TRAMS: Your Way to Smart Goals

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

The whole point of setting a goal is to achieve it (or at least work towards getting closer to some part of it). Although, by looking at your list of resolutions or intentions for the year, it might be hard to tell. Sure, it’s only March 1st. Sure, you’ve been meaning to get to it. Sure, things have come up. Sure, life has gotten in the way.

On “meaning” to get to it: My grandfather traveled to Europe every year for the last 28 years of his life—the entire time he was retired. His goal was to travel. He was frugal with his money. He booked flights. He got on planes in LAX and got off of them in Paris and London and Munich and Rome, and then took trains to all the tiny little places that planes would not take him to. He would bring me back little trinkets sometimes, but I only remember one of them. It was round and white with red lettering. On the front in bold letters: TUIT. On the back, an explanation:

Finally get a Round Tuit with TRAMS GoalsThis is a Tuit. Guard it with your life. Tuits are difficult to come by, especially the round ones. For years people have said, “I’ll do it when I get a round Tuit.” So now that you have one, you can stop putting off all the things you’ve been putting of until you get a round Tuit!

These Tuits are now pretty readily available, as of my most recent Google search for “round tuit”. If you find yourself putting things off and you’re serious about stopping that, go get yourself a round Tuit. Sometimes (usually) all it takes is a small paradigm shift, and you’re doing things you’ve been putting off for years.

On things coming up and life getting in the way: Get over yourself. Things come up. Life isn’t getting in the way, it’s just happening. You have a choice to move with the changes or to stay stagnant while fighting them. If you find that things coming up get in the way of what you really want to do, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what you “really want to do” and get reconnected to it. If you can’t reconnect to it, maybe it’s time to let it go and move on to what’s important to you now.

Years ago I learned about SMART goals. Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-specific. This works great for business. It can also work great for your personal life. Kind of.

I find that when I’m stuck, I don’t want to do the smart thing. [Insert 4th-grade-self temper tantrum here]. When I’m stuck, I don’t want to do what I should do. I don’t want to create “smart” goals. F%@*! smart goals. When I’m stuck I want to get out of my stuck space. I don’t necessarily know where I want to go, so I find it easier to take the TRAMS way to getting unstuck.

TRAMS is the backwards way of being SMART. Thrilling. Resonant. Accountable. Measurable. Specific.

Thrilling. I find that when I start out being specific, I get caught up in the specifics—the details—and I’m right back at being frustrated all over again. So I leave that for last. If I’m going to stick with a goal, I need to be excited about it. Thrilled, if you will. I explore something thrilling (or maybe a few things) on a blank piece of paper and just see what I end up with.

Resonant. It doesn’t work to achieve a goal for someone else. Ask anyone who’s tried to quit smoking for a spouse or loved one. It only works when quitting is done for the person quitting. You’ve got to find not just a goal that fits what you think you want for yourself, but that fits who you already are and that leads you towards who you want to grow into. What I find with my clients is that a resonant goal also tends to naturally be realistic, which means you’ll believe you can do it.

Accountable. For some, this means getting a gym buddy. For others it means creating a spreadsheet and posting in a prominent spot to update. And for others still, it means something completely different. Maybe you want to clean the house every week, so you invite guests over on a weekly basis, knowing that you’ll clean up before they get there. Maybe you want to read more books, so you check out a book from the library, knowing that you’ll have two weeks to read it before you have to return the book. Your method of accountability might be different based on the goal or where you are in your life. Whatever it is, holding yourself accountable in some way is absolutely imperative to the success of your goal.

Measurable. How will you know you’ve reached your goal unless it’s measurable? Many of my clients begin with “I want to _____ more” or “I want to _____ less”. Knowing that you want to do something “more” or “less” is a good starting point. Next, ask yourself, “What does ‘more’ look like?” or “What does ‘less’ look like?” When you make your goal measurable, you give yourself something specific to work towards, and you’ll be able to see your progress along the way.

Specific. By the time you get to the specific part of taking your TRAMS, it should be pretty well laid out for you. By taking these steps, you’ll know exactly what you want your goal to be, and how to make it work for you. The last little bit is writing down your goal in a specific and concise sentence or two. In essence, this is where you name your goal, based on working out the TRAM details. It might look like: Train for a 10K in twelve weeks, based on 4-times-a-week preparations. It might look like: Eat a healthy diet by way of cooking meals myself in my awesome kitchen 5 times a week.

Whatever your goal is, it should be thrilling to you that you get to work towards it. Connect with your goal on a personal level and make the commitment to you, and not to your goal. Ultimately, you’re working towards something for your sake, not anyone else’s, which will make it easier to hold yourself accountable. When your goal is measurable, you’ll see the progress and know exactly where you stand in reaching it. And being specific about your goal keeps you clear on exactly what it is that you’re working towards.

Tuit image courtesy: trainerswarehouse
  • Alisontravels

    Great Post Dian! Setting goals can be fun. I sat down and wrote 39 goals I wanted to achieve in my 39th year of life. Once I wrote them down and posted on my blog for the world to see (optional of course), I found that it's easier to achieve them once I held myself accountable and for others to see. Not for everyone, but it has helped me. Also, you will run into people in life that perhaps can help you with your goal that you didn't think about before. Thank you for posting this. It's a great reminder. Here are my goals:

  • Love, love, LOVE this! TRAMS and SMART are going on my bulletin board pronto!

  • Dian, this is such a great perspective shift on what to do when you are stuck. I really love the idea of tapping back into the thrill of what you are doing, or if you can't, moving on… I can just tell you are one hell of a coach.

  • tanyageisler

    Sa-weet!! Love this Dian! I've been hip to resonant and thrilling as a more exciting way of goal setting (for me and my clients), but TRAMS is a MUCH finer way to start. Start with the thrill. Damn, that's good! Thank you!!!

  • I love starting with Thrilling Dian! I am one who should leave the specifics to the end. Thanks for the perspective!

  • I love starting with Thrilling Dian! I am one who should leave the specifics to the end. Thanks for the perspective!

  • Dian, this was brilliant. A nice way to look at SMART when you're stuck. Yup, it's a keeper!

  • LOVE it!! Would love to know what's THRILLING for you on your list (oh, the famous list!) =)

  • Aww shucks, thanks, Julie =) I know the THRILL is what works for me, so it must for others—I'm NOT the only one! =)

  • You're welcome, Tanya, glad you liked that 🙂

  • It's funny, I know this about myself to start with the thrilling part and then get into specifics…and still I try to get specific first, and it NEVER works for me! Hope TRAMS works for you =)

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  • While trolling your blog posts for something else, I came across this little jewel. Love it! And, I will use it. =)

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