Blog Article 

 3—Set Goals 

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Michael Santos

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Leaders teach us a great deal about strategy. All individuals can talk about wanting to succeed. Creating a plan, however, requires us to do more than talk. We need to identify specific goals that we can achieve along the way. Every day we must work toward the clearly defined goals we set, knowing those goals will open new opportunities.

Many people write about the importance of goal setting. The idea of S-M-A-R-T goals makes a great deal of sense. The acronym tells us that when we’re setting goals, we should be very specific. We should be able to measure our progress toward the goal. If we use the technique appropriately, we should regularly take active steps toward the goal. The goals should also be realistic. And finally, SMART goals are time-bound.

When I learned about good-time credits in prison, I understood that I could satisfy the 45-year sentence in 26 years. With limited life experiences, I didn’t know how to project that far into the future.  

At my arrest, I’d only been alive for 23 years. For perspective, consider what it would be like to go into the system today and not get out for 26 years. 

  • What year would it be? 
  • How would the world change? 
  • What could the person do to get ready?

Setting SMART goals could help a person make incremental progress. With every step, that person could work toward opening new opportunities. If those opportunities aligned with how a person defined success, that person would start to restore confidence. 

To work toward my strategy, I’d need to set SMART goals within a tighter time frame. I chose to focus on the first ten years. During those first ten years, my specific goals aligned with the strategy I documented.

  • Can you see how setting SMART goals can help you work toward new opportunities?
  • Within the first ten years of my imprisonment, I set a goal of earning a university degree.
  • Within the first ten years of my imprisonment, I intended to contribute to society by becoming a published author.
  • Within the first ten years of my imprisonment, I intended to contribute to society by bringing ten people into my support network.

That disciplined pathway could carry me through the first decade of my imprisonment. Since I knew what I wanted to achieve during my first decade, I could assess the progress as the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years. Every day I could evaluate whether I advanced toward my goals. If the complications of imprisonment got in the way, I could adjust.  

As you work through the challenges of your life, think about the goals you’re setting. Use your critical-thinking skills and Socratic-questioning abilities to advance prospects for your success.

  • What specific goals did you work toward last week?
  • How do those goals relate to the idea that you have defined success?
  • How would you assess your progress toward achieving those goals?
  • In what ways will the goals that you’re setting lead to new opportunities?
  • How will the people you intend to influence in your future react to the disciplined goal-setting strategy you’ve engineered?

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