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Monday, December 27, 2010

If you are considering making at least one 2011 New Year Resolution, you may be thinking with the SMART an acronym for goal setting. Although everyone from Ken Blanchard to Tony Robbins to Edwards Deming are credited (or take credit) for SMART, the reality is that no one really knows where SMART started. The letters is SMART stand most often for (Specific, Measurable, Attainable or Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound or Timely).

As a coach, I use SMART all the time with my clients. Until this week, I always thought of most of the components of SMART as more mechanical strategies to work a goal into or a litmus test for "good goals" versus "bad goals." It never occurred to me the motivational power of the SMART component. I'd like to share a story about the motivating power of the "A."

Today's letter -- the letter A

Like a good coach. I practice what I preach. So every year about this time I set out to create a road map for the coming year. I print it out on nice paper and frame it at the top of the stairs outside my bedroom so I see it every morning. I print it on a transparency and tape it to the window next to my office desk so I can't help but see it when I look outdoors. It's nothing fancy -- just a list of big goals or daily habits I am commiting to focus on for the next 12 months. This whole creative process is fairly straightforward: I brainstorm some ideas, ask key people in my life for input, type up a draft and print it out, let it percolate, ask for feedback, etc. This year I wrote down "hike the Long Trail" and gave little thought to logistics or anything else. My thinking went kind of like this: "I definitely need to get in shape in the Spring and a lofty goal will help me -- what could it be -- other than my usual summer one-day Presidential traverse?" Bing! The Long Trail came to mind and I jotted it down.

The Long Trail runs the length of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada. 275 miles long, it's the first long distance hiking trail in the US. I hiked a major part of this when I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1987. I thought nothing of it -- I just wrote it down.

Then the "A" started to happen.

I did a little research on just how I might do this at this point in my life. Ten weekends, 8 weekends and a week -- many options. I looked at my planned schedule for the summer / fall 2010. "Wow," I thought to myself. "I might really be able to do this I have the time." I noticed a shift in my feelings -- in my motivation about this particular goal.

I looked at the map. I saw that the trail passes near Serenity House in Wallingford, VT where I consult on a regular basis. "I could hike there, get into town, get cleaned up, work -- heck -- I could hike for a week not a weekend -- and still do coaching work -- hey I do coaching on the phone -- I could hike for 5 days at a shot, work for 2 and get back on the Long Trail." Suddenly, my motivation and emotions about this seemed to grow exponentially. "I could actually do this," I thought.

I caught myself saying it outloud while I was driving down the road: "S**t I could REALLY do this!"

When I got home, I rushed to my library and dug out a Long Trail Guide from my days with Outward Bound. "1992. Won't do," I thought. I checked out the Internet for some ideas about section hiking -- found a whole blog about this -- posted a comment -- got a reply. I decided I would check out EMS or LL Bean -- both nearby -- to get a map, guidebook and other resources. Suddenly I found myself now thinking about the prospect of hiking the Long Trail in 2011 with excitement -- I could literally feel my heart pounding when I thought about it. "This could really happen!"

Well , not so suddenly in reality. Chunking the goal down / thinking and planning the how had increased the power of the "A" -- Attainable/Achievable -- provoking new energy into what only a few days ago was just an idea on a list.

How many times do you set the goal but do not jump start your motivation by considering and envisioning the "A"? I have done it many times.

Not this year!

So this week when you think about what you want to do in 2011 -- spend some time and envision the how. It will infuse your goal with new power and excitement. Post a comment and let me know how your resolutionizing goes!