Setting intentions and making lists can be a productive tool for achieving your goals and reaching your aspirations. As the year goes on, though, those lists and vision boards can quickly become overcrowded with the rest of life’s to-do items.
To regain your focus and boost your resolution success rate, try SMART goal setting.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
What Are SMART Goals?
“SMART is a popular strategy in goal setting that significantly increases the likelihood of achieving what you desire,” says Megan Abbott, a board-certified life coach and founder of Fruition Personal Coaching.
“When we haven’t turned our general desires into defined targets, like SMART goals, we lack the certainty of knowing when, how, or even if we can succeed,” she explains.
As the acronym and Abbott suggests, breaking goals into specific parts that you can actually define and measure is a major step to achieving them.
“The majority of people just focus on surviving, and so that’s what they continue to create, a life of just getting by,” says Abbott. “The difference between surviving and thriving begins with having a bigger vision for your life and setting goals accordingly.”
5 Tips for SMART Goal Setting
When you simply make a goal and jump in without attainable or timely steps, the likelihood that you’ll conquer those goals is not high.
You need to understand why you are making these goals, as well as think about the benefits of achieving them.
And you also need to think about how you are going to feel when you accomplish them, says certified coach Terri Babers, MA, CPC.
“SMART goals are easy if you’re ready for action,” says Babers. “But you must be open to change if you want to succeed.”
1. Align your goals
Angela Keelan, a certified professional coach, recommends looking to the future.
Visualize where you see yourself in six months or a year. Where do you want to be?
If you want more energy and to feel healthier overall, you can start there, but it’s best to have a specific goal in mind, rather than a vague “I want to be stronger and healthier.”
Specific: “I want to be able to run a 10K race. I want to increase the amount of weight I lift by 10 pounds in every movement.”
2. Define your progress
Specify exactly how you will measure your progress in reaching your goal.
When it comes to getting healthier or losing weight, remember that you can’t truly control the number on the scale or the pace on your running watch, but you can control how you get there.
Figure out a weekly mileage goal, exercise objective, or healthy eating target, and then calculate from there.
Measurable: “I will keep track of my weekly miles logged for running; I will keep track of the weights I use for my workouts.”
3. Be realistic about potential
Try to set small goals that are slightly outside your comfort zone but still realistic, suggests Babers. “Don’t set yourself up for failure,” she says.
By figuring out if you have the energy, focus, and time to achieve each goal, you can avoid setting the bar too high.
For example, if you realistically can’t work out five days a week, then aim for three.
Attainable: “For the first two months, I will run 5 miles a week, then add half a mile more each week. I will lift weights two times a week.”
4. Keep it relevant to your life
To figure out the right goals to put on your “to-do” list, Babers says you also need to decide what’s on your “not to-do” list.
Your goals should be personal and geared toward what works for you.
Don’t choose something that you inherently won’t enjoy doing. Hate doing yoga? Then don’t make a daily practice for your goal.
Instead, you might try a daily 5-minute morning stretch routine.
Relevant: “I will find a 10K that’s in my hometown. I will do a running program like 30 Day Breakaway to help me get faster and stronger.”
5. Set a date that’s not too far off
When you are SMART goal setting, make sure to define a date for your goals and set milestones along the way.
“SMART goals are used in environments that are steady and consistent over time,” says Keelan, so make sure you have enough time to crush your goal.
At the same time, it’s also important not to give yourself too much time, so you don’t get bored or lose focus.
Timely: “I will run my 10K race in April!”