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How To Set Achievable Goals

Updated on November 7, 2014

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Setting Goals

Think of one goal in any area of your life right now.

Chances are your goal is a pretty common goal, and there's nothing wrong with that. Maybe you want to get in better shape, eat healthy, learn an instrument, learn a new language, or maybe you want to quit smoking.

However, your goal is also probably not specific, not measurable, and overall vague in nature. When people create goals, they are creating an ideal which they can work towards. When most people create these ideals, they set themselves up for failure by creating poor goals.

Thankfully, creating achievable goals is not hard to do. It doesn't even take very much practice. All it takes is knowing the SMART system for creating goals.

The SMART system stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

As long as you can make sure these five traits apply to your goals, you will be more likely to succeed.

Specific

When people think of goals, they often start off as vague ideas. People think "I want to get fit" or "I want to learn an instrument", and these are great things to desire. However, those goals are incredibly vague. At what point would you have accomplished being "fit"? When is an instrument considered to be "learned"? What happens is people create vague goals and it's difficult to tell when you've actually accomplished them. This leads to a lot of discouragement as it seems like you'll never get there.

That's why it's important to make specific goals. Instead of setting a goal to get fit, set a goal to run one mile in six minutes. Set a goal to bench press 200 pounds. Set goals that are simple and specific.

This will help you stay motivated because it's easier to work towards a very specific and simple goal than it is to work towards a vague generalization.

Specific goals will cover who is involved, where you will accomplish this goal, how you'll accomplish it, why you want to accomplish it, and most importantly, what specifically you want to accomplish.

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Measurable

Another common mistake in making goals is making goals that aren't measurable. For example, getting "in shape" isn't measurable. Being in shape could mean many things from lifting heavy weights to being flexible to having a nice beach body. Because of this, it's often good to break goals down into smaller parts that are easily measurable. For fitness, this could be measuring a timed mile or different lifts. If you're learning an instrument, make it measurable by setting goals to learn specific songs, or a line of each song a day. The point is to make your goal as measurable so you can actually see progress which will keep you motivated.

Measurable goals will usually answer questions like how much, how many, and how will I know when I'm done?

Attainable

Another important factor in making good goals is making goals which are attainable. This usually means creating goals which are not impossibly hard, but also not trivial and meaningless. Don't aim to learn all of calculus in a week, but also don't aim to master basic addition over the next year. Make your goal challenging yet attainable.

Attainable goals are usually realistic and answer how the goal will actually be accomplished.

Relevant

Yet another important factor is making goals that matter or are relevant. When I was in high school, I aimed to eat six Subway foot longs over the course of a day. The goal was specific, it was measurable, it was attainable, but it was also extremely irrelevant. The goal did not matter and would not progress me forward in life. Yes, I ate six sandwiches, but it wasn't relevant to anything I was doing.

When looking at the relevance of a goal, it's important to ask whether you're the right person for the job, whether the job is a good use of your time, and whether it matches the effort you're willing to put forth. In this way, you'll make goals that are actually relevant to who you are.

Timely

Finally, it is critical to create goals that are time-bound. This means setting goals with all of the above specifications, but also giving yourself a time limit. This limit will motivate you or your group to work towards that specific date rather than working at a lackluster pace. The point of time-bound goals is to create a feeling of importance that stresses the goal.

Time-bound goals answer when, how much can I get done in a week, six months, or a year?

In Summary

In summary, smart goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Instead of aiming to get fit, aim to bench press 180 pounds by christmas day, and run a six minute mile by June 1. Set goals that matter to you, and stick with them.

When you set and achieve your goals, you'll be motivated to do more and more and reach your highest potential.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.

— Henry Ford

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