How to Create SMART Goals That Won’t Make You Look Dumb

DartsEvery now and then, you fail to meet your goals.

You didn’t get the grade you wanted. Or someone else got the job you applied for. And let’s not mention the scale here, because that’s just not cool.

These drawbacks frustrate you. They keep you awake at 2 am.

And it isn’t fair.

You try to laugh it off, but it gets to you. You cry yourself to sleep.

Damn those New Years resolutions. They always make you feel bad.

How do you create a smart goal, then?

Well, it’s actually easier than you think.

Is your goal specific enough?

Every goal has to be specific. There is no such thing as specific enough here. Often, I make the mistake of creating too broad goals. It’s frustrating. But now that you’re aware, you can say to yourself:

Is this goal specific enough? Can I see it? Feel it? Hear it?

Remember: the more specific your goal is, the easier it is to visualise the end result.

Visualisation is a powerful tool we can use in our own goal setting. It must not be overlooked (no pun intended) as suggested by studies you can read more about here and here.

Can you measure your goal?

Some goals are more easily measured than others.

Financial goals fall into this category. Groceries, rent, utilities. These are expanses we can keep track of and measure.

So, say you want to save up money towards a trip towards the Great Barrier Reef. You can calculate how much it would cost and then save accordingly.

(Hint: print pictures and let them inspire you. It works wonders. Just see for yourself.)

Emotional goals are trickier to measure. Not everything can be measured on a scale of 1-10.

Personal growth falls into this category. We love to learn more about ourselves, but how can we tell we’re moving forward?

This is why I keep a diary and write a letter to my future self. It becomes a record of my past aspirations, failures and successes. Here I can more clearly “measure” how my own thoughts and actions have improved from last time.

I know not everyone is a writer. Consider using other media as well:

  • Photos (scrapbook?)
  • Vidoes (short films?)
  • Music (playlists?)

Mix and match! Make your goal more measurable and save yourself the frustration.

Is your goal attainable?

Can you reach it within a month, six months, a year, ten years?

If you feel that your goal is out of reach, plan to approach it one baby step at a time.

Reach out to people who are closer to your goal and ask them for advice. Learn from people who are farther down the path from you. Don’t let their wisdom and knowledge go to waste. If you approach them kindly and with respect, you will both reap the benefits of creating a new remarkable relationship.

Perhaps they can help you attain it quicker. Or they might even tell you not to bother.

Is your goal realistic?

Sure, I’d love to tell you that you’ll be a millionaire first thing in the morning.

But life doesn’t work that way. There are no short cuts. Or get rich quick schemes. At least not that I know of.

Wake up, honey. Be more realistic about your goals.

By all means, aim for the sky. But remember the plane that will get you there?

Yeah, jump on it before you do anything else.

Is your goal time sensitive?

It has to be. Otherwise it fails. Saying that you’ll achieve your goal “some time in the future” equals never. And this kind of goal setting will make you look dumb.

Instead, create a time frame for your goal. It can be:

  • Short term (1 month, 6 months, 1 year)
  • Intermediary (2 years, 3 years)
  • Long term (5 years, 10 years)

Choose a time frame that is suitable for your goal.

Buying a house or a car is a long term goal. But you’ll want to break it down into smaller goals, too.

Remember, you want to be specific. 😉

Getting a new pair of headphones, now that’s a short term goal. You can start saving up and maybe you can get them by the end of the month!

Wrap up

Goals aren’t the enemy. They’re your new friend.

You just got to make sure they want to stay around.

Ask yourself these 5 SMART questions every time you want to create a new goal.

  1. Is my goal Specific?
  2. Is my goal Measurable?
  3. Is my goal Attainable?
  4. Is my goal Realistic?
  5. Is my goal Time sensitive?

What are your goals for 2013? Share them in the comments below. I am looking forward to reading them!

Flickr photo by miggslives.


  1. says

    I think this is the first year that I’ve actually been successful in keeping my new years resolutions, for those exact reasons that you listed. Another tip that helped me a lot is to give yourself a limited amount of screw-ups. In previous years, I’d forget my new years resolution for a day or mess up and be like “welp, guess that’s that.. I’ll try again next year” haha. But this year I gave each resolution a different number of “allowed” screw-ups, depending on what it was and its difficulty, so that I couldn’t give up on the entire resolution just because I “missed a day” or something.

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