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5 Tips on Setting Smart Goals

Updated on December 30, 2011

5 tips to make your goals SMART goals for success

These 5 tips for turning your goals into S.M.A.R.T. goals will make achieving them easier, and improve your chances for success. Whether they are personal goals, like; losing weight or stopping smoking, or professional goals, like; getting that promotion, or finishing a major project - turning a broad vague goal into one with a plan will make achieving it a lot easier, and the chances of success a lot better.

When you understand these 5 steps to defining and setting a goal, you will more feel more motivated and confident because you will see that big goal that looked so hard, is now a defined goal with a plan and specific steps and parameters.


S.M.A.R.T. Goals are defined goals

A broad goal does not offer any way to measure progress, an important motivator. A broad goal will always seem like it is on the distant horizon, vague and a long way off. But if you turn it into a S.M.A.R.T. goal, it becomes specific and defined, it is measurable, it becomes more attainable, and it will be more relevant to what you actually want to accomplish - with a time-line to success.

Here is an example of turning a goal to lose weight, a general statement, into a S.M.A.R.T. goal that is specific and realistic.


A specific goal has a defined objective

A goal to lose weight is not really a goal, it's a wish, and wishes are something hoped for. A goal has a specific and defined objective, something to be worked for.

"I want to lose 10 pounds." That is a goal. It has a purpose, and a parameter. It could even be made more specific, "I want to lose 10 pounds by May."

Now the goal is not a vague desire, it is a defined destination. Instead of just a desire to get somewhere, now "somewhere" is a specific place. Getting to a specific place is much easier and effective than just aiming for "somewhere."

Now the goal to lose weight becomes the goal to lose 10 pounds by May.


A goal must be measurable to succeed

"I want to lose weight," is not a measurable goal. How much weight is to be lost? Does losing one pound meet the goal? Five pounds, ten pounds? How do you measure your progress or the accomplishment if you can't measure what the goal is and where progress stands.

But the original goal was made more specific. Now it is "I want to lose 10 pounds by May." That is measurable, and can be made even more measurable and easier to accomplish. Suppose the new goal was further divided into mini-goals of losing 2.5 pounds per month. Not only is the primary goal measurable, but now there are measurable steps that will renew and invigorate the efforts to achieve the final goal each time they are accomplished.


It must be attainable to be a SMART goal

It may seem obvious that setting a goal to become 10 feet tall is silly because it is unattainable, at least in today's world, but would a goal to lose 40 pounds if you are only 5 pounds overweight, or to run a 4-minute mile if you are not a runner, be just as obviously unattainable? Goals must be realistic and achievable, or why bother setting them.

Setting a goal that is attainable is part of the process of turning a broad goal into a S.M.A.R.T. goal. An attainable goal involves not just feasibility, but also steps and processes. The "I want to lose 10 pounds by May," goal is an attainable goal. There are definite steps you can take to achieve it. It has already been refined to smaller intermediate goals of losing 2.5 pounds per month. A reasonable task. Just a little moderation of eating habits, and a little extra exercise and the 2.5 pound goal is easily within reach. A motivating accomplishment that will fuel the drive to the final goal.

But what if the goal to lose 40 pounds was made by someone weighing only 105 pounds now. That would not be a realistically attainable goal. So it would be a failed effort.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are ones that can be realistically attained. Goals that have a chance for success.


A S.M.A.R.T. goal is relevant to the purpose

Many times the "R" in S.M.A.R.T. is listed as "Realistic," but that is fairly well covered as being attainable. This "R" is for "Relevant," an aspect that is just as important to setting a goal that can be achieved. Most importantly, is it relevant to the goal setter's desires. Is the goal to lose weight a personal choice, or one suggested by someone else? Or is a goal relevant to other life desires, or just an odd thought prompted by other considerations?

A goal that is relevant and important to the person setting the goal has a much better chance of success than one that is just a side-thought, or "add-on" goal.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is relevant to the goal setter's desires.


A Time-based goal is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

One of the most important factors in achieving a goal is to have a deadline, or "test" period. The goal to lose 10 pounds is open ended. There is no motivation to get it done in a set amount of time, so progress could just meander along. But if it has a deadline, or "checkpoints" along the way the person setting the goal will be much more motivated to do what is needed to accomplish it.

The thought that "I can have that piece of cake today and just work a little harder for the next few weeks." won't work as an excuse or delaying tactic if there is a deadline looming. Motivation is the driving force that achieves goals, and as long as a goal is open-ended or has no progress checks, then the motivating factor of time, or a deadline is missing. An easy out for the less motivated.

A S.M.A.R.T.goal has a deadline and checkpoints.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals - The Next Step

Those are the 5 tips for setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal. The next step is adding the "How-to." The article at the link below will describe the details of planning each part of a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

  • How to Set Goals You Can Really Achieve


See more GA Anderson articles

See more of my articles and writings at:

5 Tips on Setting Smart Goals Comments

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Planning is critical. we work with cancer sufferers, people battling depression and people needing serious motivation and having a good plan is so important.

      Dan Jones

    • ahmed.b profile image


      6 years ago from Sweden

      Wow an interesting style of goal setting staratedgy. But despite many goal setting working people, including me, forget what was original goal due to increasing pace of life. And then perhaps after a long if we get time to think, we found ourself far away from goal and even sometimes found to be going in opposite direction... Would you like to comment on that...

    • GA Anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      GA Anderson 

      6 years ago from USA

      @Simone - thanks for reading my hub 5 Tips on Setting Smart Goals. I appreciate the comment. It is a pretty common acronym, but it does make sense.


    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Smart, specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based. How perfect! I love the acronym and appreciate your sharing it! I hadn't heard of it before.


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