Staying disciplined and motivated

Every year, around December, with the New Year just around the corner, we set goals and optimistically look forward to a new year. A clean slate. A new year. A new you.

Take a step back and reflect on 2016:

  • What goals did you set?
  • What progress did you make towards accomplishing them?
  • What went well?
  • What could have been improved?

“Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

– Thomas Edison –

In my opinion, setting goals is the 1% innovation and the execution towards achieving goals is the 99% perspiration. If we can set clear, achievable, and measurable goals, the 99% will be much easier to follow through and we will progress quickly.

“Progress equals happiness”

– Tony Robbins –

In this article I’ll propose a framework on how you can make sure you maximize the probability of making progress towards achieving your goals. The SICM framework is described in the 4 steps below:

  • Set S.M.A.R.T Goals
  • Identify Key Habits
  • Create Cues & Rewards
  • Minimize Threats & Weaknesses
  1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals is a concept developed by George Doran which was published in the 1981 issue of Management Review. For more information about the origins and history of S.M.A.R.T Goals click here.

Simply put, the acronym S.M.A.R.T stands for:

  • Specific – The goal must be specific in its target. What exactly do you want to achieve?
  • Measurable – The goal must be quantifiable, or at the very minimum, should have an indicator of progress. How will you measure progress?
  • Agree Upon* – The goal must be agreed upon by all the stakeholders on what the goal is. N/A if you are the one executing the goal.
  • Realistic – The goal is realistic given the availability of resources, knowledge, and time. Do you truly believe this goal is realistic?
  • Time-Based – The goal is to be completed within a given time frame. Goals without a deadline lack a sense of urgency and tend to be pushed. By assigning a clear deadline, you are able to clearly define when the goal should be completed. If you’re setting a goal for 2017, you can give yourself the whole year to complete the goal. How long do you need to complete this goal?

*According to the concept in the 1981 issue of Management Review

Once you have set your S.M.A.R.T goals, the next steps will help maximize the chances of following through on achieving them. To increase the meaning of a goal, identify a reason WHY you are creating this goal.


  1. Identify Key Habits

We often overlook the behavioral component involved in achieving goals. Goals in and of themselves are static markers that indicate whether they have been accomplished or not. However, the process of moving towards goals are dynamic and ever changing. The actions that need to be taken towards achieving yearly goals are simple but they need to be executed consistently over time. Forming and maintaining habits that reinforce these actions help propel us in the direction of our goals.

“The difference between a successful person and and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will”

– Vince Lombardi –

Forming strong habits will remove the drain on willpower that is required to get into the mindset of doing what needs to be done to achieve your goals. Especially on days when you don’t feel like doing what needs to be done, your habits will automatically make you execute.

“You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, and surely your habits will change your future”

– Abdul Kalam –

  1. Create Cues & Rewards

According to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit”, habits consist of:

  1. The cue – The cue is a trigger for your brain that tells your body which actions it should perform
  2. The routine – The set of actions that define the ‘doing’ part of a habit
  3. The reward –  The feeling that follows the end of a routine that helps your brain determine whether this particular cue-routine-reward loop is worth remembering

Make your habits stick by creating cues that trigger the routine and rewards that you enjoy so the habit is reinforced. This step will help solidify your habits which are serving the purpose of taking you closer to your goals.


To read more about habits, click here.

  1. Minimize Threats & Weaknesses

You could stop after the 3 points above, but I believe that simply creating new positive habits are just one side of the equation. To be effective, minimizing and even eliminating threats and weaknesses to your goals will increase the likelihood of you achieving your goals.

For every goal you created, list 3 points:

  • you might use as excuses to not work on the goal
  • that could prevent you from dedicating time to working on the goal

And for each reason listed above, specify a counter-measure you could employ to decrease the chance of the reason


To summarize the SICM framework accomplishes 3 main objectives:

  1. It helps you set clear goals
  2. It helps you identify and create the habits that will drive you to achieving your goals
  3. It helps you minimize the chances of not working on your goals by providing counter measures

By following these steps you will have a higher chance of staying focused and motivated in 2017.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you’re planning for 2017!

Let me know in the comments section below.

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