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What are SMART Goals? How to Set Goals You Can Achieve

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Do you struggle with reaching that impossible dream? Ensure your success by setting Smart Goals. Developed in 1981 by George Doran for Management Review magazine, the SMART acronym became so beloved it is still in use today. Smart Goals are a specific method for setting goals that ensures that they can be met. This article will help you learn how to set smart goals.


Each letter in SMART stands for something. Let's break it down easily, shall we? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound Goals. It is a simple formula for ensuring that your goals can be reached. It can also help you distinguish between a goal and a vision.  

SPECIFIC: Make Sure Your Goal Is Specific

A goal should be specific. Think about those old movies in which someone makes a contract with the devil, and loses their soul on a technicality . . . You're making a contract with yourself to achieve your goal, so the more specific you can be about the vision of what you want, the more easily you will be able to focus your energies into success.

Does your goal answer the five Ws: who, what, where, when, why?


Debbie wants a raise, but "I want a raise" is not specific. Instead she needs to reframe it: "I would like to receive a raise from my boss, paying me $60,000 salary for my current job as an executive assistant at Arthouse Designs by December 1st this year so that I can pay off my student loans in full before next year." This statement very clearly outlines who will need to be involved, what needs to change, why it is important, where this is taking place, and when it needs to happen. Debbie also clarifies that the raise is contingent upon her current job. These details are important when crafting a goal.

Journal: What is your goal?

MEASURABLE: Ensure That You Have A Way of Measuring Progress

Ideally you want to be able to measure your progress toward your goal. If the success of your goal is based upon outside luck, then you either need to re-format how you are trying to achieve your goal, or you need to change your goal.

For example, if Debbie (above) intends to get that raise by performing well and simply hoping she will be called in for a positive review, then her goal is not measurable, and she needs to reformat how she looks at it.  For example, she may meet with her boss before setting her goals, and agree that she will get a raise as long as she takes on 3 new artists. Now she has a way of measuring progress; each artist acquisition brings her closer to her goal.

Journal: Write down the steps needed to complete your goal.

ACHIEVABLE: You Should Be Able to Attain Your SMART Goals With Your Current Resources

How can you make your goal happen? If you have a huge goal outside of your wheelhouse, it's likely that your goal entails many steps. Make sure that your steps can actually be achieved with the current resources you have. Setting a goal to become a millionaire overnight is not achievable, but setting a goal to save a certain amount of money each month is.

If your goal requires resources outside of your control, or resources that you have no way of immediately accessing, then your goal is NOT achievable.


If Debbie above was a regular assistant who had just begun a week ago and had never done work with artists before, or had no means of contacting them, then the leap to execute assistant would not be considered because she would not have the knowledge and resources necessary to achieve her goal. Most likely she would need to set a different Smart goal focused on getting the knowledge and means necessary to become the person capable of holding the position she targeted.

SMART goals traditionally encourage you to put aside the big dreams so that you can grow into them slowly.

Look at (1) who you are, (2) what your track record says you are capable of attaining, and (3) how badly you want something, before deciding whether or not you feel that your goal is truly achievable. Make sure the steps needed to complete your goal are all achievable by you. If you require the help of the Dali Lama but you don't have access to him, then rewrite the pathway to success so that you no longer require the Dali Lama, and your action items are achievable.

RELEVANT: Choose A Goal That Has Contextual Meaning

Does your goal really matter?  When you look at the larger scope of your life and all that you want, will this goal get you closer to that?  If not, re-think whether this is the SMART goal for you. Another word I like to use here is resonant. Does this goal resonate with your spirit, with who you are at this time, or who you would like to become?

TIME BOUND: Make Sure Your Goal Has A Clear Start And Finish

To make your goal truly SMART, give it a time line. Debbie created a clear end date for her goal of a raise, but did not specify a timeline.  Take time to add work times and deadlines (or lifelines) next to your goals. This brings your goal out of the realms of dreams and possibilities, and right into your working calendar!

Time-bound goals are also important because they allow you to evaluate your progress and adjust your strategy if you're not on track. By setting a deadline, you can periodically review your progress and make any necessary changes to your plan to keep moving towards your goal. If you set dates that are too tight, they might cause stress and frustration, while setting dates too far in the future might cause procrastination and lack of motivation.


To write your SMART goals, begin by pulling out your journal. Write down what you really want at the top.


Now that it's out there, it's time to shape it into a smart goal. Simple go through each of the points:

✅ Is your goal Specific?

If not take a moment to rewrite it to include the 5 w's.

✅ Is your goal Measurable? I

f not, figure out what your measure of success will be, otherwise change your goal.

✅ Is your goal Achievable/Attainable?

If not, set a timer for 15 minutes and journal or speak with a friend about 3 ways you can make it attainable.

✅ Is your goal Relevant?

If not, then why did you choose it? Are you doing this to make others happy? Prove something to yourself? Take some time to journal about this goal before you let it go. And ask yourself, is there a goal that would be more relevant?

✅ Is your goal Time-Bound?

