too often, our peers or from time to time even ourselves, we take on challenges which are truly beyond our S.M.A.R.T. goals. Certainly.. all of our goals are specific. They are measurable based on time, distance, or a summit. They are attainable.. we would't start out after it if we didn't think we could attain it. It's when we venture into the term realistic that many of us get hung up.

For instance.. someone finishes Western States or Leadville and now think that they are ready to take on the challenge of Hardrock. Doable, but not necessarily realistic. Or someone showing up to the Leadville starting line and relying on their marathon training to finish the 100 mile run. Doable, but not incredibly realistic. And finally there is timely. This simply makes note of setting a timeframe for completing the task. Running your first 100 miler within a year. Eventually finish that race, etc. It should not be vague.

Before every event, I set up my own S.M.A.R.T. goal for the event. Regular readers to this blog have seen it before. I set 3 goals.
1. Is always to finish the event
2. Is always an attainable and realistic time goal based on my training and knowledge to the event
3. Is always the non-factor. A time goal that is only attainable on the perfect day.

Either way, these three goals are S.M.A.R.T. based on the mnemonic explanation above. Showing up to your first 100k with a goal to run a record time on the course, with a scattered brained crew, one hand-held bottle and barely a crew about the sport of ultra-running.. not S.M.A.R.T. Also, let's remember the definition of smart.. and that phrase "change in response to environmental change." Environmental does not always have to mean the term associated with weather. Environmental changes can be as vague as referring to the world around us. There is much in this world that is out of our control.. and we must train ourselves to adjust to un-foreseen circumstances. Think about it.. what could happen that we didn't expect? Plan to expect it. You can fail to plan or plan to fail.

As we continue to venture into the more active part of our year, as race season kicks into full swing, the snow disappears and our adventures become more adventurous, taxing, and unrelenting.. let us think about smart and S.M.A.R.T.  If we do, we'll enjoy adventure for much longer without running the risk of burning out, or disappointment.

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Cheers
SJ