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Last Updated on May 16, 2021

What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

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What Are SMART Goals (and How to Use Them to Be Successful)

As a track and field runner in school, every year I would sit down with my coach and set a series of goals for the season. Once we had set my goals for the year, we would create a training plan so I could achieve those targets. This helped me answer the main question here: “What are SMART goals?”

Before I got a coach, I used to run aimlessly with no plan, no target races. More often than not, I would end up injured and find my season ending after achieving very little.

Once I got a coach, though, I started winning races that mattered and began enjoying my sport. This annual process taught me from a very early age that goals are important if I want to achieve the things that are important to me.

So what exactly are SMART goals? This article will talk about why goals matter, how to use SMART goals effectively with your time and resources, and how these goals give you a clear, specific plan that works time and time again.

See our article on how to set smart goals in life on our achieving goals guide.

Why Do People Fail to Reach Their Goals?

Setting SMART goals and achieving them

is not easy, and many people fail. A study by Scranton University found that only 8% of those who set New Year goals actually achieve them, meaning 92% who set new year goals fail[1].

The problem is that many people see goals, such as New Year resolutions, as hopes and wishes. They hope they will lose some weight, they wish to start their own business, or they hope to get a better job. The problem with “hoping” and “wishing” for something is that there is no plan, no purpose, and no time frame set for achieving the goals.

Once these hopes and wishes come face-to-face with the realities of daily life, they soon dissolve into lost hopes and wishful thinking.

Therefore, in order to really achieve something, you need a concrete goal: a SMART goal.

What Are SMART Goals?

The foundation of all successfully accomplished goals is the SMART goal.

Originally conceived by George T. Doran in a 1981 paper[2], this formula has been used in various forms ever since.

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SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. It has been used by corporations and individuals to achieve their goals and objectives and is a formula that, on the whole, works well.

Use SMART goals to help you achieve more.

    The strength of SMART goals is that they set a clear path to achieving goals, and they have a clear time frame in which to achieve them. Let’s look at the SMART criteria in a little more detail:

    Specific

    For a goal to be achievable, it needs to have a very clear outcome. What you are asking is, “What exactly do I want to achieve?” The clearer the goal, the more likely it is you will achieve it.

    For example, if you just say “I want to lose weight,” then technically you could achieve your goal just by not eating dinner for one day—you would lose weight that way, even if it were temporary.

    You need to have a more specific goal: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

    Measurable

    To achieve anything, it’s important to have measurable goals. T

    ake the example above: “I want to lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year.”

    It’s measurable, as all you need do is weigh yourself on 1 January, then deduct twenty-pounds from that and set that weight as the target for 31 July. Then, each week you weigh yourself to measure progress.

    Attainable

    Being attainable means that SMART goals are realistic and that you have what you need in order to achieve them.

    In our example of losing weight, 20 pounds in six months is certainly doable. Your resources could include a gym membership, some at-home weights, or simply motivation to get outside and run everyday.

    If motivation is an area where you struggle, you can check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost.

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    Relevant

    For any goal to be achieved, you need to set relevant goals for your unique life.

    If losing weight is doable with the lifestyle you have, and if you believe it will lead to a happier, healthier life, then it is certainly relevant to you. It’s even more relevant if your doctor has pointed out that you need to lose weight to prevent health issues.

    Time-based

    Finally, you need a timeline. All your goals need to have an end date because it creates a sense of urgency and gives you a deadline.

    In our example of losing twenty-pounds, a timeline of six months would be specific, measurable, relevant, and would have a timeline. Furthermore, as you have what you need to achieve that goal, it is attainable—all elements of the formula for SMART goals are included.

    How to Reach a SMART Goal

    The problem I have always found with the SMART goal formula is it does not take into account the human factor. We need motivation and a reason for achieving these goals.

    If you decide to lose twenty-pounds, for example, you are going to spend many months feeling hungry, and unless you possess superhuman mental strength, you are going to give in to the food temptations.

    All SMART goals can be distilled down to three words:

    • What do you want to achieve?
    • Why do you want to achieve it?
    • How are you going to achieve it?

    When you simplify your goal in this way, achieving it becomes much easier.

    1. Visualize What You Want

    One way to make your goals achievable is to visualize the end result. When you write out your mission statement, you should be imagining what it will be like once you have achieved the goal.

    In our weight loss example, you would close your eyes and imagine walking down from your hotel room in Ibiza in July with your towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and swimwear on. You would imagine walking past all the other sunbathers and the feeling you have, the pride in the way you look and feel.

    Try to invoke as many of the five senses as you possibly can[3].

    2. Identify Your “Why”

    If you take losing twenty-pounds as an example, once you have made the decision that you want to do this, the next question to ask yourself is, “Why?” The more personal your why, the better.

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    Your why could be, “Because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza this summer.” That is a strong why.

