Trying to go Green? Get S.M.A.R.T.

By guest writer Jeff Eyink

If you’re like me, then you too are infatuated with the TV show Mad Men on AMC.  A few episodes back, the lead character Don Draper was speaking with a client, and he said something that got me thinking.

NatalGreenSnake“Some snakes go months without eating, and then when they finally do, they suffocate from eating too much. Let’s take this one opportunity at a time.”

I know this isn’t profound.  It’s really just a longer way of saying “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  But it reminded me about the overwhelming amount of choices that we face when choosing an environmentally-minded lifestyle.  There’s a ton of information out there (here, for example) with what seems like even more people trying to tell you what you should be doing, buying, and saving in your all-inclusive dream of “going green.”  In our enthusiasm to save the planet, we often become paralyzed by the massive amount of choices available.  This is especially true for those of us who are new to game and taking on too much in an attempt to atone for their environmental “sins.”  So how can we avoid becoming the snake?  What can we do that will help us digest our options without trying to do too much, too fast? 

It’s always difficult when you’re starting out.  But just like any goal we set, living sustainably requires a rational approach.  Sure, it would be great if we all woke up tomorrow living a perfectly environmental lifestyle, but that’s not going to happen.  Going green is a lifestyle change, and changes take time, persistence, and accountability.  It’s something we must cultivate over time in order to achieve the best and most sustainable transformation possible. 

So what’s the greenhorn to do?  Let me pull a chapter from my Management 101 memories and remind you about S.M.A.R.T. goals, meaning:

                 Specific

                Measurable

                Attainable

                Realistic

                Timely

Just recalling this simple acronym should have most of us re-evaluating our approach.  But let’s quickly visit each part to see the components in action.

Specific goals require us to narrow our approach to attain a single achievement.  Think of it as breaking down the trance of “I’m going green” to something understandable like “I’m going to group my errands into one large trip instead of many small ones.”  “Going green” has too many paths, and trying to pursue them all (I don’t know how you could even list them) will leave you stuck in a mental quagmire.  Instead, start with a single path and dominate it.  You’ll feel good about yourself and actually accomplish something.

Measurable goals require us to pick something that we can actually put a value too.  Back to our example, “I’m going green” doesn’t give much depth when it comes time to reviewing how well we’ve done.  You either did or you didn’t.  “Going green” is a concept that constantly builds upon itself, with new paths toward its achievement being realized every day.  On the other hand, our errand example is very measurable and goes further than “yes or no.”  You can break your self- review into days or weeks, track how many extra trips you found yourself making, and give yourself a score (both qualitative and quantitative).   A goal can’t be achieved unless there’s a set way to gauge success.

Attainable goals work together with how you measure your success.  Simply put, if you can’t measure it, you can’t attain it.  Like we said earlier, “going green” doesn’t have an endpoint.  The paths we realize as its components, however, can be grouped into finite occurrences.  We all have to run errands, so our optimal number of trips in a given time is one.  Can we attain one trip a week?  Yes!

Realistic goals probably seem easy at this point.  If you can’t develop a goal that is Specific, Measurable, and Attainable, it surely won’t be Realistic.  Having lofty hopes and aspirations is great.  That (plus a lethal dose of coffee) is what keeps me going every morning.  But let’s remember that goals and dreams are not the same thing, so we shouldn’t treat them the same either.  “Going green” is admirable, but it isn’t fathomable.  Use your tremendous dreams to create practical goals. 

Timely goals force us to set an endpoint.  It also makes us realize the great differences between our goals and dreams.  When we create an end to our goals, we make them that much more prevalent and important in our day-to-day lives.  When I create a goal (like finish this draft before 3pm, or else), it becomes increasingly prevalent in my day.  Deadlines aren’t always fun, but they push us.  Deadlines force us to reassess what we’re doing, assign a level of completeness, and review our tactics.  Dreams can impact our choices, but they creSuperStock_1612R-15828ate little accountability.

By now I’m sure you’ve developed an entire plan mapping out each and every step you’ll take to live a green lifestyle, right?  Of course not.  That’s the importance of creating goals that lead to your dream.  Setting S.M.A.R.T goals is extremely powerful, and often liberating.  As you continue to immerse yourself in the world of sustainability, remember to avoid being the snake.  It’s easy to fall into a good-intentioned but fruitless coma.  Acting purposefully, however, requires patience and practicality along with your good intentions.  By taking a realistic approach to what you seek, you can diminish what was once impossible into something you’re capable of accomplishing. 

Jeff Eyink recently joined the Dolphin Blue team as the Marketing Manager. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Jeff came down to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University and received his bachelors in marketing, markets and culture and economics. Contact Jeff at jeff@dolphinblue.com.

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