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SMART Goal Examples

by Jackie Beck

SMART goal examples can show the difference between a goal that’s really just a wish, and a goal that’s going to get you somewhere. SMART goals work because (as the acronym points out) they are: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Writing out a SMART goal can be very beneficial, because doing so forces you to think about your plans, desires, and motivations in detail. Instead of slapping out a goal that is soon forgotten, you lay a solid foundation that sets you on the path to success.

Not-so-smart goals

Before I talk about SMART goal examples though, let’s get a basis for comparison. Typical not-so-smart ones might look something like these:

  • I want to lose weight
  • My goal is to get a promotion with a 10% raise this year
  • I’m going to start a new business that brings in at least $1000 a month in passive income

What’s wrong with those? Let’s take them one by one.

“I want to lose weight” is more of a statement than anything else (or maybe a wish). For starters, it’s very vague. If you lose an ounce, have you achieved what you wanted to do? What about if you lose 20 pounds, but it takes you 20 years? How much is good to lose at once if you want to keep it off? What are you willing to do to make it happen?

“My goal is to get a promotion with a 10% raise this year.” This is getting better. There’s an actual, measurable number in the sentence, and a time frame. But it’s still too vague. What kind of a promotion? Is a year enough time? Also, how realistic is a 10% raise if your company has frozen wages?

Finally, we have “I’m going to start a new business that brings in at least $1000 a month in passive income.” In this case, we know what kind of income we want, but what kind of business are we thinking of starting? Making $1000 a month in passive income is measurable and does sound realistic eventually, but there’s no deadline in the goal. If we’re hoping to do it starting tomorrow, that’s probably not going to happen.

Turn them into SMART goals examples

SMART goals examplesThe easiest way to turn a goal (or even something that starts out as a vague wish) into a SMART goal is to ask yourself the same kinds of questions I asked above.

In other words, take your first stab at the goal, and then get critical. Dig deeper until you’ve got it fleshed out.

By answering the questions I asked earlier, we can come up with the following SMART goal examples:

  • I plan to lose approximately 1 pound per week for the next 12 weeks through a combination of diet and exercise. I will do this by consuming 300 fewer calories than normal each day (by giving up my daily habit of 2 cans of Coke.) I will also burn an extra 200 calories by using the elliptical machine for 20 minutes daily. I will weigh myself every Friday when I get up to check on my progress, and will track my weight weekly and my exercise and food/drink intake daily using the LoseIt app. (This is now a pretty good SMART goal, assuming that it truly is realistic to drink less Coke and exercise daily. Our hypothetical goal-setter is getting married in 3 months and really wants to look good in pictures, so let’s say that it is.)
  • I’d really like to get a promotion and a huge raise this year, but that’s probably unrealistic given what’s going on at Acme Corp right now. Instead, over the next two weeks I will make a list of 3-5 additional responsibilities I could take on, and present those to my supervisor to see which ones would be most beneficial to the company. I will explain that my long-term goal is a raise and a promotion to ABC position, and ask for suggestions on what I could do to make that happen in X period of time. Once I have done that, I will create a new short-term goal based on what I found out.
  • By next Friday, I will have researched a variety of passive income ideas and created a list of at least 25 different business possibilities based on that research. (Additional SMART goals would follow this one to get to the true desired end.)

The payoff

It will take you a lot longer to write a SMART goal, but you’ll also be a whole lot more likely to succeed. Keep in mind that the goal should also be something that causes you to stretch and grow. Something that’s important to you — that you’ll feel good about achieving.

What’s your experience been like with SMART goals? I often have the most trouble with the “realistic” part of the equation…

Posted in Setting & Achieving Goals on 08.12.11 with 14 comments.

14 Responses to “SMART Goal Examples”

  • alysa@impulsesave.com says:

    Great article! It’s definitely important to know the difference between a “goal” and a “smart goal”. It’s sometimes harder to make the smart goal because it requires a lot more thought and facing of the facts, but that’s what makes it beneficial!

    • Jackie says:

      Exactly. The plus side of that is that the harder it is to write the goal, the more that means you’ve probably researched what you need to do to succeed.

  • Little House says:

    These are great tips. Really defining a goal and figuring out how to achieve it is the key to success. Just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I never read The Secret but whenever I heard someone discussing it, it sounded like a load of crap! Just think it and it will happen! NO! that’s not how it works at all. You actually have to have a plan and act on it.

    • Jackie says:

      Setting goals and making them happen is the way to go. A part of that is believing in yourself; believing that what you want to do IS possible. (Otherwise, why try?) Anyway maybe that’s part of what that book is getting at? I haven’t read it either, although maybe I should since it’s referred to often.

  • Alex says:

    Good advice. I think refining a general goal to something more specific and then breaking it down into individual tasks to be completed over a certain time frame is the best way to accomplish it

  • krantcents says:

    It is a good start to establish a goal. SMART goals help create a structure to really crystallize your goal. Once you establish the goal, you must break it down in order to create daily tasks and monitor your progress. I used a form of SMART goals to achieve financial independence some 26 years ago.

    • Jackie says:

      Do you still have those goals written down somewhere? It’d be awesome if you’d write a guest post about how you used them to become financially independent.

  • I love this post. I tend to be goal and action oriented anyway, but this is a good way to help others remember how to set goals that are achievable. Thanks for this. Bookmarked.

  • If you work in corporate America you have been exposed to S.M.A.R.T. goals – through classes, posters and meetings!!!

    I do like the way you detail examples and show us the difference between a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time boxed goals and the general hazy ones we usually come up with.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • Jackie says:

      Come to think of it, that may have been where I first heard of the concept. It’s been so long since I worked at a corporate-y place that I’ve forgotten.

  • mbhunter says:

    Those are some of the best examples of how to do SMART goals that I’ve seen.

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