The SMART Way To Set Goals

The SMART Way To Set Goals

I write a lot about goal setting but I’ve never laid out the system I use for my own goals. I like to use the SMART system, which I by no means made up. It has been around since the 80s and is taught in college classrooms around the country. It’s basically a way to create a goal and identify ways to know when it’s been achieved. The old analogy of “can’t score points when there’s no goal” is the premise of management by objective and something everyone should consider adopting. SMART is an acronym and stands for the following:

Specific: a goal should not be vague and should target a specific area. For example, “get healthier” is a vague goal whereas a goal that deals with blood pressure or cholesterol or weight might be better

Measurable: you need to be able to measure it. My example above is pretty clear. Weight is measurable. Blood pressure is measurable. Cholesterol is measurable.

Attainable: there needs to a chance that you can actually reach your goal. People make up goals all the time that are more like “moonshots”, which are incredibly hard to reach although not necessarily impossible goals. I feel bad when people talk about goals which clearly aren’t attainable. I remember watching an interview with Martin Short who was launching a new talk show. They asked what his goals were, and he said he wanted to bring Marlon Brando on his show. Brando famously retired from showbiz and refused to be interviewed by anyone years prior and even if Short would have landed it, it probably would have been incessantly boring. I think Short just heard it was impossible and decided to go for it. Needless to say Short’s show went off the air before Brando ever made it onto his stage.

Relevant: goals that are more relevant to what you want to achieve are more likely to be achieved. For example, people set goals of learning a new language without really needing to know a second language. If you want to try your hand at international sales, go for it. If you are planning on living in another country, go for it. If it’s just to say you learned a second language to impress people your motivation for doing it is wrong.

Time-bound: set a time frame for when it should be completed. You shouldn’t have an open ended “whenever” because you can’t assign urgency to it. If there’s never a rush to get it done, it will probably never get done.