SMART goal setting has become a widely known and oft-used term in coaching and business. It is an easy to remember acronym that helps you to set and define a new goal based on well-established principles. First, we’ll explain what SMART goal setting is, and then we’ll let you know what we’ve learned from our own experience so that you can set even smarter goals.
What is SMART goal setting?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When you apply these principles, you add structure and accountability to your goals and objectives. Instead of vague ideas, you paint a clear picture of your goal while also increasing the chances of making it happen.
The great thing about SMART goal setting is that it can be applied to both professional and personal goals.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: Specific
What is it that you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the better the odds are that you’ll actually achieve it. We believe that the two most important questions you need to ask yourself early on are:
- What do I want to achieve?
- Why do I want to achieve it?
First off, you need to define what it is that you actually what to achieve. Draw a clear and precise picture of it, and try to avoid vague placeholders. For example, compare “I want to be more fit” to “I want to be able to run 5k without becoming winded”.
We place a lot of importance on answering the Why? as it acts as your fuel, i.e. your motivation. If you do not have a strong why, you might lose your motivation and determination much faster, and obstacles that get in your way might seem bigger and less manageable.
Furthermore, you should have a clear idea about these three attributes when thinking about your goal:
- Who: Who is involved in this goal?
- Where: Where is this goal going to be achieved?
- When: When do I want to achieve this goal?
- How: How do I want to achieve this goal?
Think of the specifics as a sort of finish line for a race. Without knowing where the line is, you will never be able to cross it.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: Measurable
A SMART goal has to have at least one criteria for measuring progress. Being able to measure your progress is like being able to draw your location on a map when you go for a hike. If you know where you are, you’ll be able to decide on the steps you need to take next to keep moving in the right direction, and moreover whether or not you need to make adjustments to your achievement strategy. To make a goal measurable, ask yourself these questions:
- How many/much?
- How will I know when I have reached my goal?
- What is my indicator of progress?
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: Attainable
Is your goal attainable for you? Do you feel like you can make it across the finish line? Many people add the word realistic to this question: Is it realistic that one can reach the goal? Our advice is to worry less about the “realistic-ness” of actually achieving your goal. History is full of people who went way beyond their obvious capabilities. Many people have defied the odds and set new standards in terms of what is possible.
Think about these wise words from Kyle Maynard, who was the first quadruple amputee to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Aconcagua without any prosthetics:
– Kyle Maynard
"Anything is possible? I love the spirit of that. I don't believe it's true.
[...] what I think is actually really more effective is [...] to tell the truth to ourselves to actually know our limits. And to really know our limits we have to go and test those limits. Without that it's just an assumption."
Remember that you need to feel you are ready to put in the necessary work for your goal. You need to be ready to believe in yourself and your why.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: Relevant
We already highlighted the importance of asking yourself Why?, and we will do it once again when talking about the relevance of a SMART goal.
In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by people who have achieved something big or done something great – things like accumulating wealth, finding happiness, or achieving more freedom. It is very tempting to look at someone who is happy and successful and try to copy that person’s method of achieving that status, e.g. “I want to be famous, because then I will be as happy as…”, or “I want to become a top-notch salesperson, because then I will be as rich and happy as…”.
Looking at other people is a great source of motivation, but only you yourself can find the answer to whether or not you are really inspired by the thought of reaching a certain goal. We believe that we do not need to find a new goal, but that a goal finds you.
Keeping a daily journal can be a great help in getting a better grip on what it is you really admire and want to strive for.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting: Timely
A SMART goal must be time-bound in that it has a start and finish date. If the goal lacks a time constraint, there will be no sense of urgency and motivation to achieve the goal. Make your goal timely by asking yourself:
- When do I want to start working on my goal?
- By when do you want to achieve my goal?
Depending on the magnitude of your goal, you’ll need to make sure to give yourself enough time for achieving it. Nothing can kill a goal faster than wanting too much too fast. Whenever possible, give yourself enough room to start slow and to establish the necessary routines and habits that will make your goal a reality. Consistency is the key, and not speed.
SMART = SMALL
When it comes to actually achieving your goal, there is one thing we cannot stress enough: Go SMALL. With small we do not mean setting an easy to reach “small” goal, but to go about its realization in small and manageable steps. You can set yourself the SMARTest goal, but if you do not apply a successful achievement strategy, you will never attain it. The biggest successes we’ve seen have involved starting out small and slow.
Whenever you think about the steps you need to take to realize a goal, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the smallest possible step that I can take to start realizing my goal?
- How often can I repeat it? Every day? Every week?
As soon as you have set your goal, do everything you can to start moving forward by taking small steps.
Break your goal down. Start exercising in small steps and not giant leaps. Your steps have to be achievable and be infused with success. Be proud of taking those steps, and use each step as motivation for the next one!
You can adjust the effort necessary for each step anytime, and you can increase your effort if you’re still having fun. Remember: only increase the effort if you feel challenged but not overwhelmed. Stay flexible and adapt. Using your success from the early stages, you will soon feel like you’re able to increase your daily or weekly level of activity related to your goal. Writing a few lines will turn into a whole page, or even more. Running miles will be your new unit of measurement. One functional part of the program you’re writing will become applicable to many other projects that you’re working on.
This is the way to success, the way to realize a SMART goal the smart way.
Goalify can help
Goalify was developed to help you reach your SMART goals and be more consistent overall. It’s a smart mobile app that you can use to quickly, easily and effectively record any number of goals or other tasks that you’d like to accomplish. Goalify ensures success with dynamic reminders, helpful tips and custom push notifications. You’ll get useful information on your goal performance and detailed advice on how to do even better. You can learn more about the smart app by visiting goalifyapp.com.
If you are looking for a solution that will help you with goal setting in a professional environment, you might enjoy the benfits and features of Goalify Professional. With Goalify Professional, you can set up repeating tasks and to-dos that will give your clients, team members or patients clear objectives and assist them in establishing new behaviors through increased consistency.