A SMART goal is a goal that is:
Your goal should be as specific as possible. Ambiguity in our goals makes it easier to ‘slack off’ when we are pursuing them. For example, saying your goal is to “lose weight” is unclear and allows for wiggle room in the effort you put towards achieving it. Instead, set your goal to “exercise three times a week for 45 minutes each.“ The more vivid our description of the goal, the more likely we are to achieve it.
You should be able to objectively measure your goal. Referring to the example above, you will know you hit your goal if you in fact exercised for 45 minutes at the frequency you wanted throughout the week. Additionally, pick how much weight you want to lose and at what frequency (e.g. two pounds a week) If your goal is too vague, it will be difficult for you to measure it.
Describe your goal with action verbs. Referring to the example above, it is better to describe your goal as, “I will exercise three times a week” rather than, “I want to be in better shape.” Further, outline the steps it will take for you to accomplish your goal. Figure out what short-term goals you will have to achieve along the way to hitting your long-term goal. For example, maybe you have to get a gym membership first, and map out a schedule of when you will exercise before you get into your routine.
A good goal should be difficult to achieve but not too difficult that it is impossible. Because you will be setting a difficult goal, it is important that you be able to adjust it along the way. If you find yourself falling short of what you set to achieve, check-in and see if you need to adjust your goal downward or increase the amount of effort you are putting forth.
Pick a date when you would like to accomplish this goal by. Once you have picked an end date for your goal, you can map out some of the short-term goals you need to accomplish along the way.
SMART goal setting works because it directs your attention to the most important behaviors you need to execute (e.g. losing weight feels less overwhelming when your attention is re-directed to exercising three times a week). Good goal setting can help mobilize your effort and prolong your persistence (e.g. you hit your two pound loss for the month, which inspires you to work at it for another month). Lastly, it can foster the development of new strategies you come up with to accomplish your goal (e.g. trying out a new exercise class or routine).
It is easy to get discouraged or distracted when pursuing goals, so makes sure you keep in mind what you want to achieve at the end of all your work, why you want to achieve it, and how you are going to achieve it.
Laura Kirschner M.Ed.