As a successful entrepreneur and coach, I know the importance of goal setting. But did you know there was a formula to boost success even more? It’s by using the SMART for goal setting technique, and I’m going to teach you how to use it! (And if you stick around until the end of the article, I have a bonus expert tip for you!)
So what is the SMART for goal setting strategy?
The SMART for goal setting strategy is a technique that takes a goal and turns it into something that has 5 key elements. These elements have been shown to increase the chance that the goal will actually get accomplished and are labeled as: specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-bound (which makes up the acronym SMART).
This strategy helps to further define the goal and answers the following questions:
- How do I know if the goal has been completed?
- When will the goal be accomplished?
- What actions will I take to achieve the goals?
- Can I actually do this goal that I have set out to accomplish?
- How much time will I spend doing the goal and when will I be done with this goal?
And every time you complete a goal, you gain increased confidence because you know that you are one step closer to your dream.
The SMART for goal setting strategy consists of 5 parts:
The SMART for goal setting strategy consists of 5 parts. We will go through each of these and explain them using the example: ‘I want to lose weight.”
The first SMART for goal setting technique is to be Specific. Which action or behavior will you choose to do this week? Being specific about the details of “how” and “when” gives you something you can measure.
It is the difference between “I’ll get around to it” versus “I have this scheduled on my calendar” Although it can be difficult to choose where to begin, starting small and being specific will set you up for action.
In the example above, “I want to lose weight,” is not specific. Try to answer the questions “what, when, and why.”
What: “I want to lose 10 pounds”
Add the When: “I want to lose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving”
Add the Why: “I want to lose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving so that I feel confident going to all of the holiday parties this year”
The answers need to be specific to YOU. It doesn’t matter if the “why” is because you will see friends and want to look hot in a new dress. No one else is looking at these answers. So dig deep and find out what your personal motivation is.
If you don’t know where to start with discovering your motivation and developing goals, “Self Care Habits for Success” is a great workbook for you to go through!
The next SMART for goal setting technique is to make sure that your goal is measurable. How will you tell if you have met your goal or not? It can’t be just a “feeling” or a subjective answer.
Making your goal measurable takes the ambiguity out of your goals! It is the “yes” or “no” part of the goal and often has a number tied to it.
In the example above, we already have something to measure: a goal weight loss of 10 pounds. But you can choose anything: I want to lose 3 inches off of my waist, I want to be able to run 2 miles without stopping, I want to stop eating after 7pm for 5 nights this week.
It has to be something concrete and obvious: something that can answer the question below.
Did you accomplish the goal? YES or NO.
The third SMART for goal setting technique is to make the goal action-based. This is the part that takes a lofty dream and turns it into reality! It breaks your goal into steps that you can take action on to help you achieve results.
This is where a brainstorming session can be helpful. Think of all of the things that you need to do in order to make your goal happen. You can answer the question below:
HOW will you achieve this goal?
Now you may have a list of a bunch of things you need to do in order to make the goal happen. So to prevent being overwhelmed, pick just 3-5 goals to accomplish each week. And these ALSO need to follow the SMART for goal setting formula!
Some examples related to food choices for our goal “I want to lose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving so that I feel confident going to all of the holiday parties this year” are below:
- Eating/Meal plan: “I will sit down Tuesday night after dinner and figure out how I want to eat over the next 4 weeks. I will create a meal plan for this week. I will use this plan to create a grocery list.”
- Meal prep: “Sunday afternoon at 2pm I will prepare food for the week so that I can quickly grab meals or snacks to be able to stay on track with my eating plan.”
- Find an accountability partner: “Monday morning as soon as I get to work, I will reach out to my friend Linda and ask her to keep me accountable over the next few weeks so that I don’t eat donuts at the morning office meeting.”
- Clean out the pantry: “Saturday morning after my morning coffee, I will go through the pantry and clean out the foods that are tempting to me so that I stay on track with my eating plan.”
This is the planning phase. It can take some time, but is the “blueprint” to your success. Don’t skip this step!
And if you feel stuck, feel free to reach out to me. We can schedule a “Power hour” to brainstorm together and develop your 4-week blueprint.
Realistic and Relevant
The fourth SMART for goal setting technique is to make the goal something that is both realistic and relevant. Do you ever approach a new goal with an “all or nothing” attitude?
Tell me if this scenario resonates with you: In the past when I tried to lose weight, I would decide to drastically change my diet: I would spend the first 2 days eating nothing but spinach and chicken. By day three I would be sick of spinach and that chicken turned into chicken nachos and I would give up.
Realistic goals means that are something you can ACTUALLY stick with. And it needs to be relevant, meaning that it will directly help you to achieve your final goal. You can ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this goal align with my long term objectives or wellness vision?
- Does it keep me on track with other goals in my life?
- Will focusing on this goal pull me away from other, more important goals?
- Is this something that I can realistically achieve in the given time frame?
- Is this something that is sustainable?
- Does this goal fit into my current daily schedule and lifestyle?
In the example above, “losing 10 pounds by Thanksgiving” should be something that you can do slowly and safely. If Thanksgiving is 3 days away and you plan to starve yourself, you will want to adjust that goal.
Nothing gets you off track more than setting unrealistic and unachievable goals. It feels really good to accomplish goals each week and arrive at that final goal in a way that is positive and enjoyable! Success builds self-efficacy and self-esteem. You are encouraged and feel like you can achieve anything.
However if you choose goals that are unrealistic, you set yourself up for failure rather than success. And when you don’t achieve the goal, it will leave you feeling discouraged and make you feel bad about yourself which is terrible for mental health.
The last SMART for goal setting technique is to make it time-bound. I like to think of this part as setting a deadline and scheduling each step. You will meet your final goal at a certain time, and along the way, you have “appointments” in your calendar to do each of the steps that it will take to meet that final goal.
In our example above, “Thanksgiving” is the deadline. And along the way, our “Action steps” include things like “on Tuesday after dinner” and “Monday morning when I get to the office.”
If you rely on ambiguity: “sometime this week” or don’t have a deadline, you are not setting yourself up to achieve your goal or any of the steps required to get there.
Expert Bonus Tip
And since you read this entire article, I’ll give you the expert bonus tip! If you truly want to achieve your goals and follow the formula above, you also need to write them down and look at them often.
When our goal stays on our mind, our actions become easier to design around that goal. For our example of weight loss, it makes it easier to say “no” to late night nachos because we are remembering our goal and why we want to accomplish it.
I recommend keeping a daily or weekly planner to track your progress. I have linked 3 really great planners that I recommend to help make your goals a reality!
🏆 Everyday Checklist Planner – (I use this one for everyday daily tasks)
🏆 Clever Fox Planner & Journal – (I use this one for goals!)
🏆 Planner Designed for Fitness and Nutrition Tracking – (I use this one for weight loss)
It feels really, really good to accomplish something amazing. As a coach, I love watching my clients succeed! Each week I help them design goals and watch them achieve things they never thought they could do. Feel free to share your goals in the comment section!