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Setting Aviation Goals: The SMART Approach
Having goals is something we should always endeavor to do. Not just for flying, but since we are talking aviation that will be the context for this article. Certainly these ideas can be applied to anything else in life.
When President Kennedy announced in 1961 that we would put a man on the moon within the decade, he was setting a goal, a very ambitious goal.
Don’t be afraid to set long-term goals. It’s ok to look out 5 or 10 years. Aviation isn’t a cheap endeavor and I get lots of feedback about the costs being the #1 thing holding potential and current aviators back. If you don’t have the means now, set your goal more long-term and follow through. If you want it bad enough and you hold to your goals, you’ll be amazed at the results.
Why set goals?
Setting a goal solidifies your intention. It gives power to you desires. Without well-defined goals we are driving without a roadmap. I have encountered lots of folks who never achieve anything significant because they refuse to set goals.
Just because you set a goal to get a license or buy an airplane, doesn’t mean it’ll happen right away, but you have to start somewhere. Setting the goal provides that starting point; a launch pad to your dreams – it’s that simple.
Realistically not every goal is achievable. As a teenager, I set a goal to be a fighter pilot – didn’t happen. But the journey to get me there, brought me other great things, things I wouldn’t have otherwise achieved. Sometimes we have to trust that if we move towards our goals the right things will happen even if at the time it seems like failure.
Ok, enough philosophy, let’s talk practical steps.
Let’s apply the tried and true SMART mnemonic. It’s a little tired, so I adapted it slightly to better suit our needs.
Specific – You have to spell out what you plan to achieve in aviation. For example, if you want to get a floatplane rating, it isn’t going to just happen without some specific planning. A good goal like this wouldn’t be “I want a floatplane rating”; rather “I will take the family to Florida for vacation and get the add-on rating while I’m there.”
Measurable – It’s important to have measurable benchmarks. Using the floatplane example, I need to save up $2000 by October to pay for the training. In training, it’s great to set goals for your progress. Don’t go overboard, when it comes to training, some benchmarks are out of your control. The important thing is setting the intention.
Actionable – If you can’t take action, you may not have a well-defined goal. I want to be an airline captain is a great goal, but it isn’t particularly actionable. But sub-goals in support of that, like getting your ratings, is actionable. You have to be taking incremental steps.
Reasonable – If your goal is to fly the, now retired, Space Shuttle, that might be a bit unreasonable. Don’t be shy about setting really hard stretch-goals, but you must use some commonsense.
Timed – You need to set deadlines otherwise you risk floundering around and not accomplishing anything. Be hard on yourself when it comes to keeping you deadlines.
Don’t be afraid to adapt. Things change so we have to be somewhat flexible.
State the goal positively
Write them down – This one is huge!
Follow through – be disciplined in your pursuit of your goal
“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.” ~ Michelangelo
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