Make Real Change with a SMART Goal

January is now dead and gone, and I’m willing to bet that for most of us, so is our New Year’s Resolution. Statistically speaking, at least 80% of resolutions made on New Year’s Day are given up by Valentine’s Day. But why is that? Is it because we don’t really want the change? Or are we incapable of changing?


The answer is because most people say what they want to do but don’t really know how to do it.

What you really need is a SMART Goal

Rather than simply saying you want to make such-and-such change, if you really want to make it happen, you need to set a goal. More specifically, you need to set a SMART Goal. This is a concept I learned about while teaching a life skills class at a high school a few years ago. I like the way it’s easy to understand and set a goal this way, and, more importantly, it’s a lot more likely that it will be accomplished.

What is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym to help you remember 5 important things your goal must include for it to be effective. They are as follows:

S is for Specific.

Your goal cannot be too vague, or you won’t be able to focus on what you really want. For example, don’t just say, “I want to get better grades.” That is too broad. Instead, choose a Specific thing to work on. Maybe math is really what needs the most attention. You could say, “I will earn an 80 or higher in Math class this semester.” That will give you something to focus on right now. Then when it’s accomplished, you can move to another specific need.

M is for Measurable.

In order to know if you have met your goal, you have to be able to measure it in some way. This usually involves numbers of some sort. Rather than saying, “I want to get better at running,” your goal could be, “I will run a 10-minute mile by June 1st.” Now when you can run a mile in 10-minutes, you can easily tell that you have improved and reached your goal.

A is for Attainable.

Make sure your goal is a bit of a challenge, but not impossible to reach. It would be unrealistic to say in your first month at a new company, “I will be the best salesperson nationwide this year.” But a goal that is more Attainable might be something like, “I will make 25 sales this year.” And then after that, you can make goals to increase your sales over time.

R is for Relevant or Reason.

A goal is pointless unless it means something in your life today. What is your “why” for wanting to improve? How will it make your life better? Don’t work on something that you should have done 5 years ago but would have no purpose today. Nor should you try to work on something just because other people are doing it, unless it has meaning for you. 

T is for Time-based.

Your goal should have a time limit so you feel a little bit of a sense of urgency and priority to work on it. I also gives you an end point to your work and a place where you can progress to further goals. For example, rather than, “I want to lose 10 pounds,” your goal could be, “I will lose 10 pounds by March 1st.”

Other Useful Tips

Now that you know how to write a SMART Goal, use these tips to help you reach it:

Write it down!

“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” (Fitzhugh Dodson) Writing a goal down gives it more substance and makes it feel like more of a commitment. In addition, you can put it in a place where you will see it every day, like on your bathroom mirror, in your daily planner, or on your phone. This will keep it in your mind every day.

Write “I Will” statements

Rather than writing, “I want to do…”, which sounds kind of like a wish, write, “I will…”. This is a statement of commitment, and you will thus feel more committed to it.

Create a Vision Board

A vision board is a visual representation of your goal that can be posted in a prominent but private place as a reminder of what you are working on. It can include pictures, words, quotes or anything that motivates you. I will write more about vision boards in an upcoming post.

Break it Down

Are there smaller steps you can take that would lead up to your goal? Maybe running a 5K seems daunting right now, but maybe you can start with 2K and then work your way up by 1K each month to reach your goal. Write down your smaller steps and a timeframe to complete each one.

Tell people about your goal

Getting other people involved in your goal can help you achieve it. In addition to being cheerleaders to encourage you along the way, they can also help keep you accountable for your progress. You might also find a mentor who is an expert in the area of your goal that can guide you. And most importantly, when you achieve your goal, you will have people to help you celebrate!`

Chart Your Progress

Find some way of recording your progress that works for you. Some people are really into spreadsheets, while other people might prefer a simple checklist. You could journal each day about your progress. Or you might like a bullet journal. But making some form of visual chart of your progress will help keep you motivated and on track.

Get Writing!

Think of one positive change you want to make in your life. Write a goal. Does it meet all the requirements to be a SMART Goal? Write your smaller steps. Who can help you achieve it?

Now get to work! You can do it! 

What is Your Experience?

How have written goals helped you in your life? What are some things you have accomplished? Share your experience in the comments below.

%d bloggers like this: