How to Set SMART Goals and Achieve Them

No matter your age or what job you have, goal setting is an important part of personal success and growth. Students may set goals to get certain grades so they can apply for a particular college, while corporate employees may set goals regarding business growth and earning potential. Parents set goals for their children and their household, and many people set health-related goals for themselves to ensure they are as healthy as possible.

You know setting goals is important, but how you set goals wisely? How do you know if the goals you have in mind are “smart” goals and how do you set about to achieve them? Several decades ago, a businessman named George T. Doran wrote a piece that was published in a magazine called Management Review, and in it, he discussed an acronym for proper and effective goal setting. The SMART goal acronym has since been altered a bit to fit different industries and types of goals, but the basic premise is the same: setting goals according to this method is far more achievable and individuals who use the SMART goal system are more likely to reach and exceed their goals.


What Are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are like a road map for success. They not only help you look to the future and envision the utmost success in all your endeavors, but they also present a way of achieving the goals you set with action steps and a specific plan to accomplish what you set out to do.

S is for Specific. The goal is not broad or vague, but it is precise and detailed. Rather than saying, “I want to make more money,” give yourself a dollar amount that you want to be making in a month or in a year.

M is for Measureable. The goal can be measured by some metric, meaning it will be clear and undeniable when it is met. Setting specific goals will help your goals be measurable. You need to know when you’ve succeeded and arrived at your goal, but you can’t do that if they’re not measurable.

A is for Achievable. The goal should be realistic and doable, taking into account the skills, resources, and time needed to complete it. You might have a great goal in mind, such as running a marathon. But if that marathon is in one month and you’ve never run more than a mile, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You may need to do some research to be sure your goal is achievable before embarking on the journey toward accomplishing it. Some people prefer A to stand for Actionable. That means there are specific steps that you can take to achieve your goal. This more about the necessary steps to take and the process to achieve your goal. You need to take action with any goal in order to achieve it, and an actionable goal is simply one that has clear steps to get from point A to point B.

R is for Relevant. The goal should matter in your overall life and be significant. It should line up with broader goals that are more big picture and long-term, and it should be relevant in the grand scheme of things. If your primary goal in life is to become a partner at your law firm in the next three years, your goals shouldn’t be related to completing a triathlon or remodeling your entire home. It’s good to have interests outside of your job, but your small and big goals should all be focused on the same general thing and must stay relevant to the main idea.

T is for Time-Bound. You should set a deadline for meeting your goal and it should be possible for you to stick to that specific timeline. Be sure you’re being realistic about your deadlines, also. Don’t aim to get a $10,000 raise in a month if that’s unreasonable for your industry or company, but at the same time, don’t extend your goals out too far either. You want to be reasonable with timelines, but you also want to keep a fire going under you so that you actively work toward achieving your goals.


Tips for Setting and Achieving SMART Goals

Now you know how to set SMART goals, at least in terms of the logistics. It may take some practice and some fine-tuning of individual goals to really master the application, but make some decisions about your goals and reassess as needed. In addition to referring back to the SMART goals acronym and staying on track, here are a few more tips for setting and achieving your goals.


Make a Plan

You need to take action in order to accomplish anything, including your goals. Decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it in order to reach your end goal. If you want to do something athletic that you’ve never done before, you’ll likely need a training program. If you want to increase your income, you need to figure out how that will work within your current job or you’ll need to look at additional opportunities to make money. If you want to create or develop something at work or for your personal business, you need to explore your own strengths and capabilities and reach out to people with different skill sets to assist you in the process. Whatever your goal is, you need to make sure you have a set plan and doable action steps to get it done.


Find a Role Model

Role models aren’t just for young kids. The most successful adults know the benefit of having positive influences and mentors in their lives, and that’s a huge part of successfully achieving your SMART goals. Find someone who has done what you want to do, and become their friend. Ask for their advice, listen to their insight, and go to them with questions when you have them. This could be a supervisor at your company, a neighbor, or a friend who is simply a few steps ahead in reaching a specific goal. Community is important in every aspect of life, but especially if you’re setting out to accomplish something big— you can never have too many people in your corner.


Combat Negative Self-Talk and Doubts

One of the biggest reasons people fail at accomplishing their goals is because of doubt, fear, and negativity. A lot of us have a very negative thought life that plays a much bigger role in our life than we’d like it to. Talking down to yourself or being pessimistic about life will not serve you at all, so you need to do whatever it takes to combat those negative thoughts and doubts. When you find yourself struggling with negative self-talk, such as, “I can’t do this,” “I’m not worth it,” or “Life isn’t fair,” stop yourself mid-thought. Then, replace those negative thoughts with positive, self-affirming thoughts, like, “I am capable of doing this,” “I am worth it,” and “I can overcome anything.” Getting your mental growth on track and controlling your own thoughts and negativity are huge factors in personal happiness, growth, and success, all of which play a role in achieving goals.


Don’t Give Up

You may get frustrated, disappointed, or even just tired. It may seem impossible to achieve your goals and find the success you envisioned when you set your goals. But no matter what, don’t give up. The most successful and happiest people are determined, relentless, and full of endurance. It doesn’t matter what life throws at them—they will find the good, take another step, and keep pushing toward their goals. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by backpedaling or obstacles. Instead, figure out a way to overcome the challenges and bust through those roadblocks, and determine to never give up trying to accomplish your goals.