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SMART Goal Setting

December 28, 2022

How many times have you said to yourself, “I want to do x,y,z” but never really got anywhere with that project?  It’s easy to set yourself some kind of vague but worthy target – “I want to be fitter” – but all too often these ideas never materialise as actual achievements.

The trick is to get SMART with your goal setting. SMART is an easy tool to give your goal or target some important definition. The definition is important because:

– It forms the basis of an actionable plan you can follow,

– It ensures you have the means to be able to achieve your end (the goal!),

– It holds you accountable.

So, what is a SMART goal?  Let’s take a typically vague target – “Be fitter” and make it a SMART goal:

– Specific and Measurable: What does “be fitter” actually mean? Instead, try something like, “Exercise for a minimum of 30 mins, 3 times per week”. By exercising regularly, the result will be a fitter you but by being specific and measurable you remove ambiguity and make it clearer to determine when your goal is achieved.

– Achievable: This means that it is possible for you to do, but at the same time it must be…

– Realistic: In theory, anybody could exercise for a minimum of 30 mins, 3 times per week… if they had nothing else to do!  Your goal needs to be not just achievable but realistic: can you actually fit 3 x 30 min exercise sessions into your week? Being realistic with your targets is crucial if you are to attain them. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your limitations or constraints.

– Timebound: A deadline is the final, most important part of a SMART goal. By giving yourself a set time in which to reach your goal, you hold yourself accountable. You also give yourself a handy milestone at which to judge progress.

When you reach this point, it is time to reassess your SMART goal. Have you reached it? Great!! Time for a new SMART goal that builds on the last. If you didn’t reach it, why not? Was it specific and measurable enough? Was it actually achievable and realistic? Refine your goal and try again, having learned from the first attempt.

Finally, try starting or ending your SMART goal with the phrase “in order to”.  Motivation (which we’ll look at in another post) is crucial to setting and achieving your goals.

Think about the reason you have set this goal and sum it up using “in order to”, like this:

“I will exercise for a minimum of 30 mins, 3 times a week, in order to improve my fitness”.

Another example, “I will download and complete the 9 week Couch-To-5k programme before the end of December, in order to feel better about myself and my health.”


“In order to begin my career transition, I will download prospectuses from five different adult education centres by the end of this week.”

Bringing your motivation to mind whenever thinking about your goal will remind you why you are doing what you are doing, and why it is worth it. Good luck!

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