setting smart goals

Setting SMART Goals in 2021

There is something about the end of the year that gets us thinking about purpose and goals for the upcoming year. Many people start out with “New Year’s Resolutions” and big plans, only to fall short — sometimes within the first month or so. What happens? Why do so many people start out enthusiastically with a list of goals, and then stop working on them? There are a number of reasons why smart goals are set and never achieved. Perhaps some might be too unrealistic, too big, not important enough, or it might be a lack of drive, sense of direction, motivation or discipline.  No matter what the reason, it is a proven fact that individuals who continually set goals are more successful and have more drive and purpose in their lives.

The following is not a set path for success but rather a guide in 2021 that will prompt questions and important considerations to set and accomplish goals.

Balance Goals and Priorities 

When setting goals, consider all the aspects that will be impacted, such as:

  • Family
  • Job
  • Finance
  • Time
  • Health
  • Education and Self Improvement
  • Personal and Spiritual Well-being

Start by brainstorming possible goal categories and the goals that are a priority in each category. Maintaining balance in all the important aspects of life eliminates hold back while keeping us focused to build overall success. Depending on the goals and circumstances, it might be good to have one or two goals in each category. Having too many goals can contribute to loss of focus, becoming overwhelmed, and giving up.

Define Your Why

A way to prioritize goals and internalize commitment to their attainment is to determine why the goal is important. Choose goals that will have the most impact or bring about the greatest joy. Think about the compelling reasons why you want to accomplish a particular goal.  Create a picture of how things will look once the goal is achieved. For example, having a goal to complete a professional certification will increase knowledge, professional credibility, increase self-confidence and earning potential. Goals are more powerful and impactful if they have personal meaning.


  • Specific: Be as clear and specific as possible, write out what will be achieved and by when. To be most impactful, break down the desired result into actionable steps or behaviors that lead to accomplishing the initial goal.
  • Measurable: To the extent possible, define your goals in quantifiable terms so that you can measure your progress toward meeting the goal. By doing this, the chances of successfully accomplishing the goal increase.
  • Attainable: Goals must be realistic and include a challenge to have the most impact. Review what was accomplished in the past, and then define a realistic goal and the ability to achieve it when setting challenging, yet attainable, goals.
  • Results-oriented: Goals that focus on meaningful outcomes make a greater impact in life (personally and professionally), and they are more motivating. Define goals in a positive fashion as though they have been already accomplished by creating positive affirmation statements. An example could be, “I’m strong, prepared and capable of achieving this!” Read these statements as often as possible and out loud.
  • Time-bound: If the goal is not written and does not have a beginning and an end date, it cannot be called a goal. Impactful goals have clearly defined time frames defining who will do what and by when. Define the steps and the timeframe to in which to do it, then don’t stop until it is done.
  • Accountability – The last key component in impactful goal setting is to create a relationship of accountability. Be accountable to yourself, but also find colleagues, friends, mentors, coaches and supervisors with whom you share your goals. Meet with these people regularly or find other means to share results and account for your goal accomplishments.

Individuals who regularly set goals that have real meaning, are “SMART”, have built-in accountability, and follow their values and beliefs tend to achieve more than those who haphazardly go through life with no targeted direction. Goals help us stretch to new heights, and our beliefs help us stay motivated to achieve goals.

Sara Jacobs, HR Business Partner

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