Keys Things to Realize About Setting a SMART Goal


Here’s what you should consider when setting a SMART goal. 

Imagine yourself constantly on autopilot, aimless while performing all of your tasks and activities, without aspiration or direction. 

Not so much controlled by any specific force but let loose to follow a map without a compass. 

You may find your actions repeatedly orbit around base necessities like work, food, sleep, and your household if it extends to the needs of others. Your eyes are only for the immediate needs of the body, and hardly ever cast to the future.

Setting a SMART goal is the first step to self-motivation, no matter how small.  It’s a crucial tool in our mental toolbox. 

To strive to achieve something greater is a very human need, and we all have the tools to walk that path no matter our starting point.

By setting a SMART goal, we give the map a compass and waypoints. We mark the distances, estimate times, chart the stars, and make roads and bridges en route to our goals. 

However, not all goals are created equally. Some can be expressed as an abstract desire for a target; vague and difficult to pin down. In contrast, others are a defined product of focus and dedication. The latter camp is where SMART goals reside. 

Setting a SMART goal is to narrow your desire down to a specific and achievable endeavor.

What is a SMART Goal?

Here’s a SMART goal defined:

S > Specific > Direct, meaningful, and detailed.

M > Measurable > Able to track your progress.

A > Achievable > You have the skills and resources to succeed.

R > Relevant > Keeps in tune with the big picture.

T > Time-based > Complete by a deadline.

This idea of SMART goals blossomed with the help of George T. Doran, author of a management research paper for the Washington Power Company in 1981.

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Setting a SMART Goal

The first step to setting a SMART goal is to visualize what you want. Form a clearly defined objective first and make that your goal. Everything else will build from this foundation in due course.

Using a template for SMART goals is a great way to keep things organized. It provides a reference point to help maintain focus and motivation. 

It can be as simple as a word document, whiteboard, or an artful collection of sticky notes, a notebook, or whatever floats your boat. 

Write down your goal as the penultimate step and leave the last step to success!

The beauty of setting a SMART goal is that it can be applied to both your personal and professional aspects of life. 

The same process works just as well for defining and achieving goals like “cleaning the garage” as it does for “complete project for the boss” (though for some, those might be the same project in different words).

Always keep in mind that as you become more comfortable and familiar with the setting and achieving of SMART goals, you will find more flexibility in the scope of your goal. 

Similar to learning how to play an instrument, the process is initially rigid to practicing notes and chords. Then, the process graduates into music as you practice, and eventually improvisation.

Using a Template for SMART Goals with a Team

In professional environments, a SMART goal template acts as the framework that team members use to stay focused. Make sure each of your team members is clear about what the goal is and how the steps to reach your destination will be measured. 

As a SMART goal example, let’s say a team of four people creates a template for their SMART goal of launching a web store. Each person is skilled in their own field, and their contributions are part of the measurable steps toward the common goal. All the sub-objectives are relevant to the task at hand.

Each team member is clear about their accountability and believes their goal is realistic in the time frame the team has estimated. The SMART goal is now set. One team member writes the website CSS, another draws up the graphics, the third team member starts a social media campaign, and the fourth team member prepares the store’s back-end code. 

When performing this with your own team, try to make their objectives as simple as possible so that it is clear when they are achieved.

The items in your template for your SMART goal can be checked off one task at a time until the team successfully creates their web store. It can help all team members stay on track with their specific responsibilities and serve as a stable reminder of their shared goal.

Common Mistakes

Despite the nature of SMART goals using a rigid structure to maintain cohesion, it’s essential to factor in the variabilities of our world. Traffic, sick days, and family emergencies, to name a few. 

Here are a few tips to help you stay flexible while keeping your goals fixed.

    • Don’t pigeonhole yourself or others

This means you and your team are not limited to one role or task. When the need arises, swap sub-tasks or take on additional work IF you can fit it within your time estimate.

    • Failure is a learning experience

Failing to achieve your goal is only a stepping stone in the greater picture of success. Use a retrospective to review and break down where things went wrong. Remember this for next time.

    • Hoping & wishing are not goals

While they are important facets of life and should not be ignored, dreams so often fail to yield results unless they’re paired with equal amounts of focus and dedication if not more. Don’t lose sight of your goal!

    • Fifty shades of patience

Patience is indeed a virtue; without it, you will give up. When you’re setting a SMART goal, trust the SMART goal process, reach small goals first, one by one, and watch your hard work pay off.

Where many people stumble is right off the block. No actual action is taken. 

The purpose of compiling a template for SMART goals is to list the things you will complete. None of them will see completion if they are not acted on! 

Acting and executing after you set a SMART goal takes self-discipline, and the only place that comes from is inside of you.

“…you build self-discipline by willfully enduring the transient discomfort of changing who and what you are. You’re not born with self-discipline; you acquire it. Like a muscle, you need to develop your self-discipline muscle, one challenge at a time.”

-Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D. in clinical psychology – Why 80 percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Thinking Outside the SMART Box

Setting a SMART goal and creating templates for SMART goals are effective strategies. However, it’s a framework that has its own limitations. Not every goal in life should be constricted down too far where there may be a risk of tunnel vision.

Each person’s goals are unique and complex.

Simply put, you are a complex being, and it may not be useful for you to use the guidelines for setting a SMART goal in a strict manner. No one, not the creator of SMART goals, is watching over your shoulder to make sure that you’re following the guidelines to a T.

After all, they are guidelines, not laws. No one’s going to send the police after you if you use it in a manner that fits your style.

Systems and goals are ultimately two sides of the same coin; setting a SMART goal is no different. It’s a set system of creating and achieving goals that can be incorporated into one’s life wherever it fits best. The most benefit can be gained by using SMART goals with flexibility.

Keep Your Goals Grounded in Reality

Lastly, know your strengths and weaknesses before setting a SMART goal. It’s an important step to avoid setting yourself up for failure. 

“Biting off more than you can chew” is an excellent analogy. Experience will teach you what your limits are. If you’re setting out on a new journey into unknown waters, don’t shoot for the moon and expect immediate positive results.

The ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” is central to this concept. You will find your goals are well within reach when you understand your capabilities. Even the long-term goals that may take months or even years to achieve. 

Pursue a goal that is achievable yet challenging. That is how you will progress and grow in your life.

Repeat the process of identifying what you need to do. Use a template for SMART goals and follow through with action. No matter how tall the mountain is, someone will eventually conquer it if it hasn’t been already.

If you’ve tried setting goals before and it didn’t work, you’re not alone. It’s discouraging, and it hurts, yes. But our pasts do not dictate our futures; we learn from our failures without being bound by them.

Try Setting a SMART Goal Today!

It can be anything from mowing the lawn to learning a new language to starting an exercise routine to earning extra money on the side! 

Use a template for a SMART goal and begin the first step. Break your goal down into milestones and steps. Whatever is necessary to achieve your goal. 

Completing them will give you a sense of progress. Even small wins will serve as subtle yet important, motivating factors. 

Measuring your success will help keep you motivated. Similar to leveling up a character in a video game or adding a single stroke of paint to a masterpiece, it will take time. 

Stay focused, be patient, and stay disciplined. You will find success seeks you out while you’re busy working towards your SMART goal.

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