Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement

Goal setting used to be something only the elite successful few had knowledge of and utilized. But it is now becoming widely known as the smartest first step to achieve success.

In spite of this, it’s quite surprising to find that many people don’t know how to write a good SMART goal statement. They don’t write them well or even understand why it is so important.

SMART is a well-known acronym, which is mostly understood as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. However, there are also a number of simple secrets to this acronym that can really make a difference.[1]

It took me ages to learn how to write an effective goal. I had mentors and trainers who would pick my goals apart to make them even more SMART. It took persistence until it eventually paid off and I have since experienced the myriad of benefits.

When we effectively write a good SMART goal statement, it gives our mind direction and we see more possibility. We become more focused and because of this, we often achieve what we want a lot faster. We also save time and work more productively.

And here’s why:

There is a tiny part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System. It acts like the gatekeeper between our conscious and unconscious mind. It filters information and controls what we become consciously aware of in our everyday environment.[2]

The thing that most people are unaware of is that, the RAS as it is often called, filters according to past and present experience, and it deletes anything that isn’t relevant to that.

This means if you don’t write a SMART goal statement with this in mind, you could miss essential cues that could help you achieve it. Your reticular activating system will delete that information.

A SMART goal statement is a sentence or even paragraph written to the formula of the SMART acronym. This contains all the effective criteria you need to help you write a powerful goal. When you adjust this acronym slightly, it brings that formula to life. This is where it becomes much more powerful.

Advertising

Let me explain how this works.

Specific – Where It Is Often Misused in Goal Statements

Specific means more than just precise objects like a house, car or money, although this is important. True specificity is also in the micro details of the experience.

What do I mean by that?

It’s essential to be clear on:

  • What you want to achieve
  • Who else will be involved in it
  • When and where it will be achieved
  • Why you want it

Including the sensory details of the experience is vital, such as what you will see, hear, feel, smell or taste as you achieve it.

This makes your goal statement sensory specific. And because we experience everything through our five senses, it brings your goal to life. It kind of tricks your reticular activating system. This is because it doesn’t know the difference between imagination and real experience. And we respond almost automatically to this sensory information, which means we will make different decisions. [3]

As you write your goal this way, your RAS will start to provide you with opportunities. Many people call them coincidences, but it’s just that your blinkers have come off and you are more consciously aware.

Writing your goals with specific and sensory detail you will begin to notice many more possibilities than ever before.

Measurable – The Necessary Requirements

This is anything with numbers in it, such as quantities, measurements, amounts and dates.

If a goal isn’t measurable, then it becomes quite easy to veer off track. It’s kind of like a football field with no goal post. The game would never end and no one would know which direction to play.

Advertising

When you make your goal measurable, it gives you a concrete criteria to aim for. This will increase your focus making your decisions and actions much more defined.

This can sometimes be tricky with certain goals. For instance, it’s easy to write a measurable goal when aiming for an increase in income or possibly a decrease in weight. Goals around things like relationships, friendships or health require more thought.

Think about how you will know the goal has been achieved and what measurements could be involved. For example, if you want to increase the fun in your relationship you may be having date night once each week. Or you may be doing something adventurous once a month. This makes your goal measurable.

As you write your goal statement as measurable as possible, it will give you a clear vision of what you are aiming for. This is vital to reaching your target.

Achievable – Replacing This with “as If” Will Power You Forward

It will benefit you greatly when you write your goals “As If” they are happening right now. This is because it makes your goal statement a current experience.

If you write your goals as a future experience, then it will always be in the future. This is because your mind will delete indicators, which can help you achieve what you want.

When you write your goals in present tense, your mind starts to think in a different way. Your goal becomes believable for your mind. And when your goal is believable, you will feel more confident in your ability to achieve it.

Writing your goal statement this way also changes the way your RAS is filtering information. You will notice things you used to be unaware of. This causes you to take actions you may not have taken before or go places you’ve never been. You may even bump into someone who can give you precise information to help you achieve your goal. These are often referred to as “signs” that you are meant to be doing it. When it just means your goal statement made you more aware.

