I tend to be a methodical man, taking a problem and working through it very analytically. Oftentimes, I will lay out a step-by-step process to handling a situation, either writing it down on paper or making a checklist in my mind.
This same analytical process comes to bear when I am trying to improve a skill set, be it a physical endeavor, an entrepreneurial venture, or a hobby. Throughout the course of my life, I have come across a few practices that I have found beneficial to helping me develop the skill in question. Today, I’m going to share these practices with you. One method many of you will know about, but the other you probably won’t.
Most of you have probably heard of this principle in the past so I won’t spend much time on it. Basically, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for tackling what may initially seem an insurmountable goal. If a project or problem seems so large that you don’t even know where to begin, this tactic can easily help you begin building momentum to get you kick-started.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for five key aspects of a goal you’re wanting to set.
- Small – Pick one small piece of the project to start on.
- Measurable – Your goal should have some metric to determine if you are making progress.
- Attainable – This means that your goal should be something you can realistically achieve. Setting a goal to put on 20 pounds of muscle in a month is not attainable without copious amounts of Kratom (heh).
- Relevant – Deciding to clean up the clutter in your house shouldn’t begin with mulching your garden bed.
- Timely – Your goal needs a timeline and deadline. If not, you’ll find that you might never start, nor finish.
A simple example of the S.M.A.R.T. principle in action is applying it to your fitness routine. Let’s say I want to lose 5 pounds within a month’s time. Let’s apply the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and see if this is, well, smart.
- S – This is a small, short-term goal that doesn’t stretch out into the far future.
- M – To measure this, I will use a health kiosk at my local grocery store. Also good for measuring my blood pressure and heart rate.
- A – An individual can safely lose up to 2 pounds of fat per week so this goal is certainly attainable.
- R – Is this relevant towards my overall fitness levels? Yes.
- T – I have a deadline and a loose timeline (1.25 pounds per week) to help determine if I’m on track.
3 Goals Method
While the last approach can be viewed as a more macro approach, this one can be utilized each session. I initially learned of the 3 Goals Method while competing in Taekwondo tournaments and employed it extensively during my more junior years although it can be applied no matter your skill level. For this method, grab a small piece of paper and a pen and write down 3 very specific goals you want to complete in your session.
I will use a Taekwondo match to help illustrate:
- I want to execute at least 5 kicks to the head.
- I want to feint my opponent and then execute a spinning kick when they react at least once.
- I want to slip my opponent’s attack and put myself in an advantageous position at least twice.
Notice what these goals don’t have? They aren’t dependent on successfully landing a technique on my opponent. Rather, they force me to do things I might be struggling with and want to improve. By writing the goals down, I now have something to measure my rate of improvement with.
Basing your skill against whether you beat your opponent or not can be misleading. After all, not every opponent is the same and even the same opponent can have off days or be trying a new approach of their own. By writing down personal goals that are independent of who I’m up against, I can not only improve my skills, but I have a metric of success outside of winning or losing the match.
Improving any skill takes consistent and diligent effort. Sure, you’ll make some gains simply by getting in there and bumbling around, but in order to excel to the highest levels, you must critically analyze what areas you are weak in and take steps to improve them.
If you have another method I that you think might help others, leave it down in the comments section below.