setting smart goals

Learning How to Set Smart Goals


There is something about the end of the year that gets us thinking about purpose and targets for the upcoming year. Many people start 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 enthusiastically with a list of goals, and then stop working on them? There are several reasons why 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 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 group. Maintaining balance in all of the essential aspects of life eliminates hold back while keeping us focused on building overall success. Depending on the goals and circumstances, it might be useful 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 Why? – A way to prioritize goals and internalize commitment to their attainment is to determine why the goal is essential. 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 purpose. 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.

S.M.A.R.T. or SMART Goals – Goals are more useful when they are:

Specific: Be as clear and accurate 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 accomplishing the goal increase.

Attainable: Goals must be realistic and include a challenge to have the most impact. A review of accomplished goals in the past, and then define a realistic goal and the ability to achieve it when setting challenging, yet attainable goals.

Resultsoriented: Goals that focus on meaningful outcomes make a more significant impact on life (personally and professionally), and they are motivating. Positively define goals as though they 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.

Timebound: If the goal is not written and does not have a beginning and an end date, it cannot be called an objective. Impactful goals have clearly defined time frames defining who will do what and by when. Define steps and timeframe, then don’t stop until you are finished.

Accountability – The last key component in impactful goal setting is to create a relationship of responsibility. 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 ideas help us stay motivated to achieve goals.

Sara Jacobs HR Business Partner

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