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The Beginner's Guide to SMART Goals [ + Free PDF Download ]

What are SMART Goals?


If you ever find yourself thinking “I’m going to… [write a book, lose weight, move to a different city, change my job or career - fill in the blank] and then get overwhelmed with the idea, this article is for you. 

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is an old Chinese proverb that you’ve probably heard.  It’s simple, but very profound.  If you’ve ever traveled a thousand miles in your life - and you probably have - how did you begin?  You took the first step, right? 

The other thing is, you no doubt knew where you were going.  It’s unusual to set off to an airport without any idea of where you’re going to fly to.  Chances are very high that you had a ticket in your hand for a specific flight leaving at a specific time, from a very specific airport, gate number and even a seat number.  

Setting a big goal needs the same detailed journey to follow.  You need to know exactly what your goal is - not a vague idea - but very specifically what you intend to do.  If it’s to lose weight, then how much, by when, and how? If it’s to get a new career going, what career, where will you get the skills you need, what company will you work for and when do you want to start? 

In order to define these steps, you need Smart Goals. Without them, you’re setting yourself up for overwhelm, indecisiveness and ultimately, failure. 

So what does "SMART" stand for? 

Also known as smart objectives or smart targets, S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for: 

1. S | Specific
2. M| Measurable
3. A | Achievable
4. R | Relevant
5. T | Time Bound


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SMART GOAL: Read 25 non-fiction books this year 

1. Make it Specific

What type of books do you want to read? Do you have specific books in mind or do you want to discover new ones?

2. Make it Measurable

How many books do you want to read?

Make a list of the books you’d like to read and add them to your wish list.  Buy them, borrow them or seek them out at the library.  

Measurable applies to the number of things you want to do - in this case, read books.  But it also means a measurable success. How will you know when you've completed your goal or how far along in the process you are? Make it a measurable number, a percentage increase, a distance, time frame or 

3. Make it Achievable

How long does it take you to read a book? How much time do you have available to read? Setting a goal such as reading 6 books a day is not realistic even for someone who spends all day every day reading.

If you work full time and your commute is the only reading time you have, work out how much commuter time you have per week. On the other hand, if you have a two week holiday coming up and you will be reading more, you can shorten the time it’ll take to read several of those books. 

4. Make it Relevant

Why did you choose the books you did?  Are you reading them to study a subject that leads to another goal?  To be more knowledgeable in a certain subject?  To broaden your mind?  To ultimately start a new career?  Whatever your long term dream, make sure you’re taking steps in the right direction rather than going off on a tangent.  

5. Make it Time Bound

Decide how long you’ll take to read each book and add the title to your planner where you’ll see it often and be able to check it off when you’ve read it.  Figure out a realistic date that you should have read all those books by.   


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STANDARD GOAL: Lose weight 

SMART GOAL: Lose 4 kilos by the end of March 

Here’s a goal the vast majority of the population has in mind at some point or other.  Thinking vaguely about losing weight is definitely not going to result in success.  It’s quite a difficult thing to achieve for most people even at the best of times.  So give yourself the best chance of success by making a SMART goal.  

1. Make it Specific

How much do you want to lose? When do you want to have lost it by? Lose 4 kilos by 30th of March.

2. Make it Measurable

You can break your goal down further into weeks/months and celebrate each step you achieve. 

3. Make it Achievable

It’s best to keep your goals small to begin with.  If you want to lose 20 kilos, that will be overwhelming.  Work with smaller steps.  If you need help, there are many support groups and apps around that can hold you accountable when you have a moment of weakness.  Take advantage of one or more that you think will work for you.  Sign up and commit.  

4. Make it Relevant

What is your long-term reason for wanting to lose weight?  Do you want to feel more comfortable in your current wardrobe rather than having to go out and buy new?  Do you want to be as healthy as you can?  Do you want to feel fitter?  Define your reason and you’ll feel more determined and be more likely to succeed.  

5. Make it Time Bound

By setting a date for your desired amount of weight loss, you know that this isn’t going to be an endless diet.  It’s just for a while.  In the long-term, you might have another goal to keep the weight off after you’ve lost it. 


How to use SMART goals to improve your personal development

Smart goals are like satnavs for your life, home, family, work or business.  Unless you put in a very specific destination, it’s not going to help you.  But it’s well worth putting the effort into making your goals Smart ones as the success rate is proved to be greater by far.  

It’s healthier to break your goals down into well-defined sizeable chunks with measurable results as this will give you the boost in confidence you need to keep going to the next step. It also maps out the road in a very clear way so you don’t have to keep rethinking what your next steps are.  

Quite simply, SMART goals are the difference between goals that get accomplished and goals that don’t! 


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