    If your why is, “Because my doctor told me to lose some weight,” that is not a good why because it’s your doctor’s, not yours.

    One way to identify your “why” is to write your mission statement.

    To help with setting achievable SMART goals, when working with my clients, I always ask them to complete the following mission statement:

    I will [STATE GOAL CLEARLY] by [DATE YOU WANT TO COMPLETE THE GOAL] because [YOUR WHY].

    If you want to write a SMART goal for the weight loss example, your mission statement would be written: “I will lose twenty-pounds by the end of July this year because I want to look and feel fantastic by the pool in Ibiza.”

    Never write a mission statement that is full of vague words. The words you use should be simple, direct, and clear.

    3. Figure out Your “How”

    Before you can begin achieving your goal, you need to create a list of steps you can take to make it happen.

    Write down everything you can think of that will help achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter what order you write these tasks down; what matters is that you write down as many action steps you can think of.

    I always aim for around one hundred small steps. This makes it much easier to assign tasks for each day that not only moves you forward on your goal, but also keeps you focused every day on achieving it.

    Once you have your list, you can create a to-do list for the goal and allocate the steps to different days so you create momentum towards a successful outcome.

    You can learn more about how to use SMART goals to achieve success and lasting change in this video:

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    Bonus: Make a PACT

    There is one more part needed to really make sure you achieve the SMART goals you set for yourself, and that is something I call PACT. PACT is another acronym meaning Patience, Action, Consistency, and Time. You need all four of these to achieve goals.

    Patience

    Without patience, you will give up. To achieve anything worthwhile requires patience. Success does not happen overnight. Be patient and enjoy the process of stepping a little closer towards achieving your goal each day.

    Action

    If you do not take action on any goal, then even SMART goals won’t be achieved. You need to make sure you remind yourself of your goal and why you want to achieve it each day. Read your mission statement, make an action plan, and then take the necessary action to make sure you move a step closer each day.

    Consistency

    The action you take each day towards achieving your goal needs to be consistent. You can’t follow your diet program for a week and then have three weeks off. Jim Rohn said it perfectly when he said:

    “Success is a few simple disciplines practised every day.”

    Time

    Of course, you need to allow enough time between where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Be realistic about time, and don’t get disheartened if you miss your deadline. Readjust your timeline if necessary.

    The Bottom Line

    The key to success is to put everything together. When you connect all of these elements, you create an environment where achieving SMART goals becomes much more attainable.

    Whether it’s personal or business goals, when you have a strong personal “why” for your goal, your motivation to keep going stays strong.

    Start with your “why,” and then get started on the action steps that will take you all the way to the end.

    More Tips on Reaching Your Goals

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Carl Pullein

    Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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    Last Updated on November 17, 2021

    Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives to Advance Your Career

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    Understand the Difference Between Goals and Objectives to Advance Your Career

    The days of staying stagnant and complacent within a job are gone and maybe gone forever. The Great Resignation has created a movement of people who won’t settle for work that doesn’t fulfill them, and they are finding alternative ways to advance in life and a career.[1] We’re experiencing a great “reset,” and that’s a good thing. Your career should help you live a better life by providing financial security. Your work should challenge but also fulfill you. However, challenging but fulfilling work means you’ll have to do your part to be an asset.

    A lot of the reason people don’t advance in their careers is that they’re not demonstrating value. Showing why you deserve more opportunities is how you can advance in your career. The good news is that goals and objectives can help you demonstrate clear value, but you need a better understanding and strategy of using goals and objectives.

    Working hard is not enough. You can work hard without direction, which does not help you advance in your career. You’ll need clear goals to advance in a career and create a life of freedom. You have to be working hard towards accomplishing specific tasks that align with progress and your vision of growth. To accomplish a career advancement, you’ll need clear goals and understand the difference between goals and objectives and how they work in tandem. Being clear on the steps you take is how you accomplish more and live a growth-focused life.

    Having a clear understanding of the difference between goals and objectives is crucial to advancing in your career. Here’s how to understand the difference and use goals and objectives to build a career and fulfilling life.

    The Difference Between Goals and Objectives

    Goals are the destination you should be working hard towards. Goals are specific accomplishments you set for yourself that help you live a better life and advance your career. If you were to think about this from a high level, objectives are the specific tasks and metrics that help you accomplish goals.

    You’ll need to set goals to advance in your career. Those goals could be related to the kind of income you’d like to make, the position of leadership you’d like to be in, or even as lofty as earning equity in the company you work for. Clear career advancement goals give you a destination to strive to reach.

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    With that clear destination (your goals), you’ll then need a plan to accomplish your goals—that is where objectives come into the picture. You’ll need to set specific objectives for each goal. Objectives bring clarity and create a plan for the particular steps you need to take (and in what order) to accomplish goals.

