Goal setting is a healthy and effective tool that we can use to identify and visualize areas of life we want to develop and improve upon. Whether we are focusing on our physical, emotional, or mental health or are thinking about our relationships or professional life, goal setting can help us focus and organize our thoughts and actions and promote hope and motivation to better ourselves and experience a more rewarding and fulfilling life.
There are specific guidelines that we can follow in order to set realistic and attainable goals that can help set us up for success. These guidelines are outlined in the SMART acronym, which makes it easy to remember which factors should be considered when setting goals.
S: Specific: Goals need to be identified in specific, not vague, terms. In order to identify the details of the goal, answer the questions of what, where, why, when, who, and how much? For example, what do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to accomplish this goal? What resources do you need to accomplish it? What requirements are needed to accomplish it? Are there any constraints or anticipated challenges to doing so? If so, how are these constraints going to be managed?
M: Measurable: In order to determine whether our goal has been met or progress has been made towards it, we need to be able to measure it. The use of numbers, quantity or degrees of quality, completed tasks, and other units can be used to help us judge our progress.
A: Achievable: In order to set ourselves up for success we need to think about our goals in realistic terms. This means that we need to be mindful of our locus of control, resources, and the steps required to meet the goal. It is important to avoid setting goals that are too high or complex that can end up making us feel like a failure.
R: Relevant: When we think about a goal we need to answer whether it is consistent with other goals we have (both short and long term) as well as if it aligns with our overall vision of what we are working towards. Deciding if a goal is relevant can be answered by considering if it is worthwhile, has value, and is appropriate considering the time and resources available to achieving it.
T: Time-bound: Effective goal setting involves regular reviews and revisions as well as a date, timeline, or schedule that we can follow to help us evaluate whether we are making progress or have achieved our goal. Consider how long it will take to achieve the goal, when you will work on it, and what date you would like to complete it by.