What Are SMART Goals?

You could say that living a purpose-driven life is geared toward the act of setting and achieving goals. Some estimates say more than 40% of Americans like to make resolutions to welcome the new year. While these resolutions are often vague and unrealistic, they are still built on the idea of achieving something worthwhile. These goals are a crucial aspect of our everyday lives, allowing us to remain productive and progressive in relationships, work settings, and other personal endeavors.

SMART goals are established based on a set of criteria that clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, and utilize your resources effectively to attain what you want in life. They bring structure and tractability into a plan to help transform one’s dreams into a reality. In the corporate world, SMART goals continue to be one of the most effective yet least utilized tools for fulfilling goals. Providing your team with a target to aim for creates a path that will guide and focus your efforts toward achieving something meaningful.

Elements of a SMART Goal

If you’re wondering why we’ve capitalized the word SMART, it’s because it is an acronym for the five elements of a goal worth setting. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals that make it possible for you to take control of your life’s direction. Let’s expound this idea in the items below:

Specific: Goals that are well-defined and focused have a higher chance of generating favorable results. It’s about digging into the nitty-gritty details of a general goal to make sure you know what you are aiming for based on the right context. It’s best to consider the who, what, where, when, and why of a goal to make it easier to accomplish. Measurable: A goal without a measurable outcome is like playing a sport in a billion-dollar stadium without keeping score of who’s winning. Thus, it’s essential to track your progress and determine where the journey ends. Keeping your eyes fixed on targeted results is one way to keep yourself driven. A daily reminder of what’s ahead can also lead to positive growth. Attainable: Setting goals that go beyond your reach is a recipe for disaster. No one can build a million-dollar empire overnight. Clients and investors know better than to accept a project proposal with outlandish goals. The attainability of the goal should only stretch to a level that challenges you, not to the point that forces you to lose touch with reality. Be practical and start outlining goals that are reasonable enough to run after. Otherwise, disappointments are only going to discourage you from moving forward. Relevant: There must be a real benefit to every goal you set. The current conditions and realities of the things around you should play a major part in making this decision. Your goals mean nothing if there are factors from the outside that impede it from coming true. But remember that this is merely a trial that you could work yourself around, as there are alternatives that you could try pursuing to accomplish something better. Time-Based: A start and finish date will always come to your advantage. Though a few bumps in the road may delay the process, it still creates a sense of urgency as you work your way toward achieving success.

50+ SMART Goal Examples, Templates, Format in Word, PDF

How to Set SMART Goals

The first stages of creating a successful business plan revolve around the process of goal setting. Many people lack a sense of direction because they fail to set and articulate goals that are SMART. Although we all have varying definitions of success, goal setting offers us a benchmark for determining whether we are maximizing the opportunities laid out in front of us. To reach these goals, however, you must know how to set them.

Step 1: Decide What You Want

The first step in any goal-setting framework is to decide what you hope to achieve on a long-term or short-term basis. You have a higher chance of attaining these goals if you make them more specific than general. Clear and concrete goals also make it easier to determine your progress as you begin the first parts of your journey. Allow yourself to prioritize the goals that matter over the things that aren’t as relevant or urgent as the others. It’s easier to make this decision when you add details that prove how reasonable you are being when setting those goals. Remember to note all of these down on a SMART goal worksheet.

Step 2: Measure Your Outcomes

There are two ways to measure progress: through quantitative or descriptive criteria. Your criteria for success will make it easy for you to track your progress over time. If you want to lose weight to fit into your wedding dress, adding concrete numbers in your goals is one way to stay focused. You can also use personal items or life events to keep your goal measurable. A definitive version of that goal might be “I want to be able to squeeze into a pair of jeans I wore in my freshman year of college.” Either way, your goal remains specific and measurable. It’s best to keep a journal to help monitor your efforts and the results of such.

Step 3: Assess Your Limitations

Dream big, but stay grounded. This paradox may not make sense at first but after carefully reading the statement a few times, you’ll begin to realize why it is important to keep your feet on the ground while setting goals. For one, some restraints and obstacles are difficult to overcome. Factors such as time, knowledge, and material resources also limit your ability to act. The question to consider here is whether it’s reasonable to fight for these goals in spite of the challenges that stand in your way. You must take all the foreseeable constraints into account before you start digging a hole you can’t get out of.

Step 4: Reflect on Your Desires

By now, you might have a lengthy list of goals written down on paper. Now is the time to cut down your list and to ponder on goals that are fulfilling. You also need to consider whether these goals fit well with the rest of the things going on in your life. Conflicting goals can often cause problems when they cross similar paths. Sometimes, you need to reconsider at least one of your goals and decide whether they are a valuable part of your future. Revising your goals for relevance is arguably the most challenging part of the process, as it often calls you to sacrifice a dream for the sake of the other.

Step 5: Create a Time Frame

The purpose of having a deadline or setting a date for completion isn’t to pressure you to work harder, but to keep you productive and motivated in times of distress. It’s also a good idea to break down long-term goals into smaller, more manageable objectives. This makes the journey less daunting and more rewarding for you to remain inspired. You can also set incentives for the consistent amount of effort exerted to accomplish each milestone. This is a technique that managers and supervisors do to drive their employees to perform even better after every benchmark goal attained. Ensure the viability of this time frame before making a decision that could change your life dramatically.

