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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

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

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.

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.

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.

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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.

    Relevant

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

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    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.

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

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    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:

    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.

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    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

    More by this author

    Carl Pullein

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

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    Last Updated on May 13, 2021

    How to Move Forward After Achieving Goal Success

    How to Move Forward After Achieving Goal Success

    After achieving goal success, you will feel like you are on cloud nine. You have overcome a challenge in your life and, as a result, built a habit that will bring you to new heights.

    It’s a wonderful feeling, but eventually, that dopamine-high from the success fades away. And like so many other people that have obtained success, they are left with a big question:

    What should I do now that my goal has been achieved?

    People are ambitious, but after successfully reaching a goal, people can lose themselves or slow down their momentum of growth. This part of the process is a problem that many individuals face at some point if they haven’t faced it already.

    To help you on your way, here are some suggestions for what to do as soon as you achieve goal sucess and how to better proceed forward.

    Moving Forward After Goal Success

    When you first set yourself a large goal that you’re working towards, it’s easy for you to focus solely on that goal. There isn’t any kind of space at all to think about what you should be doing after you achieve goal success.

    Fortunately, there is some basic information and lessons that can help you once you reach goal success and move forward in life. These are principles that millionaire Paul Scolardi has put into practice to great effect.[1]

    Here is a breakdown of these principles:

    Stay Humble

    You might not be striving to become a millionaire like Scolardi. However, it’s still an important lesson to keep in mind. While you’ve made great progress with goal success, it’s important that you don’t underestimate what you left behind or look down on those who are in the same situation as you were.

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    Growth is a fragile thing, and it can easily be replaced with bad habits that push you back into a worse situation.

    Furthermore, acting cocky or arrogant about your achievements can push people away, whether that’s friends, family, or key supporters. That’s not good because growth often stems from sources beyond ourselves. Many millionaires have mentors to help guide them; athletes have coaches.

    We don’t often hear about them in particular stories, but many people are involved in your growth in one way or another. Stay humble and recognize who those people are and acknowledge them.

    Train Yourself to Set Bigger Goals

    I’ll be expanding on this idea further below, but the idea is that once you achieve a goal you didn’t think you could achieve, you want to continue by setting an even larger goal.

    You want to progressively set goals that you think are impossible to achieve after every successful leap in achievement.

    For example, if you’ve achieved a high ranking position at your job as part of your goal success, an even bigger goal would be to build your own business in that particular industry.

    You can learn more about setting big goals here:

    Work Harder and Smarter

    When working on your goals, maintaining confidence, positive thinking, and work are all needed for achievement. Naturally, if you’re taking on a larger endeavor, you’ll need to put more motivation, confidence, and work into that, too.It also pays to work smarter and reflect on your achievements. What helped you achieve this goal in the first place? What method or approach did you take to make all of this happen for you?

    Many people lose their way because they let their goal success get to them, and they lose what got them into that lofty position in the first place. That stems from a lack of reflection, so make sure you look back to what helped you get to where you are right now.

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    People also tend to get bogged down in procrastination, which makes achieving future goals more difficult. If this is a problem you often face, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

    Ignore Critics

    Haters and critics are all the same. Whenever you achieve something, there will always be people who will try to drag you down. It turns out that many people are jealous individuals and go as far as wishing that you would fail.

    Part of the problem is that many people who haven’t worked toward goals expect goal success to be simple. Not only that, but we are often oblivious to the amount of work that’s needed to bring people to pinnacles of success.

    Take Scolardi as an example. Unless he shares his particular story of how he became a millionaire, we don’t really know what he went through to get there. All we know is the tip of the iceberg—that he wasn’t a millionaire and now he is.

    Even if your goal success is going to impact a small area, you’re still going to get haters or people who don’t believe in you. Successful people know it’s best to leave them be, as your success has nothing to do with how they are feeling.

    What to Do After Goal Success

    With these four principles in mind, you would want to apply these in your life moving forward. Better yet, apply these right now while you are still working towards your goals.

    But what comes next after you have achieved success? After all, these principles are great, but not all of them will bring you that momentum you need in the aftermath of your success.

    Here are some things to keep in mind:

    1. Set That Bigger Goal or Expand It

    As I mentioned before, you want to be setting larger goals. The ambition of people is endless, and deep down you are always looking to achieve more. It sounds greedy, but striving for more doesn’t always have to be in the form of money or high achievements.

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    You could reach out to more people and help them with their problems. Or maybe, you want to form a deeper connection with your family and friends. Perhaps you want to train for even better physical health and test it by participating in a triathlon.

    Whatever the case may be, you want to set a larger goal than before. In many industries and aspects of your life, there is always room for some kind of expansion. Therefore, when you put your mind to it, you’ll find that there are also other ambitions that you have and other areas where you can pursue goal success.

    Another way to look at this is to expand your original goal beyond where it was before. In some cases, there are natural progressions similar to how you want to set milestones that lead you to accomplish your goals.

    For example, if you’re looking to lose weight, and you’ve hit your target, the next target would be to train your body in a specific way, such as training for a local marathon. You’re still striving for physical activity, but you’ll be training in a different way that your body isn’t used to.

    2. Help Others Out

    Another approach is along the same lines as staying humble. Instead of looking down at people, devote some of your energy to helping people out. Chances are you got involved in a community or group that helped you achieve your results in some way.

    Since that group or community helped you, why not give back to them?

    This isn’t necessarily progress, but it gives you the respite you need to figure out what you want to do next. All the while, this allows you to pass down and reinforce what you have learned.

    Remember that your ideals are important, and they can shift if you stray from the path that brought you goal success in the first place. Helping out your community is a good idea to help you stay true to your morals and ideals and focused on your goals.

    3. Look at Other Baskets

    As the saying goes “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It’s a fitting phrase in our lives, as we all have many aspects (or baskets) to work on.Along the same lines as the first suggestion, perhaps some of you spent so much time building up one basket that you ignored another. In that case, why not look at other baskets and give them the attention that they need? Review your goals to see which areas of your life need more attention in the short term and long term.

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    4. Practice Self-Reflection and Find Yourself

    Take some time for yourself. Pause, self reflect, and aim to find yourself once more after this big step of success.

    It makes sense that after goal success, you’ll want to move onto the next big thing, but it’s important you go back to yourself.

    As mentioned above, there are many aspects of ourselves, and if we focus on one part of ourselves, we weaken the identity of something else. I learned this the hard way as I spent so much time at work that I neglected other areas of my life, like my health and family.

    These aspects are part of my identity, and neglecting those for a time caused my life to crumble. All I had was my work. All of that changed when I took it upon myself to look at who I was and who I wanted to become and made active changes in my life to find myself again.

    Final Thoughts

    People want to think that success is easy to obtain and solves all of our problems, but that’s not often the case. With each success you achieve, there will be something else that will demand even more from you.

    Of course, you are free to stay in your current position, but maintaining is important as well. By keeping all of this in mind, having these principles, and applying these practices, you can better prepare yourself for what’s to come.

    More Tips on Achieving Goal Success

    Featured photo credit: bruce mars via unsplash.com

    Reference

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