How a SMART Goal Template Drives You to Achieve Your Goals


Some people are too rigid in their application of the SMART goal template, so here’s how to use it in a way that works really works for you

Do you ever look at successful people and wonder how they always seem to achieve their goals? They just seem to have it all together.

The truth is successful people rarely find things are always perfect if at all. Instead they use systems to organize their life and put themselves in the best possible position to succeed. 

They approach their goals systematically, laying out a plan before taking any major step. One of the popular methods that top performers use is the SMART goal template. Top performers use some component of the SMART goal template if not the entire thing.

What is the SMART Goal Template?

The SMART goal acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

The SMART Goal Framework

What is the SMART goal acronym?

Specific: What exactly needs to be done? You can use the five W’s–who, what, when, where, why.

Measurable: How will you know when the task has been completed to satisfaction? Use a metric or a definitive answer to a question that allows you to determine the status of your goal.

Achievable: Is this task attainable given the resources available to you? It should neither be impossible nor below your standard performance.

Relevant: How much does it matter to you or anyone that might be affected? How will it impact your life or those involved?

Time-bound: When does it need to be done by? Give yourself a target date so that you have some sense of urgency.

The SMART goal acronym arose in 1981 thanks to George T. Doran. His original intention was to   provide a method to improve business management to develop action plans working towards  organizational objectives. Since then, it’s expanded from business to personal use as many people have adapted it as a method to achieve their own dreams and goals.

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The SMART Goal Template Fits the 3 Major Types of Goals

There are three major types of goals–process goals, performance goals, and outcome goals. 

3 Major Types of Goals

Process goals: goals that are related specifically to completing an action or actions. 

Performance goals: goals tied to a benchmark, metric, or a measured result.

Outcome goals: goals linked to results in competition with one or more external parties.

The actions completed for process goals may contribute toward an outcome goal. You’ll have the most control over process goals since they don’t depend on someone else, like a professor or their manager, evaluating your performance. It’s a matter of you prioritizing the process goal on your to-do list

You could create performance goals based on personal or competitive standards. The competitive standards may be how others perform in your age group, industry, city, or a combination of these factors.

You have control over performance goals to a certain extent. However, it might depend on external factors like the evaluation of your professor or manager. 

For outcome goals, you still have a certain amount of control, but your competitors may also influence the result. Some may have more influence, some less. 

If you realize that you have or need all three types of goals, you may notice that these goals have a linear or sequential relationship. Meeting your process goals enables you to achieve your performance goals. Achieving or exceeding your performance goals gives you a better chance of attaining your outcome goals.

Not every person defines something for each of these three goals. And they don’t necessarily need to. 

When you were younger and not as busy, you might have had an outcome goal to finish in the top 25 for the 5K race. In order to achieve that, you decided your performance goal was to finish the race in 25 minutes. Your process goal might have been to run eight to ten miles each session three to four times a week.

Misconceptions About SMART Goal Templates & How to Address Them

“The SMART Goal Template is Too Limiting”

Many articles have been written, and even a study conducted, about how the SMART goal template doesn’t work. One of the key takeaways from that study is that setting achievable or realistic goals does not make people happy. This is likely because the thought of realistic goals means that you’re not achieving anything meaningful.

The study found that top performers that are happy usually set audacious or difficult goals. These are goals that take them out of their comfort zone and encourage learning as well as growth.

Yes, the SMART goal template does emphasize creating achievable and realistic goals. However, that doesn’t mean that audacious or difficult goals can’t be achievable and realistic.

If you’re able to achieve an audacious goal, you’re able to realize it and that’s what makes it realistic. A difficult and unrealistic idea would be to build a rocket from scratch by yourself and fly into the moon in 24 hours. Even the world’s richest people aren’t able to accomplish that.

“The SMART Goal Template is Overboard”

You may hear arguments against the ‘s’ component of the SMART goal template. That it’s not good to be too specific. Or that you’re wasting your time creating something so detailed.

The essence of “specific” here is you want to avoid creating general goals. “I want to be rich” is not a useful goal because it doesn’t tell you if you’ve reached your destination. It’s just an idea floating around in your dream land. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. 

It may be useful to motivate yourself by recounting the details of your goal. However, when it comes to goal setting, it’s definitely a waste of time to note every single detail. You want to create something that will give you a handle on your goal. Something that makes your goal tangible.

The Proper Application of the SMART Goal Template

As we’ve mentioned above, a generic goal or statement doesn’t provide a definition of what accomplishing your goal looks like. It doesn’t give you an indicator of your progress towards your goal. You don’t have to define every single detail nor do you have to plan every single minute. 

Your goal should be specific enough that you know exactly what you’re striving for. Actually, the other aspects of the SMART goal template help you to create a goal that is specific enough. Plus, defining a specific goal can help drive you to pursue your goal. 

Assigning a metric or a measured result for your goal is one of the aspects that helps make your goal specific. This gives you a clear target of what you’re aiming for.

When you have a measurable goal, you realize how achievable and realistic it is. Your SMART goal can be achievable but it should also be challenging. After all, any meaningful goal should help you develop and grow as a person.

Inherently, since you are creating this goal, it is relevant to you. You’ll still want to consider how this aligns with your values and what you picture for yourself. 

For the final aspect of the SMART goal template being time-bound, it’s okay to set aggressive goals and adjust them strategically if you need to.

Use the SMART Goal Template According to Your Preferences

Evaluate your performance and whether you set a useful goal. Figure out if you need to adjust your goal or tweak anything for the next goal. 

Ask yourself if you need to push more or pull back. This avoids putting too much pressure on yourself. 

Tools themselves are not smart. People are trying to develop products that don’t require human input. Whether it’s a new smart device or software that helps software developers write code, all of that still requires human guidance and interaction. 

It’s the same with the SMART goal template. It’s not the tool that will do the actual work. The key is to find what works well with your habits, preferences, personality, and style. You’re the smart one who will apply your knowledge to make things work for you.

Create an Action Plan for Your Goals

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