The Dos and Don’ts of SMART Goals

While we’re still on the subject of goals, it’s necessary for us to express the importance of establishing SMART goals that work toward the positive development of a person, project, team, or business. But you can’t celebrate a “win” if you don’t even know what that achievement is supposed to be. The secret to living a productive life is to set objectives that center around an overall goal. With that said, here are a few things you should do (and not do) when it comes to establishing your goals.

Dos

1. Do expect to succeed. 

Confidence is a good thing. It creates a positive mindset that will keep you motivated despite the hiccups along the way. Expecting yourself to struggle is different from expecting yourself to fail, as the former focuses on keeping your head up high no matter how many times you fall. Challenges are a part of the journey because any sense of accomplishment would be nonexistent without them. It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty seconds over your ideal track time or if you’re four chapters short from finishing a book that’s due next week. Staying self-motivated will keep you focused on your goals.

2. Do track your progress. 

You can do this by establishing a metrics system that determines what you have managed to accomplish so far. Apart from significant milestones, weekly objectives also help translate your perseverance and hard work into visible results. Another reason to religiously monitor your progress is to make sure your memory isn’t playing tricks on you. The human brain can be pretty selective in choosing what it wants to remember and what it would rather forget. For a more personal approach, you can try tracking your goals regularly through a personal checklist or journal.

3. Do have something to look forward to at each milestone. 

Sure, reaching a milestone is already an accomplishment in itself. But a great way to stay driven is to create motivators that will encourage you to keep going. It can be small rewards in the form of your favorite drink, an upcoming film, or even some quality time with your friends. People who dedicate all their time to “grinding” to attain their goals are bound to burnout at some point. Thus, learn to celebrate even the smallest achievements to help boost your morale and leave a positive impact on the bottom line.

4. Do make a commitment. 

Your SMART goals are there for a reason. You didn’t spend most of your afternoon to write them down just for the sake of it. Once you put pen to paper, you’re already making a contract with yourself that you must adhere to as part of a long-term plan. A few bumps down the road may feel disheartening at times, but you have to learn how to view these pitfalls as a learning experience more than a hindrance. Seeing the silver lining in every misfortune will keep you motivated at the most trying times. Never lose sight of the bigger picture, as this will remind you of why those goals were set in the first place.

5. Do set follow-up goals. 

Wanting more in life is not a bad thing as long as you keep them SMART. Everyone is capable of doing great things if they set their heart to it. Setting goals can get addictive because they give you something to look forward to whenever you feel like your life has come to a standstill. It’s about starting small then building yourself up. If you’re setting goals for your business, for example, it’s always best to focus on what’s practical. Once you accomplish a significant goal, you’ll realize that you are capable of achieving something more prominent as part of a bigger picture.

Don’ts

1. Don’t set the bar too high.

Change is good because it’s a part of growth. But drastic changes can be tough to deal with when you have a lot on the line. Being ambitious is only dangerous when you’re all talk with no actions. People often make the mistake of obsessing over a destination without acknowledging the path to get there. This approach can sometimes make it difficult for you to make sound decisions based on current events, leading you to a state of self-doubt and defeat. Thus, it’s essential to make goals that you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for. Keep in mind that SMART goals are meant to be feasible to your own capacity.

2. Don’t be vague. 

Tracking your progress is much easier when you define them accordingly. One clever technique is to set a deadline for each goal. Not only is it one of the primary indicators of progress, but a deadline also pushes you to step up your game. While you don’t want to narrow your focus too much, it’s best to focus your attention on matters that you have control over.

3. Don’t ignore your priorities. 

Setting SMART goals require you to make wise decisions over what is worth achieving. Although this can be beneficial in terms of helping you envision the bigger picture at hand, you can’t deny how overwhelming it is to find a long list of goals in front of you. It’s important to take baby steps to keep your mind at a sensible state. Start small. Spare yourself from the burden of juggling too many things at once. Evaluate each item on your list and identify which elements to prioritize at a time by determining its impact level on a long-term goal and the number of resources available to help you fulfill it.

4. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

This is a common mistake that people make while pursuing their goals. While it’s good to know that your aspirations drive you to become an independent person, that doesn’t exactly mean you’re supposed to do everything on your own. It won’t hurt to ask or even accept help from people who can keep you on your feet. This isn’t a sign of weakness, nor does it radiate any form of dependence, as there are always people in your life that could inspire you to do more than you thought you could.

5. Don’t keep it a secret. 

While you may have heard people say that it’s always wise to keep your achievements under wraps, telling trustworthy individuals about your plans is one way of staying motivated. People who want to see you succeed are willing to do anything in their power to make that happen. Having a support system is always a good idea, especially when you find yourself in a slump. It also humbles you in times of failure by teaching you how valuable success can be as a result of long-term learnings. Don’t expect to be perfect all the time or think that shortcomings are not a meaningful part of the journey, as these are factors that will eventually shape you into the person you want to be at a later point in time.

Once you set goals that are SMART, you’re taking another step closer to success. This method helps push you further, gets you to act faster, and keeps you organized as you go through the different phases of a more significant journey.