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.