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You and your dog have dreams to fulfill – can a combination of SMART goals and Stretch goals help you make the next ten years count?

It’s 2020! Can you repeat that with me?

We’ve entered not only a new year, but a new decade!

If that’s not exciting and gets your head spinning and your heart pumping for all the new things you want to experience and accomplish, I don’t know what will.

It’s decision time. What do you want to do with your dog?

“Most people overestimate what they can get done in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.”

This quote has been attributed to dozens of people, from Bill Gates to Tony Robbins, but when you get right down to it, it’s spot on. A brand-new 10 years stretches before you.

A gentle reminder:

For those of you starting this year with a new puppy, remember that by the time we reach the end of this decade, your sweet little cuddle bug will have grown into an adult dog and will be entering his golden years. And for those of us who have dogs already into adulthood? I’m coming to terms that I may be saying goodbye to my faithful friend and constant companion before the decade turns once more.

Ten years will pass in the blink of an eye. Whaddya say we make them count?

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ~ attributed to Hunter S. Thompson

Whatever it is you and your dog want to do or be or have, setting goals will help. Using SMART goals and Stretch goals will pave the way for accomplishing them.

What are SMART goals?

Dog holding an oversized pencil in front of a stack of books

As a refresher, SMART goals are a way of defining what you want in a way that is:

S – Specific. Being clear on exactly what you want to achieve is first. Defining in detail what the success of reaching your goal looks like establishes the parameters.

M – Measurable. How will you know you’ve reached your goal if you don’t have a way to measure it? A measurable goal gives your concrete evidence that you’ve reached it. The numbers and metrics give you proof.

A – Attainable. This one is a little tricky. It’s simple asking if you have all the elements and resources needed to reach your goal.

R – Relevant. This is the part of the goal where you must have a ‘why.’ Is this goal important to you? In what way? Is it something another person thinks you should do or something that make sense in the overall picture? If a goal is not relevant to you, your motivation to reach it will be low.

T – Timely. Probably the easiest one. Timelines help us keep on track andgive us an endpoint upon which to focus. It’s important to your success to make certain your goal can be accomplished in a timely manner and not just ‘sometime in the future.’ That’s a wish, not a goal.

Example of a SMART goal:

Let’s say your veterinarian just told you Dodger has put on a few extra pounds. (Too many Christmas snacks, right?) She recommends Dodger lose 5 lbs. of that fat by your next wellness checkup. That’s a goal. Let’s run it through the SMART test.

S – Your goal is for Dodger to lose 5 lbs. That is very specific.

M – Measurable is what this goal is all about, so yes!

A – Totally attainable. You have all the resources you need. You control the food, treats and exercise, so you can totally do this.

R –  Relevant is a big Yes! Losing weight will keep your dog healthy and prevent illnesses AND help him live a longer life.

T – You definitely have a timeline; lose the weight by his next appointment in six months.

What are Stretch Goals?

Dog stretching in a play bow in front of a sunny window

If it seems like SMART goals are asking you to set goals that are easily reachable in a short amount of time, then Stretch goals are asking the opposite!

In fact, setting goals that seem far out of your comfort zone are what really kick in your zest for life.

A Stretch goal should be a dream that you’ve wanted to accomplish, maybe for a very long time. It’s a goal where you feel both totally excited and super-scared and nervous all at the same time when you think about going for it. And these are the very goals that I hope you’ll make for you and your dog.

What have you always wanted to do or be or have that has felt out of reach?

  • Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail? Even though you’ve never walked more than a couple miles before?
  • Embarking on a road trip through every state?
  • Funding a rescue organization?
  • Starting your own pet daycare business?
  • Beginning dock diving with your dog and qualifying for invites to Championship events?
  • Buying your own home with several acres for your dog to explore?
  • Opening your own boutique pet clothing store?

Stretch goals feel so big, it’s hard to know exactly what the first step should be. It can feel totally overwhelming. And it’s easy just to give up or not start at all.

Making these Stretch goals a reality can happen. One trick is using SMART goals to break them down into manageable, do-able steps.

Take a moment to sit down and write out your most important Stretch goal. Be very specific about what you want. For example, writing “I want to have $100,000” is not detailed enough.

Start with the 5 Ws:

Who, What, When, Where and most important – Why. Detail it out. Using the above example, ask: Who will be using the money or who it will help? What will the money be used for? When would you like to have it? Where could it possibly come from? And why is this important to you?

Why is the WHY Most Important?

Going after your biggest goals and dreams is scary and challenging. It pushes you to do things you never thought you could do. Knowing WHY the dream is important to you will give you the courage and the reason to keep going when things get hard. Stretch goals means you’re in it for the long haul.

Break it Down

Next, what are the steps that need to happen to make this dream a reality? Take each of these steps and put them through the SMART goal sifter. Make each step specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Write it down.

Stretch Goal Example:

Let’s say your Stretch goal is to run with your dog in a Canine Biathlon. Both of you are casual walkers, so you know you both have a lot of work to do. You’ve gone through the five Ws and identified the steps to reach your goal. The first step will probably be ‘begin walking every day.’

Turn it into a SMART goal. Get specific. ‘My dog and I will walk one mile every day for two weeks. I can track the mileage and we have a walking harness and a great place to walk. It’s relevant to our goal that we start slowly to prevent injury and build up our strength.’

Once you’ve reached this first goal (and it’s so simple you KNOW you got it!) you’re ready to implement the next. And the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you complete those first two weeks gives you that motivation to continue.

Take Action

Let’s be real here for a moment. You know as well as anyone that writing down goals doesn’t automatically make them happen. You have to take action.

That’s why breaking down your big dream into bite-sized steps is so important. If you tried to accomplish this huge goal all at once, you’d be overwhelmed. But you can do anything for one hour. And over time, those baby-steps will take you right down the road to the finish line.

If you’re having trouble taking action on a goal, it’s probably because the goal just isn’t that important to you. You might need to re-evaluate to see if this dream fills you with excitement or it’s just ‘meh.’ When you really WANT something, you’ll find a way to start – even if it’s small.

The rest is up to you. Do something. Every day. Keep going, even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere.

If roadblocks pop up (and they WILL) go back to your WHY. In fact, don’t even look at the stumbling blocks. Refocus on the outcome. Every problem has a solution you just haven’t seen yet.

There’s so much more to setting and attaining goals, but we hope this is enough to spark your imagination. Keep dreaming and reaching for all the fun and togetherness you and your dog can experience.

Don’t forget to download the SMART vs. Stretch Goals Worksheets. We’ll see you on the other side of your dreams!

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