SMART Goals Acronym

What does the SMART Goals acronym stand for and how can you use it when setting goals?

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timed

By creating goals with these criteria you will give yourself a much better chance of making the change in your life that you desire.

Having something to focus on makes any task easier. Improving your life is no different.

The following information will help you setting your SMART goals.


To achieve something you need to define what it is that you intend to achieve. A goal therefore needs to be clear. The more specific and refined a goal is the better. I want to lose weight is quite specific but I want to be happy is not. If you are looking for something such as a happier life start thinking about what would really make you happy.


The way that you can tell if you have achieved a specific goal is through measurement. By recording or measuring the status before and after can you ascertain if change has occurred.
As before with I want to be happy, you cannot measure happiness. I want to lose weight is ok but as no change is recorded for SMART goal setting you would be better stating  I want to lose x pounds in weight.


Setting yourself specific and measurable goals is great if you can actually achieve them.  There are those who would argue that you can achieve virtually anything that you set your mind to, however, bearing in mind your current skills, abilities and resources, what is truly attainable for you and within the realms of reason may vary.

I want to learn some basic French for my holiday is reasonable as long as you have the time available to study. I want to win a medal at the next Olympics would be fine for someone who is already an active and committed sportsperson. If your idea of exercise is walking to the kitchen during the commercials this goal would be unattainable. I want to lose 10 pounds in weight by improving my diet is fine (notice how this has also become more specific).


Realistic is similar to attainable but focuses more on general reality. There are those who would argue that anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to given the right amount of effort and commitment. Realistic here can be understood to consider how feasible something is and within your control.

I want so-and-so to go out with me is not realistic if so-and-so doesn’t feel the same way about you. I want to grow wings and fly, likewise.  I want to be able to swim 30 lengths without stopping would be fine depending on your swimming ability and the timescale given.


By setting a time you put in place the final piece in SMART goal setting. A goal just flaps about without having a timed element. I want to lose 10 pounds over my lifetime, in a week or in two months alter the realistic and attainable element of the goal as well.

If you decide on a goal but never set a deadline or decide on a timescale in which to achieve it you diminish your incentive to achieve it.

A deadline will help focus you on achieving your goal.

It will also help prevent you procrastinating and make an action plan easier to tie down.

It will also help to make it clear if the goal is achievable in the timescale. You can then refine the goal or change the timescale if that is feasible.

Putting It All Together

You have now completed your SMART goal setting. If it fits all the above criteria you have a SMART goal. Then you need to ask yourself are you happy with it? Are you going to do it? Is it the right goal for you?

Even when you set yourself goals with the best intentions if you are not motivated or they aren’t fulfilling your underlying need then you will struggle to achieve them.

Consider the weight loss example. Although you may know you need to lose weight, if you comfort eat because you are unhappy in your relationship or have low self esteem, it is possible that you may never achieve the goal until you recognise and do something about your relationship or self esteem problems.

If the goal is the right one for you the other part is creating a good action plan to complete it. Understanding the steps you need to take to achieve your goal helps to break it down into manageable pieces. You can then focus on each step, taking away any feelings of being overwhelmed by the overall goal.

Motivation and perseverance tend to be the last pieces in the jigsaw. To complete your action plan you need to be motivated and to have the staying power to see things through.

So start with your SMART goals acronym and follow the next steps and you will make that change happen in your life.

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