    Objectives are not goals, and vice-versa. Think of goals as the house and objectives as the materials it takes to build the house. Accomplishing your goals starts with an understanding of the difference between goals and objectives. With that clarity, you can set each accordingly to advance your career. You need each, but you can’t reach one without the other.

    Too many growth-focused leaders waste time, effort, and opportunity by winging it. Without a plan, you’ll spend a lot of time chasing distractions. Those who advance in their career do this by understanding the difference between goals and objectives and creating a strategic plan accordingly.

    How to Use Objectives to Create and Accomplish Growth-Focused Goals

    Every day is a new opportunity to create and work toward accomplishing goals that bring freedom, financial security, fulfillment, and career advancement to your life. You’ll need a roadmap if you’re going to achieve growth-focused goals.

    The best way to accomplish your goals and advance your career is to set objectives for each goal. Remember, objectives are the specific tasks that help you create a plan to achieve each goal. Setting the proper objectives can help you get a raise, a promotion, and show a company why you deserve advancement in your career.

    It starts with what you’d like to accomplish in your career—where is this all going? You’ll need clarity about your short-term and longer-term goals. In the short term, it could be a raise that you’re seeking. In the longer term, you may like a position of leadership and more responsibility. You then need to get a piece of paper, your favorite goal-setting app, or your notes on your phone and write out your goals. It would help if you saw them. People are visual by nature.

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    Write out your career goals. With the primary goals written out, it’s time to set objectives for each goal. The goals are the designation, but you’ll need checkmarks and specific steps to accomplish them. Objectives are essential to staying focused and consistent. Take each goal and break them into bite-sized chunks. When you break down a goal, it allows you to see the specific steps you’ll need to take to reach that goal.

    If your goal is a raise, what extra effort do you need to put in your work to show value for your company? Map out what those specific steps are and make them your objectives. If your goal is a promotion or other career advancement opportunities, map out the specifics to get there and set objectives.

    Writing out the goals then the objectives clarifies what you should be doing, what order you should do it, and sets a realistic timeline to accomplish your life and career goals. There’s fear that comes with setting big goals. Limiting beliefs try to convince you to keep your goals to yourself and not put them anywhere besides in your mind. Writing out your goals helps make them real, and it’s how you make a commitment to yourself.

    You have to take your goals seriously if you’re going to advance in your career. This means making the goals real by setting objectives and putting those goals in a place of accountability. Don’t take the easy road by keeping your goals inside and not feeling the consequences of not taking action.

    Using Goals and Objectives Strategically to Advance Your Career

    We’re currently experiencing a shift in the world of work. People are deciding to quit rather than spend 40+ hours every week building a career that doesn’t fulfill them and help them accomplish their goals. This is good news because it creates opportunities for advancement.

    If you are not fulfilled in your career, then maybe you should be thinking about whether or not a shift makes sense. If you enjoy what you do and see your career advancing you towards accomplishing your goals, it’s essential to set strategic objectives that help you achieve your growth goals.

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    After you’ve taken the time to set your goals—and the objectives that let you accomplish those goals—it’s time to get to work. You can’t advance your career and achieve your goals without being willing to do hard work and do it consistently.

    The thing to understand is that accomplishing objectives that help you reach your goals is a process that takes time. Too often, we want instant gratification. Living a life of accomplishment and career advancement is not instant and will require consistent hard work.

    Create Goals and Objectives That Challenge You

    If you accomplish every goal that you set, your goals aren’t lofty enough. The path to growth and advancing in your career happens when you set ambitious goals. You should look at your goals and have a slight fear of how high they are.

    Strategically planned objectives are powerful. As ambitious as your goals are, well-thought-out objectives can help you stay focused and accomplish anything. In addition to lofty goals, you should set higher-standard objectives. Growth is the goal, and that requires a bigger vision.

    Create goals and objectives that challenge you to be better in your career and add value to your company. Come into this with an understanding that you’re doing all of this to create an incredible life. Challenge yourself because you deserve to accomplish your objectives and reach your goals.

    Too many take the easy road and set achievable goals. Goals and objectives that challenge you expand your belief in what’s possible and strengthen your mindset. A strong mindset is how you’ll get the energy you need to work on your goals for a sustained period.

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    Final Thoughts

    It’s important to understand the difference between goals and objectives to advance your career. You need both, but they need to have their proper place to work together. Clarity in what to do and how to do it is how you set goals and use objectives to achieve them.

    Don’t confuse an objective for a goal—objectives are the steps, and goals are the prize. Be strategic with the objectives you create to help you accomplish your goals.

    Advancing your career is the key to creating financial security, building wealth, and working to build a life of freedom. Goals and their objectives help you grow and become the best version of yourself. Understand the difference between goals and objectives, and use them to advance your career.

    More About Setting And Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com

    Reference

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