SMART Goals Explained

smart goals explained

SMART Goals – What Are They?

If you’ve done any research into goal setting, you’ve no doubt come across the acronym SMART. While many theories and frameworks for goal setting exist, SMART is definitely the most popular. This handy acronym – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely – is a fantastic way to evaluate each and every goal you set. Sometimes the specific words vary slightly, but the idea is the same. SMART goals integrate perfectly with my goal setting system, and I utilize them every time I create a new goal. So how do you go about creating SMART goals? It’s not too hard. In this article, I’ll break down each letter and give examples to highlight how to best utilize the SMART system.

S- Specific

The S is the most important letter of the SMART acronym, so it’s great that it comes first. It stands for specific, and if you remember anything from this article, remember this – you should never set a vague goal. This is the who, what, when, where, and why of your goals. The more specific you can be, the better. As an example: “I want to lose weight this year” is a poor goal. It has great intentions, no doubt, but is far too broad. A better goal is “I will lose 10 pounds by July 1st.” If you wanted to be even more specific, you could go as far as to say “I will lose 10 pounds by July 1st through 30 minutes of cardio 5 times per week.” There’s no such thing as too specific when it comes to goals.

M – Measurable

The next letter, M, is for measurable. The previous situation, weight loss, is a great example of a measurable goal. 10 pounds of weight loss is easy to quantify. Other goals are harder to measure, but it’s always beneficial to try and find a way. “I will be more outgoing this year” is a start, but how does one measure outgoing-ness? However, saying “I will talk to one new person at work each week” works well. It’s easy to know if you’ve talked to someone new vs estimating how outgoing you’ve been. Always create your goals with the end result in mind.

A – Attainable

In the SMART goals acronym, A stands for attainable (or achievable). How does the elementary school saying go, again? “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” While this is a great mantra for life, when it comes to goals we want to strike a balance between high aspirations and reality. Setting too lofty of goals can lead to burnout or discouragement when we fall short. Alternatively, we don’t want to set goals so easy that they are accomplished without work. Setting attainable goals is a matter of considering the end result we desire, the time frame we would like to achieve it in, and how rapidly we can make it there. If someone has the goal of becoming a millionaire, getting there in a year may be unreasonable. However, saving 15-20% of each paycheck may be challenging but doable.

R – Relevant

There are a million different goals we could potentially set. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the ways we could improve ourselves. When it comes to SMART goals, focusing on those objectives which would be the most beneficial in your current situation is the most rewarding. A goal of traveling more often is exciting, but creating a plan to pay off your debt may be the most relevant goal at the time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many goals – narrow in on those goals that are most relevant to your current priorities.

T – Timely

The last letter in the SMART goals framework is T, which stands for timely. With enough time and determination, almost any goal is achievable. However, if all of our goals reach success late in life then we miss out on a large portion of our potential. The benefits from weight loss, for example, begin as soon as the weight is lost. Stretching out that goal simply prolongs the time without the reward. Timely goals are realistic but have a defined endpoint. Look again at those end results you desire – what do you need to do in 1 week, 1 month, or 6 months to reach those goals? Just like you should never have a vague goal, you should never have a goal without a timeframe.