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How to Set Goals: Make Them SMART

how to set goalsWhat do you want to accomplish this year? I hope you have laid out several big-ticket items you would like to check off your list by the time 2013 draws to a close. Having targets to shoot for is critical if we want to move forward in life. I know I don’t want to be stagnant.

In regards to goals, I’ve challenged myself this year to continue to put my trust with God where it belongs, to give more generously, to plan urgently like there is no tomorrow, and to busy myself each day with what brings me joy. I believe these are valuable pursuits, but they are more broad focused, motivational goals. They challenge me, but do not address anything definitive.

So, today I would like to narrow the goal-setting focus by realizing that, if I am going to be successful in reaching my target goals for 2013, I’ll have to be really SMART.

How to Set Goals the Right Way

If you are wondering how to set goals, the best plan I’ve seen is to use the SMART acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. This acronym has been around for some time as it first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. It was developed to write better management goals for the corporate world but it can really be applied to any area of life.

In essence, SMART goals should be:

Specific. Most of the time goals are too broad. Simply saying, “I want to get in shape” is vague. How will you know when you are “in shape?” What does that look like? Saying “I want to get in better shape by losing 10 pounds in six weeks” is more specific. At the end of six weeks, the scale will tell you if you have reached your goal.

Measurable. Can you quantify your goal? Is it computable? For example, all of us would like to make more money. However, simply to say, “I want to make more money” is unclear. How much more? A more measurable goal would be to say “I want to increase advertising revenue on my blog by $100 per month.” That is a clear and precise target that can easily be measured.

Attainable. An attainable goal is one that is achievable. Have you honestly considered whether you can reach this goal? I have played or coached basketball for most of my life, but at this point I don’t have a career lined up in the NBA. Goals are meant to stretch us as we develop the attitudes and skills to reach them. Some things, however, are just beyond our reach.

Relevant. Relevancy refers to whether or not a goal is worthwhile. Is this goal something you should really be doing? Is it the right time or place for this to happen? As a high school personal finance teacher, it would not be a relevant class objective to have my students learn about the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure that teaches them how to prepare a monthly budget, stay out of debt or plan for retirement.

Timely. Goals need to have a deadline or a target date. When will you have this goal achieved? When I was training for my first marathon, I knew the race date I signed up for – Oct. 28, 2012. Having the exact date gave me the urgency to get started in June as I laid out my 20-week training program. The date served as a motivational future marker in time that I had to be ready for.

Are your goals SMART? If not, reevaluate them today and improve your chances of success.

Questions: Have you ever wondered how to set goals? Which item on the SMART acronym do you find the most challenging to address when setting goals? 

Next Post: Developing a SPLASH Goal Plan

Prior Post: Fall In Love With Work (Again)

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. SMART has always been helpful (we actually use this with our clients at work all the time as part of our person centered service planning). Attainable is probably the one I should work on the most. Not because I choose goals that are too difficult, but because I probably don’t challenge myself enough. I try to pick goals that I know are reasonable to achieve, and sometimes that means they aren’t super challenging.

    • I agree about attainability. It is much easier to set goals when we are pretty sure we can reach them. I find it much more rewarding in the end though when I have really stretched myself to the limit. Thanks for the comment.

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