S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for 5 characteristics that help you set well-defined goals:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable/Achievable
R = Realistic and Relevant/Rewarding
T = Timely
S.M.A.R.T. goals are used by those who want to go beyond the idea of goal-setting into an actionable plan for results. It’s a great acronym! We want to be smart about setting our goals, right? If you want to actually accomplish your goals, you must first be smart about defining them. Let's break down each of the components of S.M.A.R.T. goals:
Specific: What exactly is it that you are trying to accomplish? Ambiguous goals produce ambiguous results, and paint a vague picture of your future. Be specific when it comes to your goals and dreams. A great goal is well-defined and focused. Focus sets in motion a powerful force that is needed to achieve your goals. According to Ryan Blair, The Goals Guy, "The moment you focus on a goal, your goal becomes a magnet, pulling you and your resources toward it. The more focused your energies, the more power you generate."
Measureable: It’s important to set goals that are measureable. Otherwise, how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? The description of your goal and the outcome should be quantifiable. As you work towards your goal, you should be able to clearly see the direction you are going and how far you have travelled in the direction of your goal. How many pounds have you lost? How many recruits have joined your team? How much money have you made? Put concrete numbers in your goals to measure them accurately. Seeing your progress keeps you motivated to keep going. On the other hand, not seeing progress is a signal to make adjustments to keep you on the right track.
Attainable/Achievable: Your goal should be attainable given available resources. You must ask yourself if you are prepared to make the commitment your goal will demand of you. Setting a goal that is so high it is unattainable can be detrimental to your success. While it is a good idea to get in the habit of setting big goals that fill you with excitement, it is also wise to make sure that they are achievable. Sometimes people confuse attainability with the next characteristic in the S.M.A.R.T. acronym, Realistic. An attainable goal is one that is both realistic and achievable given your available resources (including time). This doesn’t mean it has to be a goal that easy to reach, rather just far enough out of your reach so it will challenge you to work harder in order to reach it.
Realistic: A realistic goal is one in which you have the skills, knowledge, and tools to make it happen. The root word of realistic is "real." A goal has to be something that we can reasonably make "real" or a "reality" in our lives. Far too often, people set goals beyond reach and get disappointed when they never achieve them. Dream big and aim high, but be sure to keep one foot planted on the ground of reality. Your goal should require you to stretch a bit beyond your normal routine and regular abilities, but allow for likely success. You really have to know yourself well. Be very honest with yourself as you plan and evaluate your goal. Can you really make this happen? If you truly believe you can, you are ahead of the game in a big way!
Relevant and Rewarding: Since Realistic is similar to Achievable/Attainable, I wanted to add a second “R” characteristic to the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. Goals can only truly be successfully fulfilled when they are relevant to your life and priorities. Too often people set goals that are rooted in ideas inherited from someone else, or outdated schools of thought. Does your goal resonate with you are as a person? If it does, then its accomplishment will be rewarding, which is also an important characteristic in defining your goals for success. A rewarding goal is one you find exciting and valuable. Setting a realistic goal that is both relevant and rewarding is a balancing act. You may be able to realistically achieve your goal, but if it doesn’t evoke a passion within you, it will not hold ground very long.
Timely: Finally, a S.M.A.R.T. goal should define the time period in which it will be accomplished. Every goal should have a time frame attached to it. In fact, one of the most powerful aspects of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is that it has an ending. Being clear about your timeline keeps you from falling behind schedule and missing your deadline. If you need to, it’s ok to break up a larger goal into smaller ones with shorter time frames. Do you have a reasonable date for achieving your goal in mind? Creating a time-based goal makes it closed-ended and prevents procrastination from taking over. Set boundaries so that you don’t repeatedly delay the start or push back the finish line. However, it is acceptable to adjust your time frames as you make progress.
To be sure you are setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal, ask yourself the following questions. What is it exactly that you want to accomplish and by when? Is it something you can actually see yourself doing within the time frame you’ve set? How will you know that you’ve reached your goal? How will you feel when your goal has been accomplished?