I was thinking this morning about the idea of setting goals.

When I look back at my life, I think that I’ve never really been much of a goal-setter, as far as writing down formal goals I want to achieve and a plan for how to get there.

I was never a long-term planner. Some people have their whole lives mapped out, but I was never one of those people.

I sort of drifted through my 20s — a lot of time during that decade, I honestly don’t remember; sad but true — although I did without knowing, I guess, set a pretty big goal and took the necessary steps to achieve it. When I got laid off from my job as a draftsman at Brown & Root in Houston, I decided to go back to college, and I knew what I wanted to study, which was journalism.

I wanted to become a sportswriter — to combine my lifelong love of sports with my love of writing.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s a pretty good goal. Doing something that you love is one of the big keys to success.

And I guess I basically outlined the steps to achieving that goal when I went to an academic counselor or whatever it was and laid out the study program it would take to earn a degree in journalism. My dad helped me get started with a $200 check for tuition for the first semester (yeah, college was pretty cheap back in the olden days!) and I applied for a small student loan after that, and then I won a couple scholarships that paid for the rest.

I also put in the work, attending classes every day, taking a bus downtown five days a week, then transferring to another bus that stopped at the University of Houston, and doing the same thing in reverse to get back home.

I really wanted this — and I enjoyed the hell out of it — so I managed to succeed even though my other primary pursuit back then was getting loaded all the time, which other people called “partying.”

Getting that degree is still one of my proudest accomplishments.

Mostly, though, I never really set goals for my life.

I’d decide I wanted to do something, and I’d go do it — like deciding to get my personal trainer certification, for instance — but there was never a big plan in place.

However …

I learned during my schooling to become a personal trainer about something called S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to make a goal more realistic and more achievable. Here’s how it works:

You write down your overall goal. Let’s say the goal is to lose weight and get in shape. OK, cool, but what does that mean, exactly? Lose weight and get in shape is pretty vague, right? So take that goal and do this:

Make it more Specific. I want to lose 20 pounds.

Better but not quite there yet.

How can you make it even more specific?

I want to lose 20 pounds in three months.


Next is Measurable.

How are you going to know when the goal is achieved? For this goal, that’s pretty simple. You can step on the scales and measure that one. To make it a little more specific, you can divide 20 pounds over three months, or even 12 weeks, and set a goal of losing a pound-and-a-half a week. Even better!

Next comes Achievable.

Do you have the skills and/or knowledge to accomplish the goal? If not, how can you acquire the skills and/or knowledge to achieve the goal?

Join a gym? Hire a trainer or a nutritionist? Research diet plans?

Next is Relevant.

Why are you setting this goal? Why do you want to lose weight? Be specific.

Then comes Time.

What is your deadline for achieving this goal? In this case, you’ve already established you want to do it in three months or 12 weeks.

So there you go.

S.M.A.R.T. goals.

You can do an Internet search for a S.M.A.R.T. goals worksheet, print that sucker out, and use it to improve your chances for success.

Now, get to work!