SMART goals

It can be quite complicated to set and stick to goals – but finding the right goal(s) for you will make it more likely that you will succeed.
Words Kathryn Wright

Kathryn Wright

You may or may not be the sort of person who sets goals. You could be considering what goals would improve your life or what direction to move towards, but finding appropriate goals for you will make success more manageable.

There are types of goals, both equally as important, as one provides the basis for the other.

Informal goals are ones that you are implicitly aware of, and are generally behavioural goals, based on what you want to do more of. These goals consist of asking yourself questions like “what do I want to do differently” or “who do I want to focus my time and energy on?” They are usually broad in nature and not about how you want to feel. They are also not about stopping something – they are about starting or doing more of something, for example a goal of “stop eating junk food” becomes “eat more healthily”.

Formal goals follow quite specific steps using the SMART acronym. These may well expand more explicitly on, and nail down exactly what you want, based on your informal goals.

Before you start, you will need to select a domain from the following: health, work, friends, family, education, leisure, personal growth, spirituality, intimate relationships, or other. Thinking about this domain, select 1-3 values associated with your domain – this could be anything from forgiveness, love, or resilience (Google a list of values if you are stuck).

Now it’s time to select your goal based on the domain you have chosen, incorporating those values. Using SMART as an acronym to set goals is a great way to look at and set goals that will make it more likely that you’ll see them through.

SMART is an acronym:

S = Specific – be really clear about what you want, where and when it will happen and what/who is involved. Stay away from vague details like “I want to be fitter”, rather choose something like “I will commit to a half hour run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening”. Or instead of “I want to be a more engaged parent”, you could say “I will put my phone in the pantry for the first hour after my children arrive home from school”.

M = Meaningful – the goal should
mean something to you, something guided by your values rather than to please someone else. A good way to gauge this is to ask yourself: “if no one were watching or knew I was doing this, would I still want to do it?”. It comes from within.

A = Adaptive – does this goal take you towards who you really want to be? Is it in your best interests? If you were to succeed at this goal, would it be good for you and your life, in the long run, say in ten years’ time? What about 20 or 30?

R = Realistic – your goal should be achievable and realistic. You should have the resources to carry it out, otherwise you’re potentially setting yourself up for failure. These resources may include time, money, physical health, social support, knowledge, and skills. If you find that a resource is lacking in achieving your goal, it could be that the missing resource becomes the goal – i.e. to save $10000 or to complete a business course. Once that goal is achieved, you can go back to your original goal with the previously missing resource.

T = Time-bound – to be specific about your goal, set a time and date as close as you can for what you want to achieve. This creates a deadline in your mind of when this must happen – otherwise you will feel as though you are drifting in the Norwest.

If you want to take this even further, brainstorm some varied goals that fit into this framework, that include:

  • An immediate goal you can easily achieve today.
  • A short-term goal you can achieve over a week.
  • A medium-term goal you can do over a few weeks.
  • A longer-term goal you can achieve over a few months or a year.