Instead of beginning your goal with “By 31 December 2019”, I encourage you to write it this way; “It is 31 December 2019 and I am (or) I have.” As you write your goal in present tense, you will notice how real and exciting your achievement feels. This engages your senses too.

Realistic – A Different View to Consider

It’s important that you don’t make your goal realistic according to what you have achieved in the past. This is one of the most common ways you could limit yourself.

Advertising

Anything is possible and it is only your own mind that gets in the way of achieving it.

We create things twice, firstly in our imagination and secondly in our physical reality. And we do this with everything, even the things we don’t want. This means if we can see it in our minds eye, we can have or do it. It may just mean learning a new skill or building a key strength.

Realistic means assessing whether the goal is achievable in the time frame you have allowed. For example, if you want to become a competition tennis player and you are a beginner, then it is unrealistic to expect to do this in one month. Within this time frame, you would possibly have joined a club and begun lessons.

When you set your goals, do a realistic check. And if your time frame is a bit out, just change it.

When you use this version of realistic, you will notice your potential expand and so much more becomes possible.

Timed – Creating Motivation in Your Goal Statement

When you set a date to your goal, it gives your mind a deadline. And as you probably know with any deadline, it gets you off the starting line.

Whether you leave things until the last minute or whether you action a goal gradually over a longer time frame, it has the same effect.

The thing is, your date must be specific; because if it is too vague, it won’t motivate you as much.

Our unconscious mind always wants to protect us from the prospect of failure. One way we can do this is by not deciding on a firm deadline. If we don’t have a clear target date, then it’s easy to tell ourselves it’s not important. We might let ourselves off or get distracted with something else.

Giving your deadline more definition, however, it becomes urgent and something to be dealt with quickly. When you set the target date for your goal statement, make it very detailed with the day, month and year. You can even add the time if you want to be really specific. For example “It is Tuesday 31 December 2019 and it is 3pm”.

Advertising

Imagine how vivid this becomes in your mind’s eye when you do this. And the incredible sense of achievement you will feel when you reach your goal.

Bonus: Insight That Most People Don’t Think About

One of the most common mistakes I see is a goal statement written about what someone doesn’t want. You may think this is crazy, but it is easier done than you may think.

For example, say you are currently experiencing a lot of stress at work and you want less of that. You may write a goal that states you are “feeling less stressed” or you “have no pressure”. Your unconscious mind doesn’t understand comparison, negative or positive, it just hears words. If your goal includes the words stress or pressure, it will look for and create more of that.

So it’s important to state what you aim to have, instead of what you don’t.

Let’s look at another example. Say you want to lose weight. If you state the weight you have lost, your mind will go looking for it and guaranteed it will find it. This may be one reason you are experiencing weight loss and gain. In this case, it is essential to write a goal statement about what you weigh at your target date.

Carefully writing about what you do want instead of what you don’t, you will notice your achievement levels rise.

Final Thoughts

There was a much-quoted study, which was allegedly carried out in Yale University. The stories of this study have persisted since 1953. It showed that only 3% of those surveyed actually wrote goal statements. Findings claimed that elusive minority achieved their goals more consistently, had more confidence and earned more money than the other 97% who didn’t.

After further research this study and its stories were eventually found to be a myth. But, the reason they’ve perpetuated for so long is because their fundamental assertions are believable. The principals have been the practice of the most elite and successful for many years. And in my personal and professional experience I have found this to be true.[4]

Whether the study happened or not, what I do know is this:

One of the main reasons many goals remain dreams is because the deeper meaning of SMART is not fully utitilized.

Implementing these powerful principals in your SMART goal statements will dramatically increase your odds of consistently achieving high!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Corporate Finance Institute: Smart Goal
[2] Study.com: Reticular Activating System: Definition & Function Video
[3] Education.gov.au: The senses working together
[4] ForbesBooks: The Science Behind Setting Goals (and Achieving Them)

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

How to Use the Theories of Motivation to Keep Yourself Uplifted How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide) How to Learn Patience to Get Your Thoughts and Feelings Under Control 9 Self Limiting Beliefs That Are Holding You Back from Success How to Make a Plan And Reach Your Goals in Life

Trending in Goal Getting

1 How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now 2 10 Ways To Turn Your Big Dream Into Reality 3 How To Make Your Dreams Come True in 9 Simple Steps 4 How To Use Goals and Dreams To Achieve Personal Success 5 Stop DREAMING, Start LIVING… Why We Need to Take Action

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 8, 2021

How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now

How to Start Taking Action on Your Goals and Dreams Now

I’m going to tell you the secrets on how to start taking action on your dreams. When you decide to turn thoughts into action, there are specific, actionable steps you can take to move forward.

