It’s not uncommon for people to begin thinking about their goals throughout life. You might be setting goals for the first time. Or, you might be adjusting previous plans to suit your lifestyle. Either way, the SMART goal setting method will prove useful.
Whether it be saving money, changing careers, working out more, eating healthier, having better relationships, or many other things, goals are an incredibly important aspect of life. They keep you motivated and moving forward. Furthermore, goal-setting helps you to achieve your dreams and provides you with self-confidence when you succeed. Unfortunately, only a staggeringly small percentage of all people who set go.
The author of an article about five habits you need to be successful reported startling findings. They reveal that out of 1,129 people, only 101 of them succeeded in fulfilling their goals for the previous year, with more than 42 percent of individuals reporting that they fail to achieve their goals every year.
But why, exactly, do so many people fail to achieve their goals?
That question leads many to wonder about this phenomenon. Scientists looked into what the people who achieve their goals do differently than those who don’t. Researchers found that successful people follow the principles of goal setting defined by the SMART goals setting theory.
WHAT ARE SMART GOALS?
SMART is an acronym that is used to identify the five main aspects of SMART goals setting. Each letter represents the following aspects of this proven-effective goal setting method: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. The SMART process of goal setting is an evidence-based technique that many people utilize to advance their careers and dreams. Simply put, using the SMART goals setting method helps people to achieve their goals.
The scientific research surrounding the SMART method tells a lot about what helps people to achieve their goals. And the good news is that every person can reach any realistic goal if they work hard. This legwork includes laying out a plan and following some basic guidelines and steps for successful goal setting and achievement.
It might seem like a lot to take on, but goal-setting does not have to be overwhelming. If you have goals but struggle with knowing where to begin and how to achieve them, you are not alone. Many people feel this way.
Keep reading to learn about the steps you can take to start setting and achieving goals the SMART way, today.
IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF SMART GOALS SETTING
Learn more about the specific aspects of successful goal setting that each letter in the SMART acronym represents, below:
S = Specific:
When determining what you’d like to improve or change about your life, your goals should be specific and clearly stated. Write out each of your goals in language that is easy to understand. Answer the following five “W” questions to determine if your goals are specific enough:
- (1) What – What do I want to accomplish?
- (2) Why – What are the specific reasons for and benefits of accomplishing this goal?
- (3) Who – Who is involved?
- (4) Where – What location or locations are involved in accomplishing this goal?
- (5) When – What is the timeline for accomplishing this goal, and are there any specific time-sensitive requirements or potential constraints.
M = Measurable:
To know that you have accomplished a goal, you must have discernible and measurable evidence of your progress. The statement of your goal is a broad measure of it. However, there should usually be at least a few, smaller, measurable steps within the overall outcome. To determine if your goal is measurable, answer the following questions. Please note that your answers to each question should be quantifiable. This means that they can be expressed or measured as an amount of something tangible.
- (1) How many?
- (2) How much?
- (3) How will I measure my achievements along the way?
- (4) How will I know when I’ve reached the goal?
A = Attainable:
Each goal that you set should be attainable and achievable. Your goals should certainly challenge you and help you to grow and stretch beyond your current abilities. However, your goals should also be well-defined in terms of how, exactly, you will achieve them. You must already possess or know how to obtain the knowledge, skill-sets, and abilities required for achieving your desired outcome. If your goals are unrealistic or impossible, it will demotivate rather than motivate you. To determine if your goal is attainable, answer the following question:
- (1) How can this goal be accomplished realistically?
- (2) Is it possible, have others done this successfully before me?
R = Relevant:
The benchmarks that you set should be able to produce measurable outcomes that are relevant to your overall goals. Goals that you set should have a purpose or benefit, be important, and matter to you. These are not simply new activities that you want to try; they are lifestyle changes meant to better your life. If you can answer “yes” to each of the following questions, your goal is likely to be relevant:
- (1) Is it the right time for this?
- (2) Am I the right person to do this?
- (3) Does this goal seem worthwhile?
- (4) Does this goal align with my overall needs and other goals and efforts?
- (5) Is this goal applicable or appropriate given my current socio-economic- and technical environment?
T = Time-bound:
To be successful in achieving your goals, they must have a timeframe that encourages a healthy sense of urgency. Having unrest or tension between your current reality and vision of your life when the goal is achieved is critical. If this tension does not exist, your goal is less likely to produce a relevant outcome or be achieved. To verify that your goal is time-bound answer the following questions:
- (1) What can I do today?
- (2) What can I do six weeks from today?
- (3) What can I do six months from today?
- (4) What date should this goal be achieved by?
HOW SMART GOALS SETTING HELPS DRIVE SUCCESS
It makes the process of goal setting more efficient and productive, which saves you a ton of time and energy. Furthermore, you define a timeline with an end date. That healthy sense of urgency helps keep you motivated.
2 – Broken into smaller bites
This method breaks a large picture into smaller, more achievable steps. This breakdown provides a figurative roadmap, making the process of achieving your outcome less intimidating and overwhelming.
Also, these smaller bites increase motivation and the rate at which you achieve larger tasks because you can see and measure your achievements. And, it helps keep you engaged and dedicated throughout the long-term process.
3 – More meaningful along the way
Using the SMART method ensures that you will not waste time on goals that are meaningless to your big-picture future. You’ll also make sure outcomes are achievable before you begin.
4 – Pat yourself on the back
The SMART goal method allows you to see and celebrate your accomplishments along the way. This celebration increases motivation and the rate at which you achieve better outcomes because you can see and measure your achievements. Also, you’ll remain motivated if you take time out for an occasional pat on the back.
5 – Specificity challenges you (in a positive way)
Utilizing the SMART goals method requires you to be specific in your goals and also plans to achieve those goals. Several studies prove that being particular in goal setting is beneficial to reaching goals. The authors of this study found that performance and commitment were much better when goals were specific and hard.
6 – What gets written, gets done
It provides you with a solid written plan and guidelines for your process, which aids in holding you accountable. Your written plan also helps to ensure that you do not lose focus on what you are doing to achieve your goals.
The authors of this study evaluated the impact that a written goal-setting program had on struggling college students. Results revealed that students who participated in a written goal-setting program for four months “displayed significant improvements in academic performance.” Whereas members of the control groups who did not write down their goals did not improve in academic performance.
SMART GOALS AND WELLNESS: A SURPRISE BENEFIT
Utilizing the SMART method of goal setting can help patients better recover from major medical trauma and severe health conditions. The authors of one study evaluated the effectiveness of using the SMART method to achieve rehabilitation goals for stroke victims. Their findings show that using the SMART system could “serve as a powerful tool for rehabilitation following stroke.”
Additionally, practicing the SMART goal method helps doctors be more successful in achieving treatment goals for medical patients. A controlled study assessed the impact which utilizing the SMART way had on medical students’ treatment goals for asthma patients. Results revealed that students who used the SMART criteria had significantly higher scores for setting and monitoring patient’s treatment goals.
Here are the steps that you can take to define and set your goals utilizing the SMART method of goal setting: