Most of us realize that goals play an important role in our lives. They give us hope. They give us purpose. They give us direction. The problem is that many people don’t set SMART goals and they wonder why they haven’t achieved the success that they had hoped to achieve.
The idea behind S.M.A.R.T. goals is an age-old concept, but it’s always worth revisiting if it means that you can lead a smarter life, get more done, and really make yourself a better person in one way or another. As we make our way through some of these examples, you’ll get a better sense of why some the goals you’re currently setting don’t really hold any real weight until you’ve made them SMART to go along with what you hope to be a smart life.
The value of a vague goal is pretty minimal. It can give you a general direction, but you want your goals to be as specific as possible. You wouldn’t want to follow a road map that leads you to “somewhere out there.” You want the map that leads you to the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue in Vancouver, Canada.
Bad Example: I want to be healthier.
- I want to lose 20 pounds.
- I want to eliminate chocolate bars from my diet.
- I want to quit smoking.
- I want win a tennis match against my brother.
- I want to reduce my half-marathon time by 30%.
Having a specific goal is good, but a real SMART goal is one that is also measurable. This makes it so that you can clearly assess your progress and determine whether or not you’ve accomplished the goal that you set.
Bad Example: I want more money.
- I want to completely pay off my student loan.
- I want to have $200,000 in my savings account.
- I want to earn a $100,000 salary.
- I want a part-time job for an extra $10,000 a year.
- I want my investment portfolio to earn a 10% annual return.
Setting goals that are too lofty are very unlikely to be met. Your goal should stretch your limits, to be sure, but it should be within reasonable reach given your current circumstances. If you’re goal is completely unattainable, you’re just going to get demoralized and demotivated.
Bad Example: I want to visit every country in the world this year.
- I want to backpack through Europe this summer.
- I want to visit every continent before I die.
- I want to see the new seven wonders of the world within the next 15 years.
- I want to travel to 5 countries in the next 10 years.
- I want to go on a cruise through Asia by the end of next year.
SMART goals are ones that placed within the context of your wider ambitions and your perceived life’s purpose. It’s all relative what it means for a goal to be relevant, so you have to look within yourself and ask if the goal you’re setting really matters to you.
Bad Example: I want to collect every local phonebook since 1950.
- I want to own my own home.
- I want to donate 10% of my income each year to charity.
- I want to reduce my body fat percentage to under 17%.
- I want to run my own small business.
- I want to get married.
Setting a goal is meaningless if there’s no deadline. Otherwise, you can just keep procrastinating and avoiding the issue. Your goal needs to be accomplished by a certain time and date.
Bad Example: I want to buy a house.
- I want to buy a house within the next 5 years.
- I want to save up a $100,000 down payment by January 2015.
- I want to buy a 600 square-foot condo by the beginning of next year.
Templates and Worksheets for SMART Goals
Following the five basic elements of SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive — is a great way to stay on track, but having some additional templates and worksheets can be helpful too. Listed below are some resources for you to try, including some that let you work out resources, schedules, milestones, and rewards.
Now that you’ve set your SMART goals, get out there and achieve them.
Image credit: Flickr / ollesvensson