The first thing I want you to do is think back to when you were a child. Our childhood selves hold many of the secrets to realizing our real life dreams. Think about what you loved to do most and how you told yourself it was possible without worrying about what might get in the way. I’d like you to reconnect to your imagination and playfulness.

By taking the following steps, you’ll do some playing and storytelling to reveal your dreams and start making them come true.

1. Tell Your Story

Your life story is unique and has brought you here today. The next chapter of your life is in your power to write and to realize by taking action. Not everything that happens to you is in your control[1], but the actions you take and how you choose to feel about what happens are in your control.

Finding out what our future lives and dream lives might look like can be done effectively through the eyes of our childhood selves.

Can you remember what you loved to do most as a child? Maybe you enjoyed collecting things like me–I always had a collection of pebbles in a carrier bag that smelled of seawater nestled under my bed. Perhaps you loved taking care of your pets: I had a dog, a tortoise, and many guinea pigs. Or maybe you were really great at making stuff.

You can use the instincts, passions, and skills you had as a child to fuel your progress toward your adult dreams.

I’m inviting you to really think about what you wanted to be when you grew up[2] and the memorable activities you enjoyed as a child, the ones that gave you a real sense of freedom and excitement, or the pursuits that you truly lost yourself in.

Advertising

What we call getting into our flow state[3] as an adult is what came naturally to us as children. So, go back there now and think about how that felt. It may clue you in to what still remains true and important to you today.

2. Define Your Dream

The first secret when you want to start taking action on your dreams is to know what they are. This sounds obvious, but so many people only have a loose definition, such as: “more free time,” or “more money.” Busy people know there is something else to life apart from slaving away for a job, or a boss they don’t like, but if you’re too busy to even know what your dream looks like, how can you make it come true?

Once again, I’d invite you to connect to the optimism and playfulness of your childhood self. Go back to thinking about what your dreams involved at age seven or eight. Some of those may still be what you want today.

Now, write down what it is that you want and when you want to achieve it. Note down how you’ll know when you’ve got there and made this dream come true. How will you measure your success? Be as specific about your goals as you can.

A study at the Dominican University in California[4] proved that writing down your goals, accountability, and commitment are three key ingredients to successfully achieving our goals and learning how to take action.

This step also involves building motivation for the steps to come. If you need help in that area, check out Lifehack’s free Ultimate Worksheet for an Instant Motivation Boost.

3. Picture Your Dream Coming True

Think about exactly how it will feel when you start taking action and ultimately achieve your dream, the sense of freedom and excitement. Imagine it in as much detail as you can with all five senses. If you’re finding it hard to imagine a different life, imagine a childhood memory with all its sensations.

As a little girl, I loved to ice-skate, making huge swirly patterns across clean expanses of beautiful glistening ice. The feeling of freedom, of trust in myself to balance, of speed. It felt very immersive, the coldness and my breath turning into little clouds in front of my face.

Advertising

Imagine a childhood memory like this, and then imagine the future you want, with as much detail and attention paid to how it looks, feels, tastes, smells, and sounds.

Draw, paint, speak, or write your future story.

If you loved to create pictures like I did as a child, or write stories, or play on the computer, use your natural creative skills and what you love doing to map out your exciting future. You could create a picture, vision board, written story, or audio file.

Then, let’s put that future story somewhere you can easily access it. Make sure that you include a timescale for when you want to achieve this dream by, how you will measure your success, and what you need to get there. If possible, start breaking your dream down into small, manageable steps.

4. What Part Do You Play?

You can’t control everything, so you need to be realistic about your role in taking action and making your future dreams come true. Think about where you need help. During childhood, we were not afraid to ask for help from a parent, friend, or sibling to realize our dreams and plans.

