Setting S.M.A.R.T goals

The most popular (and safe) way used for goal setting in the world is the S.M.A.R.T goals technique. There are a number of versions of this technique, but the most common tells us that a well set goal should meet the following criteria:

It should be:

  • S = Specific;
  • M = Measurable;
  • A = Attainable;
  • R= Realistic; and
  • T = Time based

One of the issues with the SMART technique is that it plays it a bit safe. All goals should be specific and measurable, but focussing on being attainable and realistic can sometimes hinder setting big ambitious goals, part of the goal may be to achieve something that doesn’t seem all that possible at first. But for now lets play it safe and make sure your goals are on the right track, we can look at other methods for those crazy slightly impossible goals later.

While it seems rigid the SMART goal system does not necessarily have to be followed in order. If you want to look at your measures first and then decide if it is attainable, etc then do it that way. These are your goals and you should plan them in whatever way is easiest and the most motivating for you, just make sure you do complete all of the steps.


Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what it is you are going to do. ‘Specific is the what, why and how of the model’.

For example: ‘By February 1st I am going to quit smoking, I’m going to start using patches and help from the quit line because I want to feel better about my body and be around longer for my children”.

Now that’s specific, and powerful. A good start to a smart goal.


Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. Usually, the entire goal statement is a measure for the project, but there are usually several smaller measurements built into the goal.

For example: ‘Next Monday I am going to buy quit patches and on Tuesday I’m going to call the quit line’.

Empowering stuff


Goals should be achievable, they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged but defined well enough so that you can achieve them. At this stage you need to question that you have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal. If you don’t it might be worthwhile making that your new goal.

If a goal is impossible to achieve you may not even try to accomplish it, until you are a master at challenging yourself to meet your goals make sure you know they are achievable.

Example: In order to achieve this goal I need to know where to get patches and materials from Quit.


Goal should be stretching and motivating but should also be realistic.

Example: I have been able to go weeks without a cigarette in the past, it’s time for me to quit and I know I can do this.


Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a sense of urgency, what is the deadline. It should create some tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without the tension the goal is unlikely to produce an outcome.

Example: ‘I will do this by the 1st of February’