Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Smart Planning for a Major Challenge by Joan M. Griffin’s


Smart Planning for a Major Challenge

Joan M. Griffin – Author, Force of Nature: Three Women Tackle the John Muir Trail


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


For reasons I describe in my book, Force of Nature, I decided I was going to thru-hike the 200-mile John Muir Trail (JMT). I had just celebrated my fiftieth birthday and was in good physical shape, but I knew taking on such a huge challenge would require a tremendous amount of preparation.


The JMT is considered by many to be “the most beautiful long-distance trail in the world.” Its 200-mile path winds through the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada, beginning in Yosemite National Park in the north and finishing atop Mount Whitney in the south. Along the way, it traverses vast swaths of majestic wilderness far from civilization and surmounts several sky-high mountain passes.


To accomplish my dream, I needed a detailed plan. I’d hiked a lot in the Sierra—it’s in my backyard—but never for the full month this would require. In my career, I had used SMART goals for work-related planning. To make my JMT dream come true, I turned to SMART goals again.


SMART is an acronym for an effective method of planning and organizing to achieve a significant goal. But before you can even get SMART, the dream must be clear and easy to understand.


Define the Challenge – State your ultimate objective in clear language:

The Who? – Is it your goal alone? Or a team’s goal?

·         For me, I needed to plan with a partner.

The What? – State your Ultimate Goal in one clear sentence.

·         For me, that was easy. I will hike the JMT, north to south, next summer.

The How? – Based on your early knowledge, how do you envision this happening? It’s like the hypothesis in a science experiment. Write a clear paragraph, along with all your questions.

·         For me, I had a general knowledge about requirements for hiking the JMT, but not the specifics. Writing it down made the gaps in my knowledge vivid.

The Why? – Motivation is important at the start, but will become more so with time—becoming the most important thing when you run into unforeseen obstacles or setbacks. Write it down.

·         For me... you’ll have to read my book to find out the personal reasons I needed to make my dream come true.


Set Clear Goals – Use the SMART method to define each interim Action Plan. Write each in one clear sentence. Continue to break larger goals into smaller action plans until they all meet the SMART goal requirements:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-Bound

Two examples:

·         I will get to the gym more often.

Is that a SMART goal? No.

·         I will take a challenging movement class at the gym 5 days a week for 50 minutes.

Does that action plan meet each of the SMART points? Yes.


Writing effective SMART goals and creating a workable plan will often require educating yourself. The method will work best if you intentionally:

·         Monitor your progress frequently

·         Allow for adjustment to your plans or timeline

·         Celebrate small accomplishments along the way


Whether your heart’s desire is to complete a challenging physical adventure like walking the John Muir Trail, start a new career or business, or write a book, SMART planning will help you achieve your goals. In fact, the process works for turning almost any dream into a reality.



  1. Thank you for inviting me as a guest blogger and for highlighting my book. Joan


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