Success & Goal Achievement

A Complete Guide to SMART Goal Setting

Reach your goals with SMART goal-setting and take actions with useful exercises.

Achieve Your Dreams with My Goal Setting Guide

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The brain is a goal-seeking organism. Experts on the science of success know that whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, it will work night and day to achieve. 

But all goals are not created equal. Some goals will give you specific results, while others will give you vague goals with minimal results. 

Today I’d like to introduce you to the concept of SMART goal-setting, exercises, and show you how SMART goals will help ensure you achieve the outcomes you desire every time.

What are SMART Goals?

A SMART goal is simply one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  It incorporates all of these criteria to help focus your efforts and develop the self-discipline to increase your chances of success. 

Why is it important to set smart goals? 

You have a better chance of achieving SMART goals rather than goals that are vague, too broad, or don’t have a specific target date for completion. After all, a goal that isn’t SMART is simply a wish, something you want, a good idea. 

Simply put, SMART goal setting is the smartest way to set goals! 

Importance of SMART Goal Setting

SMART goals set you up to achieve goals precisely because they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. They also make it clear which smaller goals you need to commit to on the way to attaining your main goal. 

For example, say your goal is to “lose weight.” Have you achieved your goal if you lose one pound in six months? Maybe, but I doubt it. 

But, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds in three months – now you don’t only have an exact number to aim for, but you also have a timeframe in which it will happen. 

From there you can consider how to reach that goal and measure your success along the way, adjusting your goals and tactics as needed. 

Learn How to Accomplish More and Achieve Your Dreams with My  Goal Setting Guide.

Tips to Take Action on Your Goals

A goal in which you do nothing to achieve remains a dream or becomes a regret. 

To achieve goals and get the results you want, action is required. Setting SMART goals helps you get unstuck and figure out what action to take.

Here are my key tips for successfully taking action to accomplish your goals:  

Eliminate Excuses

If you’re looking for a reason to delay taking action, you’ll always be able to find one. These excuses are coming from the part of you that is afraid to fail. Successful people ignore these voices and dive in and get to work – and you can, too!

Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment”

The is no perfect moment to get started working towards your goal. You will always have something happening in your life that gets in the way of “perfect” – work, family, your health. The best time to take action on your goals for success is right now. 

Visualize your goal

Visualization is one of my favorite success tools and an incredible way to keep your goals top of mind. If you take a few minutes every day to focus on your goal and clearly visualize what your life will look and feel like once your goals have been achieved, you may be surprised at how much easier it is to stay focused on your top priorities. 

Write it down

Writing down your goal in as much detail as possible gives your subconscious mind something to work on and makes it easier for you to identify the people, resources, and opportunities that will help you achieve your goals when they appear on your path. 

Use a support system

A Harvard study into the power of goal-setting exercises showed that people who wrote down their goals made a public declaration of their goals, and held themselves accountable to another person achieved 76% of the goals they set for themselves, compared to people who were told only to focus on their goals. (The second group achieved their goals only 43% of the time.)  

Other people hold you accountable for your goals and help you act on opportunities you may not even be aware of. Plus, it’s simply good time management to delegate tasks that take you out of your zone of genius and drain you of focus and energy.  

Take the first step

To reach your goals, the most important thing is taking action with the first step. This may require you to step out of your comfort zone, face your fears, adopt new behaviors, and create an action plan that points the way forward. But every step you take will bring you closer to your dreams.

Fail forward

Fear of failure can stop you from moving forward to accomplish your goals. But every success story has some failure! When achieving big goals, some amount of failure is inevitable. You’re not going to get everything right the first time and you’ll make mistakes along the way, but making mistakes is how you will learn! 

The Rule of 5

The Rule of 5 is one of my favorite Success Principles for boosting productivity so you can accomplish your goals. Here’s how it works: 

  • Step 1: Every morning identify five specific things you will do that day to move  closer to your goal.
  • Step 2: Commit yourself to do those five things! Make them your top priority. Your day’s not done until you’ve crossed all five off your list.  

The Rule of 5 is critical to SMART goal setting and ensures you achieve more each day. Just be sure to practice good time management and choose goals that are small and focused enough so that you can accomplish them all in a day without wearing yourself out. The momentum of crossing each item off your list is what keeps you moving forward.  

How to Set SMART Goals

If you’re wondering how to write a smart goal statement, start by visualizing what you’d like to achieve – then ask yourself the following questions to create your own SMART goal template. 

These goal-setting exercises will give you a framework for smart goal setting, accomplishing your goals, and knowing how to set smart goals!

