What Are SMART Goals and How Do They Work?

As humans, we need fulfillment and happiness. And often, those things come from feeling like we’re working towards something. That means setting goals. The thing about goals, though, is that you can think about them in so many ways and use a different approach to setting and completing them. To really set yourself up for success — and feel fulfilled and happy — you’ll want to follow a tried and true method. The SMART goals method is one example. In fact, very few adults make these goals yet achieve 10 times as much as those with no goals. What are smart goals? Good question! Here, we’ll go over that along with their benefits and how you can go about creating your own SMART goals to achieve more in your life.

What Are SMART Goals?

What Are SMART Goals and How Do They Work?

The SMART goal framework is a strategy for achieving any goal. Your SMART goal statement should be clear and specific, measurable, and time-sensitive. You might be wondering what SMART goals are compared to other types of goals. SMART goals address exactly what you want to achieve, how you’ll do so, and by when you intend to do it. This is how the “SMART” acronym comes up. Each letter is an aspect or factor in your goal-setting process.

Specific

In this area, you need to specifically identify what you want to accomplish, how you plan to do that and who will be involved in the process. Using straightforward, direct, and clear language will make it easy to check on your progress at any time.

Measurable

You need to make your goal measurable to determine how well you’ve progressed in your goal and what you still have left to achieve. This aspect assesses how well you’re doing. Setting milestones or small goals to achieve along the way to your ultimate goal can really help with this.

Achievable

In order to be achievable, your goal should be realistic and tangible. This means knowing you have — or can reasonably obtain — the required resources, skills, tools, and time frame to reach your goal. Try a longer-term horizon or specific dates as deadlines, whatever makes the most sense for your specific situation.

Relevant

You’re likely creating a SMART goal as part of your role at work, so you’ll want to ensure it’s actually relevant and meaningful to what you do and your organization overall. That said, your goal is still a personal commitment and should therefore align with you, your values, and your broader goals and plans. Identifying why you want to pursue the goal is also a key factor in how it will help you achieve more down the road.

Time-Bound

It’s easy for people to procrastinate, so a time frame or deadline is never a bad idea. When it comes to SMART goals, this is especially true. Note how long you’ll need to accomplish what you’re setting out to do, along with the smaller time frames or deadlines for each milestone or step along the way. If things change, as often happens, you can always readjust your timeline as needed.

Now that you know what SMART goals are, you’re probably curious about how they will benefit you vs. other types of goals.

How Can SMART Goals Help Me?

What Are SMART Goals and How Do They Work?

SMART goals take things a step past basic goal-setting exercises. They give you a framework for setting direction and evaluating progress on a goal or objective. As well, they help you clearly see your strengths and weaknesses and take action. It can be very motivating and rewarding to see how well you’re doing along the way to achieving your SMART goal as you check small things off in the process.

When your goal is too vague, such as “I want to be the best runner”, it’s easy to fail because there isn’t enough direction and specificity. With SMART goals, though, you’re challenged and guided down a clear path. You’re also held accountable to accomplish that goal in the time frame you’ve established.

With the SMART goal approach, you can:

  • Be specific about what you want and why, when you want it, and how you’ll get it.
  • Easily and regularly remember your progress and where you should be in the process of accomplishing your goal.
  • See, at a glance, what you need to complete for each step of your goal. These can include things like education or training, research, technology, time, or financial resources.

Tips for Writing the Best SMART Goals

What Are SMART Goals and How Do They Work?

To succeed with your SMART goals, give these ideas a try.

Tell others. Our goals and intentions are more solidified and, in a sense, real, when we communicate them to others. This practice might just make you feel more accountable and motivated to achieve them, too. This is because positive encouragement benefits us all, plus it’s easier to quit when nobody knows about your plan to begin with.

Challenge yourself but have fun. By adding some humor, inspiration, and excitement to your goals, you’re far less likely to feel that they’re too much work or unattainable. At the same time, you need some amount of challenge so that you’re not bored or disinterested. Anything in life is more rewarding when we work for it.

Plan and schedule. When you make an action plan with deadlines for the steps you need to take, you’ll regularly monitor your performance. This will make it much easier to complete each step and, eventually, your overall goal.

Be kind to yourself. We all have our limits, and we all need breaks. Aspire to achieve what you want and realistically believe you can, but also know that it’s okay to change the plan if you need to. It’s also okay to allow yourself little rewards along the way to keep up your motivation. Maybe that means a small treat or an afternoon off. The main thing is to try your best and adjust when needed.

Example SMART Goal

I want to finish my MBA and make partner at my firm within four years. I’ll do this throughout the program by studying and passing the exams and courses. I will also tell my boss about my goal in the next two weeks and find out what else I need to do to become a partner.

Specific: I’ve clearly stated the degree and job title I want.

Measurable: I’ll have achieved this goal when I finish school and get my MBA degree.

Achievable: I’ve outlined each step within a realistic time frame that considers planning, studying, and communicating.

Relevant: Since I have a BComm and the goal has to do with advancing in business, it’s relevant.

Time-Bound: I’ve given myself four years to achieve this goal.

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Author: Haiden Hibbert

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