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How To Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals

leadership teamwork Nov 04, 2019
How To Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals

The other day, I led a group through a goal-setting exercise. The attendees were instructed to create three goals they wanted to accomplish in the next 90 days. The goals must be specific, attainable, and measurable.

A few of the participant’s goals were anything but specific, achievable, and quantifiable. They shared their three goals in long, drawn-out sentences with many emotions, hopes, and a lack of clarity. When asked, “how will you know when you’ve accomplished their goals,” they really could not articulate a means of measuring whether they won or not.

I left the meeting, realizing it was not long ago when my goal-setting muscles were weak. Even though I am much better at setting goals today, I still need to work those muscles out regularly and collaborate with a coach to challenge me and overcome obstacles getting in my way.

It Starts With Visioning

Having a vision for your life makes everything easier, from goal-setting, prioritizing actions and day-to-day activities, to making tough decisions. Also, when your goals align with the vision you have for your life – and what’s most important to you -I bet you’re more motivated.

It’s a rewarding process to identify your overarching vision and then chunk that vision down into smaller, more meaningful goals for you to move forward. These visioning exercises help you envision and set the scene for a bigger version of your life and provide essential input to the goal-setting process.

What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for:

  • Specific (the more specific you are, the easier your goal is to achieve)
  • Measurable (so you know when you have reached it)
  • Action-oriented (i.e., you can DO something about it! Is it within your control? i.e., Winning the lottery is not a “SMART” goal)
  • Realistic (Goals need to be both challenging to inspire you AND practical, so you set yourself up for success)
  • Time-Bound (has a deadline)

Once you’ve written down your SMART goal, here are questions that will dramatically increase your success rate of achieving the goal.

  • Motivation
    • Why do I want this goal?
    • What is the pain of not achieving this goal?
    • Achieving this goal will also help me in other areas, such as…
  • Obstacles
    • What obstacles can I foresee which may sabotage me in reaching this goal?
    • What is the benefit to me of NOT achieving this goal?
  • Set Goal Level
    • Minimum
    • Target
    • EXTRAordinary
  • How will I need to BE different (a worthwhile goal often requires us to look at/do things differently)?
    • I will start doing…
    • I will STOP doing…
    • I will need to be someone who is…
  • Moving Forward (e.g., people, personal qualities, information, knowledge, skills, finance, etc.)
    • Are resources available?
    • Resources I will need?
  • Taking Action (make these things EASILY achievable, so you feel good about taking action!)
    • Three steps I will complete in the next WEEK that move me closer to my goals (By When?)
    • Three steps I can achieve in the next MONTH that move me closer to my goals (By When?)


They are stated in the POSITIVE. Whenever we say, “I want to stop biting my fingernails,” our brain must first build a picture of what we DON’T want – bitten fingernails – to avoid doing it. Try NOT thinking of an alligator biting your toe…


E.g., “I have healthy fingernails” rather than “I want to stop biting my nails.”

E.g., “I weigh 150lbs” rather than “I want to lose 20lbs.”

They are stated in the PRESENT TENSE. This helps the brain to assume you will be successful!


Eg. On 30th September, I had healthy fingernails/had a new job/was running a mile in 8 minutes.




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