What are SMART Goals?

workstation with office supplies and an open goals journal as an example of how to create and keep track of your SMART goals that are spoken about in this article

You might have heard of SMART goals one time or another. This concept often comes up in topics like goal-setting or setting long-term plans, both for personal or professional purposes. Many attest to the effectiveness of setting SMART goals, but what does this concept mean exactly, and how is it going to help you in your life?

Simply put, SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. These elements serve as guides to help make goal-setting much easier and more aligned towards your values and dreams. They’re more like stepping stones that can lead you not only to the right direction, but one that’s more rewarding and fulfilling.
Here’s how SMART goals can help you take action towards your aspirations:


Setting specific goals is key to achieving success, whether that’s in your career or your personal endeavors. If you know what you want, then the path to it becomes a little clearer compared to when you’re chasing after vague goals or broad objectives. For instance, instead of saying “I want to have more money,” you can say, “I want to earn an extra $100 at the end of each month.” Defining your specific goal is your proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.


Now that you have a specific goal in mind, you need to make sure that it’s also measurable. Note that, measurable goals aren’t solely about numbers. You can still quantify intangible goals if you ask the right questions. For instance, if your goal is to be more patient at work this month, you can measure this by asking yourself if there was a time you got angry or snapped at a co-worker. If you’ve been frequently getting riled up by someone, it’s time to change course and remember what your specific goal is.


Aside from being specific and measurable, goals should also be attainable. It can be tempting to reach for the stars when it comes to goal-setting, but some stars are just out of reach — at least for the time being. Thus, when setting goals, make sure they’re something you can achieve, whether they’re short-term or long-term goals. Setting smaller, more attainable goals can also help build your confidence when you want to tackle bigger goals.


Further to being attainable, your goals should also be realistic. Wanting to get a million dollars within a week is a pretty specific goal, but it’s not at all realistic unless you’re extremely wealthy. Realistic goals keep you grounded and can be achieved by improving your current skill sets or habits. This way, making changes and working towards your goals won’t feel frustrating or exhausting.


As you might have noticed, specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic goals are all defined by their timeliness. Without this aspect of time, you’re unable to assess whether you’re progressing or taking the right steps. It also helps you check whether you need to reset your goals or take a different approach.


Working hard is important, but working SMART is even more vital when you want your goals to align with your dreams and values. With SMART goals, you can forge a path to success and tackle any obstacle to a fulfilling life and career.

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