Are Your Goals SMART? A Proven Way To Achieve Your Goals


Have you ever wondered how to set smart goals that you have a good chance of achieving?

In my post about increasing your productivity, I talked about setting clear goals and writing them down. On that point, I mentioned making sure that the goals are SMART but did not go into details about the acronym.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

As we examine each of these attributes, I encourage you to get a pen and paper to write down the goals you want to achieve. Evaluate each goal and make changes as needed to ensure that your goals are SMART.


A specific goal is distinct, straightforward, and clearly defines what you want to accomplish. It should not contain any ambiguous language. To ensure that your goal is clearly defined, address the following “W” questions:

  • Who: Identify who is involved? Is this a personal goal or a goal that involves others? An example of a goal that involve others is a manager setting a goal for the team.
  • What: Define what to accomplish. What are you going to do? Use action words like develop, build, organize, learn, etc.
  • Where: Identify the location(s) if this applies to the defined goal.
  • When: Set a time frame for the goal to be accomplished.
  • Which: Identify the requirements for the goal. It is also important to identify and understand the constraints.
  • Why: This is really important! Understand the specific reason, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal. Having a compelling WHY helps you to focus your effort and motivates you to attain the goal. Ensure that your goals are specific and clearly defined. An example of a specific goal will be “I want to go back to school to get a Bachelor degree in Computer Science.” It’s not just “I want to go back to school.” It’s stating exactly what type of degree you want to obtain.


A measurement provides feedback and lets you know when the goal is achieved. It is important to establish concrete criteria for measuring your progress as you work towards achieving the goals that you set.

To determine if your goal is measurable, asks questions like – How much? How many? How will I know when the goal is achieved?

It is easier to stay on track when you measure your progress. It’s like managing a project – if you can’t measure your progress, you can’t manage your project.

Measuring your progress helps a lot when you have smaller, short-term goals that leads to a long-term goal. As you reach your target date on the short-terms goals, you experience a sense of excitement that stimulates you to intensify your efforts at achieving your goals.


After your goals are identified, you begin to figure out how to accomplish them. In the process, you develop new attitude, abilities, skills and financial capability required to reach your goals. You begin to pay closer attention to previously overlooked opportunities that brings you closer to achieving your goals.

Almost any goal is attainable when you plan wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to reach that goal. However, if your goals are too far out, there is a high probability that you won’t commit to doing it when you know that it’s too much for you.

Work on developing yourself, and with time you just might have gathered enough resources to achieve those seemingly insurmountable goals.


Realistic goals are challenging yet attainable within the given time frame. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. A goal of losing 50 pounds in one month may be unrealistic for someone who has never exercised and enjoys carbohydrates.

Set goals that you can attain with some effort. When the goal is too difficult to attain, you might be setting yourself up to fail. On the other hand, setting a goal that doesn’t require too much effort to achieve exerts low motivational force. It sends the message that you are not capable.

Make your goals high enough that you feel some sense of satisfaction after achieving such goals. In the example given earlier, someone who wants to go back to school to get a degree in Computer Science will put in a lot of hours to study, do homework, and write codes. After getting the degree, such a person experiences the exhilaration of achievement.


Set an aggressive, yet realistic time frame for the goal. Putting an end point to your goal creates a sense of urgency and gives you a target to work towards.

For me personally, when I don’t set time to accomplish a goal, my commitment is vague. I tend to procrastinate because I feel like I can start at any time. Without a time limit, there is no urgency to take action immediately.

Be sure to allocate an appropriate time frame to your goal. The time must be attainable and realistic.

My challenge to you

Everyone can benefit from goals that are SMART. Setting SMART goals gives you a sense of purpose. My challenge to you is to set a goal and accomplish it! No excuses. 

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