How to set SMART Goals

This video introduces the acronym SMART as a tool to help you take your vision or idea and turn it into a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Taking the time to establish clear goals is the critical first step in making them become real. By using SMART Goals you can be sure of what you are aiming for, and will know when you have attained it.


Like many people, I enjoy watching a good game of football, kicking the soccer ball around, or running in a race once in a while.  Part of what makes it interesting is that there is always a goal of some sort –What’s the point of football if you don’t have an end zone to shoot for?

And it’s the same with anything you do.  If you have a clear goal and know what you are trying to achieve you can save yourself a lot of running up and down field and wasted energy.  The problem is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t really know where the goal posts are, and they aren’t winning many games.  So we’re going to talk about how you can set clear goals that will help you get focused, and turn you from someone running around on the field to someone who is scoring points for the team!  Otherwise, it’s kind of like Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to know when you get there?”

To score, you have to know where the goal is. Click To Tweet

Often you will hear people express goals like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape” or “I want to get better grades” – these are all great ideas, but the problem is that they are vague – how much weight? How will you know when you are in shape?  What grades qualify as “better”?  Because they are not specific, it’s hard to know what you need to do to achieve them.  A better way to approach this is to make your goals clear and concrete by using acronym SMART.

Let’s say for example that your goal is to have a stronger upper body.  OK, nice idea, but pretty vague.  So let’s apply the SMART acronym to try and make this a clear, concrete goal.

The S stands for Specific.  You need to be very clear about what it is you want to achieve.  What exactly is a stronger upper body? How will you know when you have one?  What if we made our goal more specific by saying “I want to be able to do a lot of pullups and pushups”  OK, that’s a little better.  Let’s keep going.

The M stands for Measurable.  You need to have some way to gauge your progress and whether or not you have accomplished your goal; something that tells you how much or how many or quantifies your achievement in some way.  So how about, “I want to be able to do 50 pullups and 200 pushups.”  That’s starting to sound pretty clear; you’d be pretty strong if you can do that.

The A stands for Attainable.  Your goal should be realistic and within reach.  Do you have the resources you will need, like time or money?  Is your goal something that you can influence and control? – If it’s dependent on people or forces outside your control, you can’t be sure your efforts will pay off, so make sure success depends on you.  In this case, there might be someone who can do 50 pullups, but how about let’s dial this one back to something more attainable, Let’s go with  “I want to be able to do 10 pullups and 50 pushups”.  Great.  If you get to that point, you can think about trying for 20 pullups next….

The R stands for Relevant.  Your goal has to have meaning to you, to help you accomplish whatever it is that you are trying to do.   This is the why.  So ask yourself what your purpose is.  If it’s to get better grades, than I’m not so sure a lot of pushups are going to help, and soon you might start to lose motivation.  If your purpose is to attract a certain someone at the beach this summer, then your goal might be more relevant.  So how about:, “I want to be able to do 10 pullups and 50 pushups so I look good at the beach” now you have your purpose built in and a reason to go to the effort to accomplish your goal.  But wait, there’s one more…

The T stands for Time-BoundWhen are we talking about getting this done?  Tomorrow (that might not be Attainable).  In three months?  OK, better, but how about being even more specific – put a real date on there to give yourself a target to shoot for.  Let’s go with, “I want to be able to do 10 pullups and 50 pushups by the 1st of June (three months from now) so that I look good at the beach.”

SMART Goals – The Takeaway

Using the Acronym SMART, you now have a very clear goal and you will definitely know whether or not you have accomplished it.  OK, now that you have this great goal, what next?    In the next video, I’ll talk about three things to do with that goal right now to help you make it a reality.

Want to learn more about how to actually achieve those goals that you set?  Learn how to build a framework around that goal that helps you get there with the Goal Setting Mastery Course.  The first three videos are free…

Good luck, and thanks for watching.

Lead On!


Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives”.Management Review (AMA FORUM) 70 (11): 35–36.

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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