Most of us dream and convert this dream into a goal. And we simply create milestones to track our progress. Milestones show what we are accomplishing and see how we accomplish even more.
You might have read these statements before: “People without goals are not as successful as they hope to be.” and “People who don’t write down goals are less likely to accomplish them.”
We believe that they’re true and most of us might be practicing the principle of these quotes. This shows how important goals are in the grand picture of seeing our dreams come true.
Did you know that any writer who wants to be known out there should have four goals? I never realized this until I read an article about this many years ago.
What are Goals?
Goals give us momentum to push through challenges while chasing our dreams. The problem for so many people is that they haven’t created goals that will help them succeed and their inability to follow through because of fear or poor goal creation holds them back.
Most of us would set goals at the beginning of the year and then never go back and look at them. Or for some, would have these vague, general ideas of things they wanted to accomplish but never create action steps or any plans to achieve anything. These are the reasons why goals fail.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed or aim”. It is synonymous with a target. So how could a goal and an objective be different?
Goals vs. Objectives
“Goals” and “objectives” are often used interchangeably. But actually, both terms are not the same. A goal is an outcome that is typically broad and long-term. An objective, on the other hand, defines the specific and measurable actions to achieve the goal. Thus, the main difference between the two is that a goal provides direction whereas an objective measures how you should follow that direction. Goals should align with your mission and vision while objectives use the SMART criteria.
The SMART Criteria
With that being said, it would make sense for me, at least, to use goals and objectives interchangeably when using the SMART criteria. Why? Because the SMART goal-setting framework allows us to set clear and measurable objectives while encouraging us to think about how we’ll reach the goal. For me, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone.
When speaking of goals, most of us use abstract words like “happiness”, “good health”, “money”, etc. Being specific means being free from ambiguity. The question is: how specific do you need to be? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to quantify your results along the way. Thus, converting “happiness” to specific things or events that will make you happy makes a better goal.
For example, if your happiness means having your dream job, then state that dream job specifically. Let’s say that your dream job is becoming a full-time author. But becoming a full-time author is not tangible or concrete. So we change “full-time author” to “writing a novel”.
In order for us to know if we reached the goal, there must be something that would measure the distance from where we are now to that goal. We have to quantify our goals so we can see our progress over time. The unit of measurement (except for the measure of time) varies from goal to goal.
Given the earlier goal of writing a novel, think about how to make it measurable to reach that goal by going into more detail which you can track. For example, writing a 50,000 word-novel makes the goal measurable because you specified a certain number.
However, writing a 50,000-word novel may seem daunting at first. So let’s get to the next criterion:
Attainable or Actionable
Some say that the A in SMART goal means “attainable”. Some say it’s “actionable”. Either way, they may be correct.
Every goal should be actionable in terms of getting somewhere. However, when writing a goal, we are talking about writing it as an action. A goal is actionable when it is clear what action needs to be taken to accomplish it. A simple way to make items actionable is to begin them with a verb. In this case, the verb is “writing”.
Also, an attainable goal is something realistic. To make goals realistic and attainable, it would be better to break down the big goal (writing a 50,000-word novel) into smaller tasks (writing a chapter). This way, you would know in yourself if the goal is something attainable or not.
Again, some say that the R in SMART goal means “realistic”. Some say “relevant”. Both may be correct.
Being relevant and realistic means having a significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. In terms of goals, they should be relatable to your life. Thus, when you set a goal, you need to think about your current situation.
Some people may tell you to dream big like ten times your created goal. It may be a good idea, but that could be impossible for others to stretch themselves. If you’re a beginner or someone who struggles with your goals, you need to create goals you can accomplish at your current stage in life.
For example, writing a 50,000-word novel may seem daunting even if you break it down to writing a chapter a day because you are busy with other tasks during the day. Thus, you have to settle with something relatable, like writing a page or two, or a certain number of words during the day or week.
Simply saying your goal isn’t good enough. Goals measured in periods of time make it more attainable. We thrive on deadlines and creating goals that are time-bound is like putting a deadline on it. This will force you to take action within a timeframe. You need to say when you will complete it. This way you can map out your path to success. Otherwise, you will always have the goal but never have the urgency to accomplish it.
So given the earlier example, the goal will be: “By 31 December 2023 (time), I’ll be done writing (actionable) a 50,000-word (measurable) novel (specific) to start realizing my dream to become a full-time author (relevant).”
Plus Two More to Make It SMARTER
We have been hearing SMART goals for years. But there are two things we can add to make them SMARTER.
We need to regularly evaluate our progress. Most people often look at their goals a few times over the year. This is why people fail at their goals. They lack follow-through.
It is recommended to evaluate goals every month. This helps you remember what you are trying to do and makes sure you take action every week. Also, evaluating your goals makes you feel that your goals are dynamic and may change over time.
Every goal and milestone needs a reward. We love getting something for a job well done. And when we are working towards our dreams these little earned goals help us to celebrate our milestones and be ready for the next step. Make it a habit to reward yourself for your effort once you reach a milestone.
The 4 Goals Writers Need to Know
Freelance writers like us need to have four kinds of goals which make bigger goals smaller and attainable. Think of them as sub-goals or milestones.
As the name implies, it refers to how much income you want to achieve. In my case, I have written down my desired monthly income, my desired hourly rate, my desired rate per project, and my desired monthly retainer fee.
Writing them down makes it easier for you to remember especially when potential clients ask you about your rates or draw up your Statement of Work.
You may approach this goal in different ways. You may also approach it as who should your ideal client be, or what niche would you like to focus on. For me, I have written down how many clients I have to handle in a week and in a month.
Media goal refers to your written product. What type of media are you going to do? Is it a novel, a screenplay, or a website? How many of them will you be able to produce? For me, I’m too ambitious to put “one novel per year” as my media goal.
We freelance writers need to be seen, too. So visibility goal has something to do with how we could be publicly seen. How would you like to be seen as a writer? Do you attend conferences and seminars? Do you join events? For me, I have written “one social media post per day per social media account” and “attend one writers’ event per month” as visibility goals.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”– C.S. Lewis
My Final Thoughts
We may have struggled with goals before. We might have even failed some of the goals we set for ourselves in a year. But this doesn’t have to be true of us anymore. The quote from C.S. Lewis should remind us of the goals we set for ourselves now, no matter our age or stage in life. That is why we have to create SMARTER goals that will help us chase our dreams and see them come true.
Goals are not absolute. They should not be rigid. They are dynamic and able to change. That’s one reason why we have to evaluate goals regularly to check if it still works or if we need to tweak them a little bit.