The Happiness Trap – Week 7 – SMART Goals (ugh)

So I set (and meet) goals all the time. This week the Happiness Trap wanted me to think about SMART goals, and I (and every other corporate employee in America collectively) cringed.

For those who don’t know, SMART goals (“Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely”) are how your company decides you’re not good enough to get a raise. If you meet all of your SMART goals, you are rated “achieved expectations” and get no raise or bonus. You see – in order to make sure nobody gets raises or bonuses, they changed the criteria, so that just “is really great at your job” isn’t enough, and now neither is “is really great at your job and also achieves related non-job electives”. You have to be really super amazingly awesometastic and probably save your company millions of dollars to rank “exceeds expectations” on anything, and often companies literally will not let bosses give out that rating at all. Because they don’t want to give you a raise or a bonus.

So when my therapy/life-skills/etc program starts talking about SMART goals, I start telling the program to go fuck itself.

But in the interest of completing the program, I decided to listen to the videos at least, and it turns out that Dr. Russ Harris did some creative modification to the acronym, and it’s a little less horrible.

From an ACT perspective, a SMART goal instead is Specific, Motivated by Values, Adaptable, Realistic, and Timely. So we kept “be specific” and “have a time frame” and threw out all the rest of it, which frankly makes this really confusing from a re-learn the thing standpoint, but also I think I can work with this?

Because if my goal setting is based on my values, adapts to my life situation, and has to be realistic for me and where I am – that all just sounds like good sense with making goals, and doesn’t sound like I need to make goals like “lose X number of pounds” or “be able to meditate for one hour” in order for it to be fucking Measurable. 

Anyway. I did the exercises, and came up with a goal for myself, set specifically by my life domain of spirituality, and motivated by my value of pursuing knowledge and personal growth, that I would read for at least 20 minutes every night before bed (if not longer), something that was nourishing to my spirit.

That’s a specific action, within a specific time frame, it’s motivated by values, I can adapt it as necessary (I don’t have to be reading heavy lifting, I can read a lighthearted book, or even reread a book I know I love), and that’s usually time I would spend dicking around on my phone, so I’m replacing something that’s not necessarily helpful with something that will be more in line with what I want to do.

It’ll also help me get through the backlist of books I have waiting on me!

I still kind of hate formalized goal setting, and as someone who usually gets a lot done, I don’t know how much I’ll use this in the future, but for a one week exercise and an attempt to build a better before-bed habit, I’m fine with it. 

I really do wish he’d chosen another acronym though. As it is, having two different systems using SMART goals just means people are going to misunderstand him when he talks about them in a therapy context, especially people in the US in the corporate world, and it’s going to make them hostile to his messaging. 

Goals for 2015

This year, I will drink more tea. I will read more books. I will let the cat snuggle in my lap, even when I am wearing black pants. I will do more yoga, walk more, hug more people and more trees and more cats, and breathe deeper and slower and better. I will spend more time in the sun, and more time watching it rain.

I will remember that I am a bunny, and a bunny is all I need to be.

Starting off 2013

I usually don’t make “New Year’s Resolutions”, simply because I don’t think this is always the best time of year to be starting new things. After the bustle of the holidays, winter sets in, and I’m up for a period of resting and recharging, not reorganizing my linen closet.

At least, that was my plan, but I’ve found myself setting up some mental goals in the last week anyway, maybe because so many other people are doing it. Instead of vague, unmeasurable goals though, I want to set up things that I can actually track. Maybe I will readjust my plans after a month or so, but at least I’d like to have some idea of whether I’ve stuck to these or not. As such, I’m not making goals for the whole year, just for the month of January. Ideally I can make some of these things into habits, and if I remember, I’ll revisit them in February. That seems more manageable to me.

So what are these goals?

Eat out only once per week.

My work schedule has changed from the 9-80 to a regular 40 hour, 5 day work week. This means I’m not getting up quite as early (6am instead of 4:45), which means I’m not going to bed quite as early, which means I have a little more flexibility in my evenings. SSH and I are both feeling like we could eat better, and the more cooking I do, the less I have to eat frozen gluten free meals for lunch (which are OK, but there are only about 4 options that I consider edible, and that gets old fast). If I limit our eating out, and cook more in the crock pot, I’ll have more leftovers for that, and we’ll both be eating much healthier.

Blog once per week.

Easier said than done. I miss writing about things, and I can access my wordpress login to this blog from work, so hopefully I’ll remember to keep things updated. If I keep up with my other goals, this one should be easy, since I’ll have something to talk about beyond work and sleep.

Walk at least 1 mile, three times per week.

After a pain flare, my schedule got the better of me again, and I quit walking (and biking). I’m still tracking the miles to Rivendell, and I’m ALMOST to Crickhollow. I will be trying to walk MORE than my minimum, but 3 miles a week is my minimum goal. It’s the best time of year for walking in Texas, since I don’t have to change clothes to walk right now. Hopefully I can set up a proper walking habit. This means changing my evening schedule slightly, since I’ve been showering as soon as I get home from work, and spending the evening in PJs, but I think now that I can stay up until 10, I can make it work.

Spend at least one night per week reading.

I realized that I think I only finished two books in 2012, and that makes me pretty sad. Especially given that I used to work at a frigging bookstore, so I have no shortage of books. So I’ve set a goal to FINISH at least book a month in 2013. You can find me on GoodReads if that’s your thing. I’ll be posting there as I finish books. I’m not going to make myself read all fiction though, since I’m apparently still too easily wrapped up in things. The last book I finished was very good, but I spent a whole weekend being sad after finishing it, which isn’t super fun. Re-reading counts too, but I’m going to limit my re-reads. I do want to get through Harry Potter again, once I finish Lord of the Rings.

Spend at least one evening per week doing a craft or hobby.

This will probably be spinning, since I have my new spinning wheel to learn! It might also be knitting or sewing, or writing letters. Or maybe doing canning projects. I feel like since I started my new job, all my hobbies except “putter around on the internet” have been largely abandoned. Hence the goal of doing them one night a week! This is allowed to be done while watching television, though we’re in the Long, Dark, Miserably Baseball-less Winter, so there’s not a lot I want to watch during the week.

Meditate at least 10 minutes, two days a week.

This can include seated meditation, walking meditation, mantra meditation, or stretching/yoga type meditation, just so that I don’t get bored. I’m allowed to combine this with the walking 3 times a week goal, but I have to actually concentrate on using the walk as a meditation, not just say “well I walked, that counts for two things.”

Unfuck my house at least once a week

Those not familiar with Unfuck Your Habitat may want to check out their tumblr, about page, tips, and welcome packet. It’s suited me better than FlyLady, which was becoming a constant source of anxiety instead of helping me keep my house clean. Working 12 hour days and needing at least 8 hours sleep apparently isn’t the ideal situation to feel like you have to spend at least an hour cleaning your house every day. I like the 20/10 system, and it’s helped me keep on top of the housework in a short time on weekends. Except for laundry, which still takes several hours, but there’s not much I can do about that. Anyway, I want to continue to keep on top of that, so this is really a “continuing” goal instead of a new one.

I am hoping I’m not biting off more than I can chew, but I think it’ll be a good experiment to do for a month. If any of these proves to be obnoxious, I will not hesitate to axe them from the list. Most of this list is about having more fun and being more well rounded, and if I’m miserably sitting in my living room spinning because it’s “official spinning day” and I’m hating every minute of it, that kind of defeats the point. So maybe these are more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules (thank you, Capt. Barbossa).

Feel free to help keep me accountable for this. I’m tired of doing nothing but work, putter on the computer, and sleep! Here’s to January!