Around this time last year I talked about The Aspire, Achieve, Do Method for goal setting.

Aspire Achieve Do Goals
this may or may not be a cheesy powerpoint graphic

And it’s amazing because there are just three easy steps.

  1. Aspire: Write out natural language statements for your aspirations –> “I want to be more physically fit.”
  2. AchieveCome up with a S.M.A.R.T. goal that aligns with your aspiration –> “Run a 5k in under 25 minutes.”
  3. Do: Identify regular habits that will help you achieve your goals –> “Cardio workouts 3x a week.”

So why revisit this topic? This post has two things to cover – 1. Holding myself accountable, and 2. Diving into common mistakes I’ve seen people make when setting goals.

2014 Accountability

Let’s get part one out of the way. In 2014 I met 15 of the 24 goals I set. That’s a 62.5% success rate and I’m happy with that.

It’d be nice to have been a little bit higher than 60% but I’m still content. I’ll get into why, in a bit.

Aside – I suppose I could get really meta and set a goal to meet more than 65% of my goals in 2015!

Going to the Gym Is Not a Goal

Shifting focus to part two of the post.

I’ve been seeing some goals lately that…leave a little to be desired. Not a huge deal, but then again what if you don’t achieve a goal because you don’t even set a proper goal?

For example, a vague goal such as, “Learn iOS’s new development language Swift,” creates confusion around whether the goal was actually met. What does “learn” mean? What happens if the developer thinks “learn” means being able to list three pros and cons to using Swift, whereas the manager thinks “learn” means being able independently build out an end-to-end enterprise reporting app natively in Swift?

Vagueness causes confusion and confusion makes it impossible to use the goal to evaluate performance.

Yet don’t worry! This is what the Aspire-Achieve-Do method is for! “Learning Swift” is still very relevant to the discussion, but is merely an aspiration.

Fix 1 – Make Measurable Goals

So we were saying that “Learning Swift” is merely an “aspire” from our model. And that’s totally ok. Here’s why…

What you can do is turn your aspiration into A SPECIFIC ACHIEVEMENT. Sorry for the over emphasis but it’s needed.

Making your goal measurable makes it very easy to say whether your goal was met or not. Here’s an easy test – someone else should be able to look at your outcome and unquestionably agree with you whether you met your goal or not.

Instead of “Learning Swift”, a measurable goal could be, “Score a 90% or above on the How Much Do You Know About Swift quiz.”

Fix 2 – “R” Should Stand For “Results-Based”

Last year I wrote that “R” stood for “Relevant”. Does the goal matter? Does it align with your other goals?

Time to make an edit. Relevancy matters, but more important is that your goal is Results-Based (as wiki shows, turns out you can swap in & out different means for all of the SMARTs).

I’ve seen many goals recently (mine included) that are measurable, but still not helpful. The goal will be something like, “run a 5k”. Yeah sure, it’s measurable. But it’s really just a task. It belongs on your to-do list, to be checked off when you cross that finish line. It’s not a goal.

Task-oriented goals do not stretch you, pushing you to achieve something new. “Run a 5k” is a “do” from our model. As a “do” that regular activity will then contribute to more results-based goals like, “Run a 5k in under 25 minutes” or “Lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days.”

Make sense?

Fix 3 – Don’t Meet Every Goal

I met 60% of my goals. I should be disappointed that I didn’t meet all my goals, right?

Of course not. If I’d met every goal then it means I wasn’t setting stretch goals, that I wasn’t pushing myself further. After all, goal setting exists to try and achieve something new, something you’ve never done before!

A good rule of thumb is that you should be meeting 50% to 75% of your goals.

Any less than 50% and you need to take a closer look why you’re falling short. Are you setting unrealistic goals? Are you not putting in the work?

Any more than 75% and you need to re-evaluate your original goals. Are you making your goals too easy? Or are you truly being honest with yourself?

The year is still very early. When you’re setting your 2015 goals take a second to make these three easy fixes. Make your goals measurable, results-oriented and tough to achieve.