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Micro Goals: are our goals SMART?

Under special circumstances, it helps to set goals, to have a structure, to give yourself security through planning. The challenge in setting goals is the right dosage and appropriate timing. We also speak of so-called SMART goals. SMART means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound (with a clearly defined time frame).

It often happens that we set ourselves goals due to over-zealousness or when under pressure which do not correspond to the SMART principle in many ways. The result: frustration due to not reaching goals.

How we set ourselves the right goals nowadays and how we achieve them can be seen when we take a closer look at SMART goals:


Goals must always be very specific. Formulate your goal concretely. Writing is of particular importance. Write down exactly what the goal is. It also helps to write down the personal benefit of the goal. Why do I want to achieve this goal? What will it bring me and how will I feel once I have reached the goal? In mental training we speak of the "picture of a fulfilled wish", i.e. the more exactly I can imagine what is supposed to come out in the end, the greater the probability that I will reach this goal. As a small tip, I use the "Vision Board", which is very popular, especially in the Anglo-American world: a pin board on which I attach pictures of my goals. If I have a picture that I can literally pin to my wall, the first, most important step has been done.


Goals must always be measurable and therefore need a clear definition in terms of size and dimension. Anything that only vaguely describes the direction of the journey will not lead towards a goal. If the destination is owning your own house, the price should be shown next to the symbolic image.


This leads us directly to the next point. Goals must always be achievable. A million-dollar villa may be a desirable goal, but if our subconscious does not believe in the goal, it will sabotage us. The result of our unconscious goal becomes: "Great, I was right, this could never have worked!" Strange as it may sound, we humans want to be right. We want validation and even if we should not achieve a goal that is important to us, at least we were right. As a reward, the body releases dopamine (we have reached the goal of being right) and we want more of it. Therefore, we reward ourselves by not reaching our goals. This nasty mechanism is much more important than we think. It is the reason why we fall by the wayside so often with many goals.


Goals must be realistic. That is probably the biggest challenge when setting goals. What does realistic mean? Do we perhaps underestimate ourselves when we plan "too realistically"? Do we exaggerate when we set ourselves really big goals that may seem unrealistic at first sight? The answer is simple: Will reaching the goal make us happy and content? The answer is our individual goal achievement level. If a really challenging goal would make us happy, we have to think of concrete ways to achieve it. SMART.

Time bound:

Targets must have a clearly defined time frame. Moving into the million-dollar villa next week is probably neither "realistic" nor "achievable" if we have just started working on this goal. Nevertheless, this goal can become reality at a certain point in time with the appropriate planning and the necessary measures. We should determine this point in time as precisely as possible, taking into account S, M, A and R, and then initiate the implementation.

In doing so, we set ourselves Micro Goals, namely small, achievable units that together make up our big goal.

A small example from the world of sport should help us to try out this principle right now, in the living room:

If you plan to master 100 Burpees here and now, on the spot (we described this little torture exercise in the article "Simple Impulses for Problem Solving" (Click here), you will throw in the towel after 50 Burpees, as a halfway fit, sporty person. The reason: we have never done 100 Burpees before and 10 were already exhausting. Our subconscious reports: 10 are hard, 50 are purgatory and 100: "unachievable", we will never make it. Our reward: we give up at 50 and we're right. At least for that our bodies will give us some dopamine - it's enough to compensate for the frustration of not reaching our goals.

So what do we do now?

First, we divide the task into 5 units of 10 Burpees each. We support this with the following trick: we put 5 coins on one side (“to be paid”) and after each unit of 10 Burpees we put one coin on the other side (“paid”). This way we reach the 50 Burpees relatively easily. If we now see that 5 coins are on the success pile, we have a "double achievement": 5 coins and 50 Burpees. Our reward system is activated. We want more. The very next day we intensify this exercise with 10 coins. We divide our "giant goal" of 100 into 10 micro-goals of 10 each. And again, we put the success coins from one side to the other after every 10 Burpees.

The division into small sub-goals (achievable, realistic) takes away from the impressive size of the overall goal (specific, measurable) and we learn a realistic time frame to reach our overall goal of 100 (time bound). The perfect training for body and mind: We get fitter and learn to reach our goals SMART via Micro Goals.

Have fun practicing, training and achieving goals.


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