Whether it’s New Years or anytime you’re ready for a fresh start, goal setting is always a good idea. Time and again I’ve found that the SMART goal setting method is one of the best ways to not only set goals but achieve goals.
What is the SMART goal setting method? What are some great SMART goal examples? Let’s talk about that!
What is SMART Goal Setting?
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that describes goals that are:
The SMART goals were originally penned by George Doran in 1981 and have been widely used in various management and goal setting curricula.
Some people have different words for each part of the acronym for SMART goals, but for our purposes here we’ll use SMART goal setting to mean goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.
Let’s look at what each of those terms mean when applied to SMART goal setting.
SMART goals are specific.
We want to create goals that are detailed and specific to our individual needs. It’s important that our goals not be too general so that we can narrow our focus and create an actionable and measurable plan to success. Which brings me to the “M” in SMART goal setting…
SMART goals are measurable.
It doesn’t make sense to do goal setting if we don’t have a way to measure whether or not the goal was met, does it? That’s why you’ll find that successful SMART goal examples are those that set quantitative or qualitative measures for success. Some examples would be “I’d like to lose 10 pounds in 2 months” or “I want to sign up for two classes by February.”
When we set SMART goals that are measurable by date, time and the like, we are able to formulate a step-by-step plan to reach the goal.
SMART goals are actionable.
French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupery famously said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Oh how true this is! The “A” in SMART goal setting (“actionable”) is the vital distinction between a dream and a goal realized.
Setting actionable goals means that we create a plan behind our vision. We work through the logistics of how the goal will happen.
SMART goals are realistic.
In goal setting we walk a fine line between what we want to improve in our lives (and what realistically can be improved). That’s why the “R” in SMART goal setting stands for “realistic.”
We must make our goals relevant to our situation (some have used “relevant” instead of “realistic” in their version of SMART goal setting). If Person A is a seasoned 20-year extreme hiker, it may be realistic for him or her to set the SMART goal of hiking Mount Everest this year. However, climbing Mount Everest would not be realistic goal for someone like me since I don’t hike regularly and am not fond of heights (nor extreme cold).
SMART goals are timely.
In goal setting, nothing motivates me more than a deadline. How about you? There’s a reason why the final letter in SMART goal setting stands for “timely.” Bottom line, goals with specific deadlines (and consequences for missing those deadlines) are more likely to get done.
SMART Goal Examples
Need some SMART goals examples in order to fully understand how easy writing SMART goals can be? Sure thing. Let’s look at two fictional examples of SMART goals in order to better understand how this goal setting method can play out in real life.
1) GOAL: To lose weight.
Let’s start with an easy goal that most of us may already have: The goal of shedding a few pounds.
Here’s how we can write this as a SMART goal by breaking the goal into the acronym for SMART goals:
- S (specific): I want to look better in my clothes and be in better health.
- M (measurable): I want to lose 20 pounds.
- A (actionable): I will lose the weight by following a healthy diet and working out 4 days a week.
- R (realistic): I will not expect the weight to be lost overnight.
- T (timely): I would like to lose the weight by March in time for my sister’s wedding.
Therefore, by combining each part of the SMART goal setting acronym, we could rewrite this as a SMART goal:
“Because I want to look better in my clothes and be in better health, I want to lose 20 pounds by March in time for my sister’s wedding. I won’t expect the weight to be gone overnight, and I plan to lose the weight by following a healthy diet and working out 4 days a week.”
Do you see how this SMART goal example is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely?
Make sense? Here’s another SMART goal example.
2) GOAL: To learn to play guitar.
- S (specific): I want to learn to play acoustic guitar.
- M (measurable): I want to be able to play in our church’s band on Sunday mornings.
- A (actionable): I will take guitar lessons at ABC Guitar and practice after work three days a week.
- R (realistic): As a beginning guitarist, I will not expect myself to know every chord, but I will attempt to learn the basic chords required for most songs the church band plays.
- T (timely): I want to have learned enough to start playing in the band by April 1.
Let's re-write our guitar goal as a SMART goal:
“I want to learn to play acoustic guitar so that I can play in our church's band on Sunday mornings starting April 1. I plan to take guitar lessons at ABC Guitar and to practice after work three days a week so that I can learn the basic chords required for most songs the church band plays.”
Don’t you love how simple (and powerful) the SMART goal setting method is?