If your goal doesn't have a specific end date, it isn't time-bound. Choose a date and stick with it. Be willing to let go after that time.


A SMART goal example for a Reiki Healing Professional:

"I will increase my client base by 20% in the next six months by offering a new service: Reiki Distance healing, and promoting it through social media and my website. I will measure my progress by tracking the number of new clients that sign up for the Reiki Distance healing service and comparing it with the number of clients from the previous six months."

This goal is Specific (increasing clients by 20%), Measurable (tracking the number of new clients), Achievable (offering a familiar but new service and promoting it), Relevant (to the overall development of the healing practice) and Time-bound (in the next six months).

Here's a nursing SMART goals example for a nurse who would like to become a head nurse:

"I will acquire the necessary qualifications to become a head nurse within 2 years by completing a leadership and management course and gaining at least 1 year of experience in a supervisory role. I will measure my progress by tracking my completion of the course and the number of months of experience I have gained in a supervisory role. I will share my intentions with my superiors so the deal is assured, or otherwise be willing to find a new job."

This goal is Specific (acquiring qualifications to become a head nurse), Measurable (tracking completion of course and months of experience), Achievable (through completing a course and gaining experience), Relevant (to career advancement) and Time-bound (within 2 years).

Here's a short list examples of SMART goals for students:

Students often have a lot to do and in addition to time prioritization, understanding how to format goals can make everything easier.

  1. "I will improve my Honors Chemistry grade from a C- to an A by the end of the semester by attending extra help sessions at school twice a week and completing all homework and practice problems before gymnastics practice. I will measure my progress by tracking my grades on assignments and exams in the online portal, and comparing it to the final grade."

  2. "I will get a new job that pays me $20 per hour within 3 months by researching in the Career Center at my school, cleaning up my resume with a career counselor, signing up for a temp agency, and booking 30 job interviews or more until I'm hired. I will measure my progress by tracking the number of interviews and making improvements on my process, until I have my desired job."

  3. "I will increase my social intelligence by joining a school club or community organization within 30 days, and attending all meetings regularly for the rest of the school year. I will measure my progress by tracking the number of conversations I have with new people, and the number of events I attend."

  4. "I will pass all my exams this semester with an average grade of B or higher by studying for at least 2 hours every day, creating flashcards and reviewing past exams. I will measure my progress by tracking my grades on each exam and comparing it with the final grade."

  5. "I will graduate with honors by maintaining a GPA of 3.7 or higher, taking honors or AP classes and completing a thesis or special project. I will measure my progress by tracking my GPA throughout my studies and by the completion of my thesis or project."

Finally, here are some examples of personal SMART GOALS:

✅ COOKING: "I will learn to cook 3 delicious recipes this month by signing up for a cooking class, watching cooking tutorials online, and experimenting with new ingredients. I will measure my progress by keeping a recipe journal and taking photos of the dishes I prepare."

✅ TRAVEL: "I will visit 2 new National Parks within the next year by researching and planning trips 6 months ahead, setting a budget and booking flights and accommodations. I will measure my progress by tracking the number of National Parks I visit, and the number of flights and accommodations I book."

✅ PHOTOGRAPHY: "I will become a savvy photographer within 6 months by taking a photography class in my city, scheduling a photo day every Saturday, and experimenting with different techniques. I will measure my progress by tracking the photos I take and submitting them to my teacher for evaluation. I will keep a portfolio of my best shots."

✅ MUSIC: "I will learn to play the piano within a year by taking weekly lessons, practicing for at least 30 minutes 3x a week and participating in a group or individual performance. I will measure my progress by tracking my practice time with an app, and by the number of songs I can play."

✅ FITNESS: "I will improve my physical fitness by taking a belly dance class, 3x weekly for the next 6 months, and increasing my daily 30 minute walks. I will measure my progress by tracking my walks, classes, and weight using a fitness app."

✅ FINANCES: "I will save $10,000 in the next 12 months by setting a savings budget of $834 per month, reducing unnecessary expenses and increasing my income with a Saturday job. I will measure my progress by tracking my savings in a budgeting app."

✅ SPIRITUALITY: "I will develop my Reiki mindfulness practice within 30 days by meditating for 15 minutes every day and attending the 30 Days of Healing mindfulness group online. I will measure my progress by tracking my daily meditation practice in a journal."

Are you seeing how SMART goals can be used for anything, from learning a new language to getting a raise at work? And setting SMART goals is just the first step. The real work comes in taking action and staying motivated to achieve your goals!

Next time I will cover what makes your goals S.E.X.Y. And we all know it's time to bring Sexy back. . . ha ha!

Go Forth and Prosper!

blessings! ~Dailey


© 2012 Dailey Little. You are welcome to reproduce this article provided you do so in its entirety, including the copyright and this blurb: "Dailey Little is a Reiki Master and active practitioner. She teaches Reiki & other fun stuff through her private practice in Santa Rosa, CA. Join her joyful community for ReikiShares, Free Clinics, and eco-activism by signing up at her website,"

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