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Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

There are endless examples of goal-setting strategies. So many, in fact, that they can confuse and overwhelm people.

The easiest way to begin planning your goals is to utilize the S.M.A.R.T.(E.R.) acronym. There are actually a lot of different “meanings” for those letters, but this post will discuss the most-used ones. You might want to take out a piece of paper or open up your tablet computer, so that you can take some notes on how to use this acronym to bring your own desired goal(s) into reality!

What does the acronym stand for?



Motivational or Measurable 
Realistic or Relevant

S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is a powerful way of motivating yourself and others. Using this strategy helps you create a written plan that includes extremely clear objectives.

What is a “Specific” goal?

You’ve only established your goal if it’s crystal clear and can be communicated either verbally or in writing. Don’t set goals that are too fuzzy. If you can’t articulate it to someone else, then it still needs to be refined. For example: Setting a goal of “I will lose weight” is too vague. A specific goal is “I will lose 10 pounds this month.” It is clear and unambiguous; without any “If…Then…” to it. To make goals specific, they must state exactly what is expected, why is it important, who’s involved, where is it going to happen and which attributes are important. A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:

What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved? And who is not involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

What is a “Measurable” Goal?
Goals must be measurable. Many of us want to lose weight as a goal. Again, a goal of “I will lose weight” is ambiguous. Clearer goals could be “I will lose fat and weight at a rate of 10 lbs per month. I will lose 1-2 inches around my waist line in 6 weeks. I will avoid eating sugar, refined carbohydrates and starches for at least 6 weeks.” This is a concrete, measurable goal and it’s easy to gauge if you’ve hit your target.

What you’re looking for here are concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether you’re making progress towards it! Measuring progress is supposed to help you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

What is an “Achievable” Goal?
Your goal needs to be attainable. Saying you’ll lose 30 pounds in 30 days is unachievable if you want to do it in a healthy way. There’s no metabolic way you can lose only fat in that amount of time. Losing 10 pounds of fat in 30 days, however, is reasonable. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by setting goals that are too far out of reach. You should be striving and reaching for your goal, not plunging off the edge of a cliff.

It’s important to be aware of the contributing factors that will help you reach — or not reach — your expected outcome.

Here are some concepts to consider for losing weight and getting healthy: cleaning all unhealthy food from your cupboards and fridge, enlisting family support, considering your emotional attachments to food, doing more exercise, examining your motivation to exercise, and managing your time so that you do not sabotage your goal because you don’t plan it in your calendar.

Remember: while an attainable goal may stretch you in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is, the goal is neither out of reach nor below a standard of performance that you can reach for. Too high or too low are both meaningless. When you identify goals that are important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.

What is a “Realistic” Goal?
Evaluate yourself and how much you have on your plate. A goal might be “Achievable” by someone with no other commitments, but what about you? That’s what “Realistic” means. Do you have the time, skill set, and enthusiasm to change your lifestyle? If you’re in the middle of renovating your house or you’re working full time and raising kids, is the goal that you have set realistic?
Be fair to yourself and set realistic goals within the context of your daily life. Maybe you’re not ready to make the time to change your habits. In order to make a change, you have to make it a priority!

The other way to look at the “R” is “Relevant – What is a “Relevant” Goal?

Basically – a Relevant goal is one that matters. A Bank Manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2:00pm.” may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Time-Bound, but lacks Relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your family or your organization will receive that needed support. So it needs to not only be Relevant to you, but also to the people that you need to help you. How can you make your goal “Relevant” to them? Relevant goals (when met and understood) drive everyone forward to accomplish them. A relevant goal means that you can answer Yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match your other efforts/needs?
Are you the right person?

What is a “Time-specific” Goal?
Simply, you must create a time frame within which to achieve your goals. It’s amazing how powerful a firm deadline can be. This takes your goal from happening “someday” to happening this month.

Time-specific goals create a sense of urgency and action. Plus, both long- term and short-term goals can be achieved using the same S.M.A.R.T. system.
To really advance your goal-setting strategies, enlist the help of your family and friends. Many people schedule weekly or daily chats to create and fine-tune their goals.

When you create your S.M.A.R.T. goals together, everyone on your team knows what his or her role is in helping you get to where you want to go. The most successful people surround themselves with other successful people. So share your goal-setting plans with your team and work together to achieve success in a given time.

A commitment to a deadline helps you and your support team focus your efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency. A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
What can I do 6 months from now?
What can I do 6 weeks from now?
What can I do today?

What Is the “E.R.” Part Of A S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goal?

As you can see from the above list, the “E.R.” portion of S.M.A.R.T.E.R. asks you to “Evaluate” and always to “Reward.” Not only do you need to have a consistent plan to see if you are on track with the other S.M.A.R.T. goal strategies, but you also need to have a “Reward” at the end. Perhaps better health is a “Reward,” or being able to walk across a stage as a new executive member of a team. But if that doesn’t float your boat – you need to tie something to obtaining that goal. It might seem “greedy” but if you are motivated by a pair of Christian Laboutin shoes, and you believe that if you obtain this goal, that this is an apt reward – then that’s the reward that you want to attach to this. Often people say that “obtaining the goal is its own reward,” but I don’t believe this. I have had weight loss and other goals time and again, and after I have achieved them, often slip back into my former “ways.”  The “Reward” that you give yourself has to be a touchable reminder of where you have gotten and needs to anchor you there. If you have a weight loss goal, for example, your “Reward” could be an outrageously expensive pair of jeans in your new size. This will “anchor” you to stay at that weight – because you want to stay in those jeans!

Goal setting should be an integral part of your lifestyle. It is the first step in achieving success: it establishes the road map for your journey. S.M.A.R.T.E.R. strategies allow you to effortlessly follow a plan and will help guide you to a successful destination – and Reward!