Plans and Goals
How many of us have managed to manifest our childhood dreams into the reality of our adult lives? How many can claim the much-sought-after jobs of doctors, engineers, astronauts, or even humbler aspirations such as being a janitor, a bus conductor, or a ward boy? Where have these dreams that once consumed our kindergarten minds disappeared?
Some might argue that people naturally change as they grow, but I dare to suggest that it is societal norms and expectations that truly alter us. In the innocence of childhood, expectations are minimal. Children are expected simply to be well-behaved and to eat their meals with decorum. Their imaginations are unshackled, free to venture down unpredictable avenues. However, as they mature, society begins to feed them a steady diet of expectations, cynicism, disappointments, and other forms of societal baggage.
Even if children were not burdened by these societal influences, they would still struggle to realize their dreams because they are rarely taught the art of setting goals and planning the path to their realization. Schools seldom equip children with the skills to set effective goals. As for parents, they are too absorbed in their own reality or pursuit of dreams to guide the minds of children to the fruition of their dreams.
It is important that we incorporate this vital knowledge into the curriculum of our educational institutions. Sadly, more often than not, children are primarily schooled in subjects such as mathematics, language, science, and even moral science, while the crucial lesson of setting and pursuing goals is conspicuously absent. As they venture into the unforgiving real world, they often find themselves bewildered. Their childhood aspirations, particularly those formed in kindergarten, appear unattainable because they lack the understanding that their dreams must be constructed in a manner acceptable to society and practically achievable.
There are numerous ways to set effective goals that lead to tangible progress. After all, a plan remains mere conjecture until it is translated into action. Do you understand the essence of this truth? If not, take a moment to reflect. We formulate countless plans every day, but not all of them see the light of realization. The approach I’m about to outline is based on what I have both learned and imparted to numerous individuals who have successfully applied it in their lives.
Goals should be SMART, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound.
Specific: Next time you contemplate a goal, ask yourself what specific achievement you seek. A vague desire for more money or to lose weight lacks specificity. However, aiming for a specific amount in your bank account, completing a vital task to clear the path for a holiday, or reaching an ideal weight of 60 kilogrammes is specific.
Measurable: Determine how you will recognise the attainment of your goal. If you aspire to lose weight, ask yourself when you will know you have succeeded. Is it when you’ve shed 2, 5, or 10 kilograms? Is it when you can effortlessly wear new clothes or when compliments pour in? Measuring success before it is realised brings it within reach.
Achievable: For a goal to be considered achievable, it must not reside in the realm of pure fantasy. For instance, I might dream of touching the sun and returning to Earth within an hour. Most would readily dismiss this as unattainable. Even if I had the means to approach the sun, the intense heat would make contact impossible. Returning to Earth unscathed after such a journey is equally improbable. Thus, a goal must be achievable. Not to say that seemingly impossible goals cannot be achieved. But do you believe in your mind that you can achieve it?
Reasonable: Reasonableness entails a balanced approach. It’s not about shying away from ambitious dreams but acknowledging that vacationing in a mansion after selling off your apartment poses problems once your holiday ends. Where will you stay after the vacation?
Time Bound: Lastly, goals must be time-bound. Establish a clear deadline for their accomplishment. Instead of vaguely aspiring to be a novelist someday, commit to completing your novel by December 31, 2023. A time frame imparts urgency and motivation as your mind comprehends the impending date of achievement, compelling you to maintain the necessary efforts.
As a bonus, add the letter ‘E‘ to SMART, making it SMARTE. ‘E‘ signifies Ecology, referencing the impact of your goals on the environment. Consider building a massive building as your goal – what repercussions will it have on the environment? Or, setting a goal to read a book in 15 days – how might this affect your work, relationships, and sleep patterns? This ecological assessment, which includes the environment around you – your work, family, health, society, the Earth, etc – is vital before establishing your goals. I am sure that now you possess the tools to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, time-bound, and ecologically mindful. Should you still require guidance, you can go through my article published in May. In it, I delve into the art of achieving big objectives through the steady progression of small steps.