Get SMART About Your Goals

When we get our heads around our vision, the next thing we have to do is create the steps to get there. Thinking in broad brush strokes is a great way to get a sense of the big picture, however, to actually find our way, we need a specific map. We need goals.  None of us are strangers to goal setting. We do it at the new year in the form of well-intentioned resolutions. We do it before a big event, like a wedding. We do it at our jobs. We help our kids with their goals. It’s a common practice.

But one that too often fails.

If you ever go to a fitness facility in January, you’ll see it’s packed to capacity. Everyone is energized by the new calendar year, eager to get in shape, finally get healthy. Return to that gym come March and you’ll see a completely different picture. Three months into the year and people have settled back into past practices and old routines, So what’s the deal with this? Why are goals so easy to set yet so difficult to achieve?

A large part of the issue is distinguishing a goal as something more than just a desired outcome. Simply wanting something to happen or wanting to achieve something is not a goal. That is better termed intention, objective, wish. This is where being SMART comes in handy. Goals should be SMART:

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-oriented.

Using SMART goals will help provide a clear and precise picture of what you want to accomplish. There is nothing vague about a SMART goal. There is no ambiguity. And this clarity then helps you create an action plan for successful attainment.

Consider the following:

My goal is to lose weight. That is not a goal, that’s a wish or desire. A goal would be:

I want to lose 15 pounds by December 20th.

Now we can ask ourselves:

Is this specific? Yes, 15 lbs is specific.

Measurable? Yes- I can measure the amount of weight I lose with a scale.

Attainable? Sure, since I probably have 20-25 pounds overall to lose, losing 15 is attainable.

Realistic? Hmmm…. It’s early October. Holidays are coming. This is a tough time to be disciplined about food. I wonder if 10lbs would be more realistic….(I’ll think about that one).

Time-oriented? Yep. I have my end date in December 20th, and at that time I will know if I have or have not met my goal.

Let’s try another one:

I want to sleep more so I can have more energy.
That’s a really great intention, but It’s not a goal.


I want to get at least 8 hours a sleep 4 nights a week.

Better right? It is better, but did you catch that it is still not a SMART goal? The “Time” element is missing.

I want to get at least 8 hours a sleep 4 nights a week for the next month.


So now we can go through and do our SMART check:

Specific? Yep.

Measureable? 8 hours at least 4 night a week- Yep

Attainable? Yes- since I do sleep every night.

Realistic? Yep (It will take some adjustments, but that’s the whole point of SMART goals- making adjustments that will improve your life.)

Time? Yep- I have one month to commit to this and see how I feel.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal setting concept presented on blackboard with colorful crumpled sticky notes and white chalk handwriting

With SMART goals it’s easy to outline a plan-of-action. You know exactly what you want to do and when you want it done by, so you can start to think of strategies and approaches. SMART goals also help you create good habits. Think of the sleeping goal. Chances are, if you really do get 8 hours of sleep, 4 nights a week for a month, that practice will become a habit for you.

So, if you don’t meet your goal are you a failure? NO. And that is another part of our problem when trying to accomplish things: we beat ourselves up instead of building ourselves up. (But that’s another blog). Just think about it this way: when we don’t make our goal we can learn from the experience. What was difficult? What got in the way? What parts were successful? Now when you set new goals you have this previous experience to inform you.

So, now it’s your turn to try.

Think of the vision you want achieve and make a SMART goal to help you get there. If you want some help, post your goal in the comments. If it’s not quite a SMART goal I’ll help you get it there. And then, go out and achieve your goals.

lorri sulpizio

About lorri sulpizio

Lorri is a former college-basketball coach and personal trainer, turned leadership professional. She is Director of the Leadership Institute at the University of San Diego and principal consultant at Lotus Leadership Institute. She loves anything fitness, reading and spending time with her kids and family.