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Using the Smart Goal Strategy to Achieve Success

Anne has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor's in Language.

Target and Achieve!

SMART Goal Setting is a way to target your goals so that they are more achievable.

SMART Goal Setting is a way to target your goals so that they are more achievable.

Where Do SMART Goals Come From?

When I was a teacher, I heard the term “SMART” Goal tossed around a lot. We were expected to create SMART goals every year, and we would be evaluated on our progress at the end of the year. It was a very stress-inducing process, and most of the time, I associated the phrase “SMART Goal” negatively. When I quit teaching, however, I learned that many self-help and personal development books referenced the term SMART goal. At first, I was skeptical, but after reviewing the concept and trying it out myself, I recommend the use of the SMART Goal strategy for anyone looking to reach a goal or move towards personal growth. In this article, I will discuss what SMART goals are and how you can use them to achieve the things you want in life.

What Is A SMART Goal?

A SMART goal is a method of goal setting that helps you break down your goals into reasonable and manageable pieces so that you will be more likely to achieve your goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and timed. All of these components make up the different parts of your SMART goal statement, which you will write out. I have outlined each of these parts below.

Specific

In order for you to achieve success, your goal must be specific. For instance, if you just write down, “I want to lose weight”, or “I will save money”, you are probably unlikely to follow through. The reason is because you have not been specific enough. When we are too vague with our goals, we tend to overwhelm ourselves and either do too little or too much. By specifying an amount for your goal, you will be more likely to achieve success in the long run. For example, instead of, “I want to lose weight”, you might say “I will lose 10 pounds”. Maybe your overarching goal is to lose 100 pounds, but if you make yourself a mini-goal that is specific, it will help you break things down. You could have the SMART Goal, “ I will lose 100 pounds”, but then underneath that have several other small, specific goals to help you reach that big goal. It has been studied and shown time and again that breaking down your goals into specific, manageable steps often leads to more success than remaining too vague.

Deadlines Are Important

If you make your goal measurable and give yourself a deadline, you are more likely to work towards that goal.

If you make your goal measurable and give yourself a deadline, you are more likely to work towards that goal.

Measurable

Just as specificity is crucial in goal setting, so is measuring your goal. If you don’t give yourself a set amount of something, whether it be the number of pounds you will lose, how many articles you are going to write, or how much money you will save within a specific timeframe, you won’t have a way to measure your progress. Saying, “I will lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks” gives you a measurable amount of time, as well as a specific target to reach. You will feel less overwhelmed when you have something that can help you measure your progress overtime.

Attractive

With goal setting, it is really important for you to have the intrinsic motivation to complete it. If you don’t, you more than likely will not reach your goal or will achieve very little. It is important, firstly, that the goal is something that you really want. Make sure that this is something you are doing for yourself, and not for someone else. This is your life, and these are your goals. You should get excited thinking about achieving them, and they should not feel like daunting tasks. Many people like to visualize their goals through meditation or other means to make the process more meaningful to them. Other people like to give themselves a reward once they’ve reached their goal to help motivate them to continue forward. It is true that positive reinforcement can have a profound effect on goals. Others propose that “punishing” yourself by taking something away or giving yourself a consequence if you do not achieve your goal can also work. However, I tend to believe that sticking with the reward rather than punishment is best. You do not want to make this a negative experience for yourself, because even if you don’t achieve the goal, you will have made positive progress, and that you should be proud of yourself for. Don’t think about giving yourself a consequence; instead visualize how great your life will be once you achieve your goal, and think about how it will impact you as a person. Focus on that intrinsic motivation and keep visualizing your goals.

Realistic

Sometimes, this is the hardest one for a lot of people. We tend to have big dreams and hopes for the future, but we remain vague and also potentially too “big picture” when thinking about our goals. For instance, if you said “I want to be a successful musician”, this is too vague and also might be a lofty, unrealistic goal if you don’t have proper, specific steps in place. You also don’t want to run the risk of being too fantastical, such as saying “I am going to become the #1 musician in the world.” While this is a beautiful dream, you are setting yourself up for failure with that by not being realistic. Instead think realistically about how you can start as a musician. Are there local clubs or venues that allow local bands to play? Are there clubs for musicians in your area? Think about networking in your local area and building yourself up slowly.

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Timed

Lastly, one of the things you want to ensure you have in your SMART goal is a timeframe. You want your goal to be not too far out into the future, but not too soon that you can’t make significant progress. It really depends on the goal and what you want to do. Thinking back to the weight loss example, losing 10 pounds in 3 weeks is highly achievable. If you want to be a musician, consider giving yourself a 3-month timeframe to get a band together and start practicing/playing locally. However, you want to break up the timing of your goals, make sure you are keeping track of your progress throughout. This will help motivate you to continue on to the finish line.

Examples of SMART Goals

Once you understand all of the pieces to the SMART goal, you are ready to write one yourself. Below, I have written a couple of sample SMART goals so that you can see what they look like. Remember what SMART stands for and remind yourself of the important tips I have mentioned above:

“By October 3rd, (in 3 weeks), I will lose ten pounds”

“I will start a band and find a practice space to start rehearsing in one month”

“I will rehearse with my band to prepare for local shows in two months.”

“By November 2nd (4 weeks), I will save 100 dollars”


Getting to the Top

SMART goals can help you reach your goal in a step-by-step process, much like climbing a mountain.

SMART goals can help you reach your goal in a step-by-step process, much like climbing a mountain.

Conclusion

How you decide to write your SMART goal and set up your plans is totally up to you. Maybe you have one large goal that you will break down into several smaller goals to help you achieve that big goal. Maybe you have one goal in mind and don’t need to break it down into many steps. Whatever the case may be, do what works for you and what is comfortable for you. You are much more likely to achieve success if you create a manageable and reasonable goal with steps that you can take little by little. I hope that this article has helped you to understand the concept of SMART goals better and that you will try out this strategy in the future to help with your success!

© 2022 Anne Marie Carr

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