Updated: Jan 18, 2022
From August, 2017 - August 2018, I was a full time high school teacher in Queens, NYC. To date, it was the single hardest and most rewarding experience of my life. I was a full time dance teacher - but the thing that I don't think most people understand about teachers is that it is not just one title or "hat" that you have to put on every day at 6:30 AM...it's about 1,000,000 hats. You are a teacher of your medium, planning lessons off the clock - a confidant, a friend, a babysitter, a stand in parent, a disciplinarian, a rule enforcer, and a student yourself... plus a crap ton of other things that you learn in the moment, on the job.
One of the jobs within the job of teaching full time was the responsibility of teaching students how to set goals. Now, unless you were an extremely objective and selfless teenager, you can imagine the difficult task that was having to teach 14 year olds the importance of goal setting. Coaching goal setting became a practice within itself, as a teacher you have to CONSTANTLY be creating and recreating ways to keep teaching and learning fun and relevant. There is no one right answer, which is the highly frustrating, and often enjoyable part of being a teacher of any kind.
How often has goal setting seemed completely daunting? How often have you given up goals because they seemed too far fetched, or too out of reach? How many times have you heard, "let's crush those goals!" without any kind of inkling or idea or plan for what those goals actually are or how they're supposed to fit into your life?
Coaching goal setting made me realize that I had never really been taught (or at least I hadn't intentionally integrated into my life) a systematical way to set goals for myself that was as clear and concise as SMART goals. SMART goal setting was the structure in which we taught students how to set achievable and reasonable goals, and once those goals were achieved, the reward came in witnessing students become motivated by their successes - it often created momentum for future goals to be achieved.
The reason SMART goal setting is so successful, in my opinion, is because it forces the goal setter to break down and analyze the different components of a goal in a way that makes the road to achievement abundantly clear. Let's break down the acronym that is SMART...
Let's say my goal is to "get stronger."
How can we make that more specific?
I might ask myself a few questions...
What do I want to be able to do that is causing me to want to get stronger?
For what reason do I want to get stronger?
What is affecting my ability to see myself as strong?
What part of myself do I want to be stronger?
What hasn't worked in the past?
Let's imagine that my goal becomes an I want to _________________ because__________ statement. For example, "I want to have a stronger heart so that I have more cardiovascular stamina, because I want to run a half marathon.
Non- measurable goal: I'm going to build my cardiovascular strength by doing more cardio.
Measurable goal: I'm going to build my cardiovascular strength by taking Emily's cardio dance class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10 AM.
Measurable goals are quantifiable, they give you a clear system in which to practice and move forward.
This part of breaking down a goal comes with a little bit of reflection and possibly some ego death. You have to ask yourself, what is actually available to me when it comes to moving towards this goal? For example, if I have two young children and a full time job and need a good nights rest, training for 5 hours a day seems highly unattainable. A more attainable practice might mean 1 hour, 3 times a week. Make that time sacred -honor it. If you cannot honor and give your full attention to your practice, reconsider how much time you are able to spend on your goal per week or per day. There is no right or wrong answer to how much time you are putting into your goals, as long as you are making time, and giving it the attention your goal deserves within that time frame. I repeat, THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER.
Not Realistic: I am going to run a half marathon this Wednesday after training for only 2 days.
Realistic: I am going to run the half marathon next year, because I owe it to myself and my goals and the people who are watching me - to build my cardiovascular strength to the point where I am READY in mind and body.
This part also sometimes takes a little bit of ego death, and a lot of my most loved and hated practice...PATIENCE. You are worth it. Your goals are worth it. Your life is worth the time.
T: TIME BOUND
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "light a fire under your ass." In my opinion, this last component of the SMART goal does exactly that. It gives you a time frame in which you are setting yourself up to succeed. Open ended goals are far more likely to slip through the cracks or be forgotten. For example...
A goal that is not time bound: I'm going to increase my cardiovascular strength by taking Emily's cardio dance class 3 times a week.
A goal that is time bound: I'm going to increase my cardiovascular strength by taking Emily's cardio dance class 3 times a week to prepare myself for the half marathon on January 21st, 2021.
Finally, be careful about your language. "I want to," gives a lot more leeway and room for failure than "I'm going to." Choose words that are motivating and that exist within a mindset that is solutions oriented. Language can make or break any goal or your relationship to it.
So, my example SMART goal in its entirety is this: "I am going to increase my cardiovascular strength by taking Emily's 1 hour, cardio dance class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the marathon on January 21st, 2021."
Since teaching in Queens, I am constantly referencing and using SMART goals in every aspect of my life. They've proven to make achieving goals quicker, and have allowed the road to success to become more clear and less convoluted. Goal setting isn't just for students, youth, or athletes...it is for everyone that is alive, has a heartbeat, and wants to keep reaching new heights.
Remember...If you're not moving, you've chosen to start getting older ;)
To your success, inner child, and wellbeing, all my love!