What are SMART goals and how to set them properly

What are SMART goals and how to set them properly

The SMART in SMART goal is an acronym that stands for; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed.

Arguably, the SMART goal-setting template is one of the most widely used success achievement methods around today (certainly in the Western world). The goal-setting theory is generally accepted to have been created by George T. Doran in November 1981 in Spokane, Washington.

Doran was a consultant and former Corporate Planning Director for the Washington Water Power Company, and published a document that was entitled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives“. This was the first time the template for the SMART goals setting method was introduced to the world – and the rest, as they say, is history!

Let’s now dive into the components of the method so you can begin to understand how to write SMART goals…

S in SMART goals are Specific

The most crucial part of setting any goal is going to town on the detail. This is no time to skip over the particulars and create a goal that is nothing more than a general and fuzzy fantasy – dive deep and craft your desired outcome!

Your goals need to be crystal clear and full of specifics so you know exactly what is you are aiming for. Because goals composed of laser-focused specifics are the mother of successful endeavours.

Taking the time to be detailed with our goals helps us more effectively prioritise our time and the actions required of us whilst in their pursuit. This high level of specificity regarding what is to be done creates unswerving focus within us – it serves as a beacon upon which we project our daily attentions, these in turn creating a guiding channel through which our intention travels and attaches to the desired outcome; much like a master archer sighting the target and letting her arrow fly forth.

Ask yourself a series of questions once you’ve created your goal to check if you’ve been specific enough, e.g.;

  • Have I described exactly what achievement of the goal will look like?
  • Did I make it clear in terms of who or what will be involved?
  • Is there any reference to where I will be once it’s attained?
  • Do I need more clarification outlining what will have changed?


M – SMART goals are Measurable

There needs to be solid tangibility when working with goals – you need to be able to measure your progression in concrete terms on some kind of scale, e.g.;

  • Revenue increase
  • Rise in average customer spend
  • Email addresses acquired
  • Changes in website traffic
  • Decrease/increase in your weight
  • The number of new contacts or acquaintances you’ve gained

SMART goals are not based on sentiment or subjective interpretation such as;

  • Make our customers “happier”
  • Create a set of “clearer” web pages
  • Increase our growth “potential”

…these are not targets that can be easily measured, if they can at all!

So make your goals measurable in order you can compare where you are going to be with where you are now.

A – SMART goals are Attainable (or sometimes Achievable or Actionable)

A key part of goal-setting is avoiding setting yourself up to fail because what you’ve just set is not realistic.

You know the kind of goals we mean – the ones where, in the front of your mind, you’re pleased and are metaphorically patting yourself on the back for how visionary you’ve been, whilst in the back of your mind a quiet voice can be heard saying, “Yeh right, nice thinking bub – you know that ain’t ever gonna happen!”.

Yes! Those kind of “goals”!

Of course your goals need to stretch you and push you outside your comfort zone, otherwise you’ll never grow. But you need to be honest with yourself, review the current lay of the land, and ask yourself, “Is what I’m trying to achieve here practically possible given where I am now and with the resources I have or could have if needed?”

If the answer is “No!”, that’s fine – simply ease off a little, lessen the goal, and create an overall plan that consists of multiple, smaller goals that collectively represent a workable, yet still challenging path of progression.

Life delivers enough of its own growth-inhibiting challenges without us needing to compound that by setting objectives we know we’ll never reach!

So work in ways that allow you to create leverage and momentum that pushes you forward and not backward – be, “huh hmmm” SMART about what you do.

R – SMART goals are Relevant (or sometimes Realistic)

Why are you setting this goal? How does it fit and support the bigger picture of your life? Will it reinforce or conflict with your values? What is the relevance to where you are now?

If the goals you are setting yourself seem misaligned in some way, or are clearly outliers that just don’t fit where you are, what you’re doing, or where you’re going, then you may want to reconsider setting them.

Because whilst none of us really knows what’s around the corner in business or life in general, we can get more of a feel for what’s likely to come next based on what we’ve done historically and are planning to do in the future.

Therefore, try and leverage your time pursuing goals that seem to make sense and, as best as you can tell, will keep you on a trajectory towards outcomes you want.

Your life and your input into the lives of other is always extremely valuable, so why would you want to be spending time pursuing goals that, once you’ve analysed them, are clearly going to be irrelevant?

Make what you do count!

T – SMART goals are Timed

You may have noticed we tend to stretch or compact how long it takes to do what we do, to fit the time we’ve been given to do it.

For example, how often have you been given a deadline to complete something that is an ample time window, say 2 weeks, only to find yourself cramming to get it all done in the last 2-3 days?

Or managing to deliver a massive piece of work within a timescale you thought was impossible?

It happens all the time!

Our ability to work, then, seems to have an elasticity to it, the stretchiness or compactability of which is proportional to the time we have to do it. And if we know we’re able to get a lot done in a short space of time when we put our mind to it, we can leverage this to our advantage when working with our goals.

A goal with no time limits means that goal will most likely not be achieved. However, applying a time limit and making it one which puts us under a little bit of pressure, will see us pushing ourselves to get stuff done and ultimately see us achieve what we set out to.

Further, if we enlist the help of an accountability partner, this adds another subtle layer of pressure because we don’t want to look bad in the eyes of somebody else.

That concludes our overview of the SMART goal-setting method. Next, you’ll discover how to write SMART goals and have them fit a wider yet little-known, 4-step goal-setting method. This method will supercharge your ability to create eye-popping levels of success in your life….


Leave a Reply