Goals are a method for accomplishing, achieving, acquiring, or experiencing things in our lives. Goals are a destination and give us a sense of direction that can provide motivation to get there. S.M.A.R.T. goals seem to be the gold standard method that leaders and coaches talk about - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based. All noble ideas. But I have a confession to make: I don’t like S.M.A.R.T goals. (If you are unfamiliar with S.M.A.R.T. goals, a quick google search will lead you to millions of articles). They have never resonated with me. Goal setting in this way works for some people, and that is great! Instead of only embracing the destination, I welcome the journey as well.
Enter a new method: PACT. The acronym stands for Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable. It focuses on the output (which I think of as the journey) as well as the outcome. It focuses on what actually matters, supports taking action, encourages continual progress, and provides opportunities to reassess your progress.
Let’s break this down further and give examples of how you can use this method:
This first step looks at your goal’s meaning and why you are doing this. It connects you to your own values and what is important to you. Ultimately, this goal would have a long-term effect. To find the purpose in what you are doing:
Ask questions of yourself. Tiago Forte, the author of the book The Second Brain, says that questions “... illuminate a space of possibilities where many avenues can open up, not just a single narrow path.” These can be simple questions like “what is important to me right now” or more complex questions like “How can I live a long, healthy, fulfilling life?”
A great tool to bring awareness to various areas of your life is the idea of a life bucket. By figuring out what is most important to us, we can guide our time toward what is most important. Life Buckets may include things like Business/Career/School, Health/Nutrition, Relationships, and Personal Growth/Learning.
This second step looks at outputs that you can control. It encourages you to take one step at a time. What is one thing you can do today? Notice it’s not planning out all 50 steps to complete your project, it’s just one doable action. If you find that you are stuck with figuring out an action, ask yourself the question “Can I just…?” This phrase gives me something that is doable and actionable. When I set a goal to wake up at 5 am, I asked myself the question “Can I just go to bed 15 minutes earlier?” This is, in part, how I trained myself to wake up earlier.
Here are some “Can I just…” examples:
“Can I just go to bed 15 minutes earlier”
“Can I just trim the branches on the hydrangea bush”
“Can I just unsubscribe from an email list and delete messages from that sender”
The third step asks you to take small, consistent actions or create routines. In the book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear uses an example of how a plane frequently and consistently course corrects. If a plane leaves LA and heads east, a change in its path of just a few degrees means the difference between landing in New York vs. Washington DC. These small adjustments are hardly noticeable at any given moment in time. The end result of all of these small changes is substantial!
When we build small, frequent, consistent habits, we can easily make the life changes we want or reach the goals that we set.
We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle
The fourth step asks you to track progress (or your output) on your goals. “Trackable" actions are different from “Measurable” in SMART goals. For instance, I want to grow my email list. Measurable would be getting 10,000 subscribers. Trackable would mean posting 25 Instagram posts a month or providing a call to action on each post. This output is trackable with a simple yes or no question: Did I post 25 Instagram posts this month?
The PACT method is designed to get you started right now. What is important to you? What action can you take that will help move you forward? How can you build consistency? Did you complete the action?
I'd love to know. Do you set S.M.A.R.T. goals or do PACT goals resonate with you?