Goals. They’re inspiring, frustrating and sometimes go unfulfilled. Most of us likely have many goals, some of which change over time. They’re extremely useful, as they help give our lives direction. Goals help us prioritize long-term gain over short-term reward, motivate us, and keep us accountable.
But sometimes it’s difficult to narrow down our goals enough to effectively accomplish them. If they are too vague, we may not know how to proceed. Enter, SMART goals, a simplified system that allows us to clarify our aspirations. SMART goals help us determine what to strive for, how to do so, why, and when.
What Are SMART Goals?
The SMART formula for goal setting is a strategic method that helps us define outcomes and timelines for achieving desired targets. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Following this structure helps us create guidelines that keep us on track.
S – Specific
Our goal should be concise and clear. If it’s ambiguous, we may not know exactly what we’re striving for. This may lead to a lack of motivation or dedication. To narrow down our goals, we should ask ourselves:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Why do we want to accomplish it?
- Who will be involved in helping us realise our goal?
- Where do we need to go to achieve our goal?
- What resources do we require?
Suppose our goal is to begin a fitness regime. We may answer the above questions like this:
- We want to begin a weightlifting routine.
- We want to increase our muscle mass and strength.
- Along with ourselves, we will seek the help of a physical trainer.
- We will go to the gym.
- We need a gym membership.
M – Measurable
When we identify metrics to measure our goals, we can easily track our progress. This provides a clear indicator for when our goal is reached. We can ask ourselves:
- How often?
- How much?
- How will goal completion be determined?
Our fitness goal may look like this:
- We will workout three times per week.
- We will workout for one hour during each session.
- We will know the goal is reached when we consistently lift weights at the gym three days per week, every week for one hour.
A – Achievable
Goals should be as challenging as necessary to help us grow. However, if they are too lofty, we may set ourselves up for failure. We need to assess our goals to determine how realistic they are. If we find ourselves continuously falling short, we should adjust our goals until they are manageable. We should ask ourselves:
- How can we reach our goal?
- Is the goal realistic?
As would-be fitness enthusiasts, we should consider:
- If we can dedicate the time required to succeed
- The financial requirements
- What resources we need (personal trainer, access to a gym, etc.)
R – Relevant
To stay motivated, we need to ensure our goals matter to us. We should compare them to our core values to make sure they align. We can ask ourselves:
- Is the effort worthwhile?
- How will it help us reach our larger objectives?
- Is it a suitable time to begin?
For example, if we want to workout simply to impress others, the effort may not be worthwhile. We could dedicate ourselves to something more meaningful to us.
Conversely, maybe our larger objective is to remain strong and healthy for as long as possible. Or perhaps we value perseverance and self-improvement. Thus, the goal would be relevant.
T – Time Based
Goal achievement requires a concrete timeframe. Similar to work projects, having a set deadline keeps us focused. Due dates help us prioritize tasks and create mini goals to complete along the way. Achieving mini goals provides excitement and keeps us engaged. If our original timeline doesn’t work, we can readjust it. Consider:
- Goal deadline
- What can be done today?
- What can be done one week from now?
- What can be done a month from now?
- What can be done three months from now?
Ex, For our fitness goal:
- The deadline is six months.
- Today, we can locate our local gym, and call to ask about fees.
- One week from now, we can select a personal trainer.
- One month from now, we can train once per week
- Three months from now we can train twice per week. Etc.
Goal setting creates an internal drive to push ourselves to succeed. It can be wildly satisfying to reach our goals and disheartening when we don’t. Of course, we may not reach every goal we set and that’s okay.
But when we do want to fulfil our ambitions, concise, structured goal-setting methods can help.
So, be SMART, set goals and keep striving!