S – Specific 

A specific goal is clear, detailed, and well defined. These questions will help you dig down and get super specific for your smart goal setting:

  • What exactly do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important to me?
  • What actions do I need to take to accomplish it? 
  • Which resources or limits are involved? 

For example, it’s not enough to say, “I want to be more active and get healthy.” A much more specific goal would be, “I want to run my first half-marathon before the end of the year.”  

M – Measurable

To attain goals, you must be able to measure them according to specific criteria. Ask yourself:

  • How will I measure my success? 
  • What data do I need to track along the way?
  • How will I know when I’ve reached my goal?

For example, it’s not enough to say, “I want to make more money this year.” 

You have to get clear on exactly how much you want to make (e.g., $200,000) – otherwise, how will you ever know when you’ve reached your goal? 

Learn How to Accomplish More and Achieve Your Dreams with My  Goal Setting Guide.

A – Achievable 

A goal needs to be attainable. It’s always good to stretch a little, but setting yourself an impossible goal is never the road to success.  Be sure to ask yourself::

  • Is the goal doable? 
  • Do you have the necessary skills and resources? 
  • Do you have the time?

Let’s say you just launched a new business and set a goal to generate $1,000,000 in the first year. 

But you’re just starting out… you don’t have a website or any effective way to market yourself… and you’re operating on a shoestring budget! Going from zero to $1,000,000 in one year might be a tough goal to reach. But hitting that $1,000,000 within a few years might be! 

So don’t give up on your dream, simply set more achievable year-one goals for yourself. The Rule of 5 can help you chunk down your big 10-year-goal into something more achievable.  

R – Realistic

Is your goal within reach? Do you have time to focus on your goal? The following questions will help you determine how practical your goal is:

  • How will you accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors and your other commitments?
  • Is this the right time? (Note: this doesn’t mean the “perfect” time!)
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?

For example, let’s say your goal is to write a New York Times bestselling book, sell 100,000 copies, and get interviewed by Oprah before the end of the year. But you also have a full-time job and a family and can only commit 2-3 hours a week to your writing. 

The chances you’ll write your book, find a publisher, get it published, sell 100,000 copies AND appear on Oprah – all within a year! – are pretty hard to reach. It’s better to set a realistic goal you actually CAN achieve, such as “write the first draft of my book before the end of the year.” 

T – Time-Bound 

For SMART goal setting you need a clearly defined timeline with a start date and an end date. You want to create a sense of (realistic) urgency around achieving your goal. 

Use the following questions to help determine your timeline:

  • What is the time frame for accomplishing the goal?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

For example, let’s say your goal is to become a certified coach. That’s great, but by what date will you commit to achieving this goal? 

If you don’t hold yourself to a clear deadline, chances are life will get in your way and you will find it very difficult to actually accomplish your goal. Setting a timeline and committing to your goal is how you’ll succeed. 

Examples of SMART Goal Setting

You can practice setting smart goals for every area of your life, from career goal setting to your health. Here are a few examples to inspire you on your SMART goal setting journey:

Personal Goal Setting:

Idea: I would like to buy a nicer home by the water.

SMART goal: I will own a 3,500-square-foot-house in La Jolla, California within the next 2 years. 

Health Goal Setting:

Idea: I would like to eat more fruit and vegetables. 

SMART goal: I will make sure at least half my plate for each meal is fruit and vegetables and I will maintain this goal for six months.

Career Goal Setting

Idea: I need to speak up more in meetings. 

SMART goal: I will contribute one idea in every meeting I attend for the rest of the year.

As you can see, goals can apply to every area of your life and you don’t need to focus on just one at a time. Instead, I encourage you to set as many goals for yourself as possible – small ones and big, long-term life-changing ones. 

I have 101 personal goals in my life and I recommend you set as many for yourself! 

Incorporate SMART Goal Setting for Your Future

If you have big dreams for your life, setting SMART goals is the best way to make your dreams a reality. Knowing how to set smart goals is the difference between creating a life you love – and having your dream life exist only in your head. 

To learn more and put the power of SMART goal setting to work in your life right away, download my Free Goal-Setting Guide today.

It’s time to take that first big step toward creating the life of your dreams! 

Find your meaning, define your objectives, and take action  with My Goal Setting Guide.

Meet Jack Canfield

For over 40 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, and people from all walks of life how to create the life they desire.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul(r) series, he's taught millions of individuals his modernized formulas for success, and has trained and certified over 2,700 students to teach his content and methodology in 107 countries around the world.