With the impending new year upon us, we often make grandiose resolutions, repeating the mantra “new year, new me,” over and over again until it is ingrained in our minds. While ambitious goals are something to constantly strive for, we often set goals that are completely unreasonable. While the final goal may be ideal, the trials and tribulations we have to endure to ultimately reach this unattainable goal, may prove too cumbersome. So is often the case with the goals we set for clients. As altruistic health care providers, we inherently have our clients’ best interests at heart and will do whatever it takes to optimize their potential. However, when we set goals that are unrealistic and inappropriate, we are doing a disservice to both our clients and ourselves. To improve my ability to provide services as an SLP and better myself as a human being, I will consciously attempt to employ the acronym SMART when setting goals. For those of you unfamiliar with this handy mnemonic, SMART stands for:
S: Specific- Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. The language should not be too verbose and should succinctly and clearly define what we want to accomplish. With our clients it is imperative that we make the goals specific, while also ensuring that they are not too ambiguous or too narrow.
M: Measurable- Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. When formulating goals for clients, it is important to define how much assistance is necessary (maximum support–> independent) and the percentage which you deem appropriate for proficiency for that specific client (e.g. 80% with min support). In my personal life, as someone whose weight fluctuates more than the stock market, setting measurable weight loss goals has helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel and stay on track. Additionally, it helps me to ignore the seemingly omnipresent cheesecake or other temptations that would otherwise serve as impasses.
A- Achievable:You can meet most any goal when you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. As you carry out the steps, you can achieve goals that may have seemed impossible when you started. On the other hand, if a goal is impossible to achieve, you may not even try to accomplish it. Achievable goals motivate individuals. Impossible goals de-motivate them. This is where differentiated instruction comes into play. In order to keep students motivated and determined, it is our responsibility to generate achievable goals. If a goal is unrealistic, we will unequivocally hinder progress and deter the client from attending therapy.
R-Results-Focused: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities. If we form our goals correctly, the end product should ensure generalization and a carryover of skills outside of the contrived therapeutic environment. While we can make activities fun, and use every TeacherspayTeachers resource at our disposable, the true mark of success is when a client is able to employ what was taught in therapy in the outside world.
Time-bound: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without such tension, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome. While there are some nuggets that we would love to keep in therapy with us forever, our ultimate goal is for each and every client to reach discharge. By making time specific goals, we are able to stay on track, and also amend goals to account for the rate of progression. Personally, my SMART goal for this year is to squeeze into a bridesmaid’s dress by the time June rolls around. So while that timeframe was not set by myself, but rather by the Save the Date invitation hanging on my refrigerator, it definitely creates that aforementioned sense of urgency and forces me to get my rear in gear to meet that goal!
So in all aspects of our lives for the 2018 year, let’s vow to be SMARTer individuals than we were in the past. For success is right around the corner!
Included below is a link to help you when formulating SMART goals:
~Brianna Fonti, CF-SLP, TSSLD~