There are two things I learned during my first high school FFA leadership workshop: 1.) talking to cute boys from other schools was considered off limits by our advisor and thereby severely limited my networking opportunities, and 2.) how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. 

Goal Setting: Motivation and MethodsS.M.A.R.T. is a handy acronym you can use for setting written goals with clear objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Research by David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech University, supports the importance of having written goals. His study revealed that 80 percent of Americans say they don’t have goals. Of the remaining 20 percent, 16 percent have goals but don’t write them down and less than 4 percent have written goals. Less than 1 percent reviews their written goals on an ongoing basis.

Here at Agriculture Future of America, students learn about goal setting through a FranklinCovey resource, The 5 Choices® to Extraordinary Productivity. Going from ordinary to extraordinary means paying attention to the most important things in life, and in doing so, harnessing opportunities and technology in order to reach a new level of creativity and innovation.

Ben Morris, senior vice president of health care services at UMB Bank and former AFA Student Advisory Team member, is a strong supporter of goal setting. Early in his career, he wasn’t afraid to set aspirational goals for advancing his career, furthering his education and managing his finances.

Kohl’s study showed that those who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetime as those who don’t. If that “nine times as much” isn’t motivation to start setting goals and writing them down, I don’t know what is.

In addition to the financial benefits of writing goals, goal setting can contribute to lifelong learning. Morris has made it a personal priority to “think outside the cubicle” and read about topics such as strategy development and understanding the lack of resources in America, which have parallels to his work in the healthcare area. He said to “Get outside of your area of familiarity or what you’re currently working on and set goals outside that.”

While Morris is well versed in writing and achieving S.M.A.R.T. goals, his advice regarding the timeliness of achieving goals is a little surprising. He said, “In addition to the S.M.A.R.T goals, don’t be afraid to set goals that are more aspirational, you never know what you might be able to do,” meaning that it’s OK to not achieve all your personal or career goals, as long as you understand why you weren’t able to accomplish them. “If you don’t accomplish a goal and don’t understand why, then you have missed a learning and growth opportunity.” Morris also believes it is OK to be selfish with your goals and set goals that demonstrate confidence in yourself.

This mindset came with time and experience. Morris said he believes “goals are great, but it’s not always possible to hit all of them, but it is possible to learn from them.” When it comes to missed goals, remember to be flexible and always keep setting new goals.

Are your goals extraordinary and S.M.A.R.T., or is there a different method you follow when goal setting? How do you use goal setting to drive your career?