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Do you set goals, or do you know someone who does?  Do you accomplish your goals, or do they frustrate you?  Are you interested in setting a goal but need some help?  Goals can be intimidating because they require an outcome, and we do not want to fail.  Goals should be set to be accomplished so we can feel triumphant when we meet our goal and be excited to set another.

Some people set goals daily without realizing it, while others take time to think of a goal and write it down.  Some call it a goal, others a plan or a challenge.  There are many types of goals: formal and informal, general and specific, and short-term and long-term.  Individuals, families, teams, and organizations set goals.  Goals can enhance or hinder our lives.  If a goal is set correctly, it can impact our lives favorably and get us to accomplish things we never thought possible.  If a goal becomes an obstacle, it needs to be evaluated.

One method of setting a goal is by using the acronym S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.   SMART goals are clear and concise.

When a goal is “specific,” the individual has a clear picture of what the outcome should be.  To achieve this, ask what are you going to do and why is it important to do it at this time.  The answer will assist you in setting the core of the goal.  For example, a general goal would be, “Live a healthier life.”  The specific goal would be, “Exercise 30 minutes three times a week.”  Specifying the number of minutes and times per week makes it clear and simple.

“Measureable” goals assess progress.  Being able to track your progress indicates you’re on your way and provides motivation to accomplish your goal.  To determine if your goal is measureable, ask how much and how many or how will I know when it is accomplished.  Exercising 30 minutes tells how much and doing it three times a week informs how many.  It can be measured simply by the number of times it is being done weekly.    

A goal should be “attainable.” It should be high enough to experience a sense of accomplishment and success to keep you motivated. Setting it too low (easy) may result in the possible underlining message of not being able to accomplish a higher goal and too high (hard) will conclude defeat.  Both of these experiences leave an individual discouraged instead of encouraged.

Making the goal “realistic” means you are both willing and able to do it.  It can be achieved by having a plan or knowing where to obtain the tools to accomplish the goal.  The action is doable.  If you are going to exercise three times a week, but need someone to watch your children so you can do it, you must set that up in advance to make it possible. 

And finally, a goal should be “timely.”  Having a timeframe or an end date provides urgency to accomplish the goal.  Not having a time limit results in a lack of commitment and you may never get started. 

An example of a SMART goal is “I will walk for 30 minutes three times a week while my mother cares for my children.”  This provides a clear picture of what is to be done.  Making plans in advance for child care makes the goal realistic.  Now it is your turn to write a goal.  Start with something small and simple.  Remember to set yourself up for success.  Be SMART!


November 2008

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Last updated October 14, 2010