Whatever we needed, our eager and enthusiastic childhood selves would reach out for support. We’d be resourceful with whatever we had to make our creative ideas a reality.

As adults we also need to ask for support and help, and at the same time to notice what is in our control and what we can do to take action today towards our dreams.

5. Who Can Support You?

If you’ve noticed you need a bit of help, then get your tribe together. Which friends can cheer you on, and which can connect you? Who in your family will indulge in your dreams with you? What about the pragmatic ones who might help you work out what you need to get there?

Advertising

Whether you need someone to check in on you and see how you’re progressing, or need a buddy to brainstorm with to help the ideas flow, bring a few of your friends into the plan to help you move forward. Successful people know that the habit of taking action is best built with help.

6. Ensure Your Dream Is Realistic

Maybe the dream you’ve outlined just feels impossible. It costs too much or will take too much time to achieve. Instead of telling yourself “no, but,” try the “yes, and” approach. This is much more representative of how a child’s mind works.

When we were little, we weren’t scared to fail, as failing was not a concept to us back then. Let’s harness some of that kid energy and see how “yes, and” can move us forward when our dream feels unrealistic.

Let’s look at an example: maybe your dream is to have a hit record, and you think you can’t sing, or you don’t believe you have any musical talent. Instead of closing that down, if we “yes, and” it, we can say: “I want to have a hit record. Yes, and there are so many ways to achieve that. Some people have a hit record by working for a music business, and others might design the cover art. Some people speak on records instead of singing… yes, and someone has to write the lyrics or have the idea for the song. Yes, and I know someone who organizes a choir every Christmas at their local bar, and everyone in the bar is on the record. That amateur choir even got on TV as it was so much fun and all the money went to charity.”

So, before you decide your idea is unrealistic, try “yes, and-ing” it to see how you can start taking action on your dreams, even if you think it sounds impossible!

7. Use Small Wins and Rewards

On your journey toward achieving your dream, there will be small wins and important milestones; it’s not just about going straight to the destination. Measuring your progress is important and can be a chance to celebrate.

Finding a way to measure it that is visible can really help. Whether it’s a chart or an app, whatever you choose, following and celebrating your progress is key, and celebrating that win is part of the joy. Being in the process and on the journey is just as important as reaching your target. Celebrate with the happiness of a small child: do a dance, take a photo, tell your friends.

8. Update the Map

You might find the plan you made isn’t working for some reason. Things have changed, and your goals and targets are not working out for you . Let’s look at how you can change things up and put new life and energy into the project.

Advertising

Take it apart and put it back together again, but start small. Define the new plan and the new goals, and start on the next phase of the journey, equipped with the knowledge and learning from what didn’t work last time you tried to put your thoughts into action.

9. Make Space

Achieving our dreams might mean losing something else, and that’s ok. It could be a literal swap, such as giving up wine to save money towards the goal. Or it could be something more ideological, like giving up saying yes to everything to make more time to focus on your pursuits. Think about what you can give up to make space for taking action on your dreams.

10. Use Your Superpower

What’s your superpower? Use this to take action on your dreams today! Perhaps you’re awesome at using your network to find solutions to problems. If that sounds like you, then consider picking up the phone and start asking for some ideas and connections.

If you prefer to research, get reading or watching TED talks and presentations to find practical ways to achieve your particular dream. Who else has overcome a similar problem? How did they do it? What can you borrow from what they learned, and what can you learn from how they won or lost along the way?

11. Keep Your Energy up

Remember to take a rest and recharge on the journey towards taking action on your dreams. Take breaks, eat and sleep well, exercise, and listen to and tune in to what your body and mind needs to thrive.

Final Thoughts

Achieving your dreams is unlikely to be an overnight task. It’s more likely to be a winding road with setbacks, lessons, obstacles, and new discoveries. It might take years, but every step, no matter how tiny, can be enjoyed, even the struggles. Maintaining a mindset around enjoying the journey will really equip you to thrive and see those ambitious dreams become a reality.

More to Get You to Take Action Towards Your Dreams

Featured photo credit: Tom Rogerson via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next