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Last Updated on May 12, 2021

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement for Success

How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement for Success
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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 achieving 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’s so important.

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

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 (RAS). 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 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 RAS 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.

Specific: It’s All in the Details

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 when writing a goal statement.

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It’s essential to take time to reflect on:

  • What you want to achieve
  • Who else will be involved
  • 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 manipulates your RAS, as it doesn’t know the difference between imagination and real experience. 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 blinders have come off, and you are more consciously aware.

When writing your goal statement 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 statement isn’t measurable, then it becomes quite easy to veer off track in the long term. It’s like a football field with no goal post. The game would never end, and no one would know which direction to play.

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 a decrease in weight. Goals around things like relationships, friendships, or health require more thought.

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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 a date night each week or doing something adventurous once a month. This makes your goal measurable.

As you write your goal statement with a measurement in mind, it will give you a clear vision of what you are aiming for. This is vital to reaching your target.

Achievable: Thinking in the Present

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 goal statement 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 the present tense, your mind starts to think in a different way. Your goal becomes believable for your mind, and 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. This really 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 the present tense, you will notice how real and exciting your achievement feels.

Realistic: Don’t Limit Yourself

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.

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A great deal is possible, and it is only your own mind that gets in the way of achieving it.

We create things twice, first in our imagination and then in our physical reality. 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 competitive 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 that your potential expands, and your goals move within reach.

Time-Bound: Create Motivation in Your Goal Statement

When you put 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.

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Giving your deadline more definition, however, makes it 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 at 3PM.”

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. This is one of the best ways to steer clear of procrastination. You can further guard against this with Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

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 the 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 utilized.

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: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Corporate Finance Institute: Smart Goal
[2] StatPearls: Neuroanatomy, Reticular Activating System
[3] Victoria State Government: The senses working together
[4] Forbes Books: 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.

7 Essential Success Tips to Achieve What You Want in Life Signs You Need an Attitude Adjustment (And How to Do It) How to Write a Good SMART Goal Statement for Success How to Use the Theories of Motivation to Keep Yourself Uplifted How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis (The Complete Guide)

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Last Updated on July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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