The best goal is a smart one

Typically, we set goals for ourselves at times of ‘new beginnings’ such as at the start of a new phase of life (like college or a new job), the new year, birthdays etc. Setting goals helps us feel like we can do new things, or do old things better. It aligns our focus, and through it, we aim for mastery over a behaviour.

Achieving the goals we set, however, proves to be challenging most of the time. We might lose motivation after a while, or forget, or make room for that other thing with a higher priority today- and tomorrow, and the day after.

SMART is an acronym for

Specific- The goal has to be clear and not have any room for misinterpretation or confusion.

Measurable- You should be able to track progress.

Attainable- It needs to be realistic.

Relevant- The goal must make sense for your lifestyle, work, dreams and ambitions.

Time-bound- There needs to a deadline for the goal.

Such goals help us by defining the action in a clear way to achieve an attainable goal within a certain time frame. This means that we eliminate vagueness and guesswork, identify a timeline and track progress.


Setting a SMART goal involves the following parameters:


What needs to be accomplished? What steps must be taken to achieve it? Who can take those steps? Examples include:

I will start training every day to run a marathon in 6 months.

I want to improve my relationship with my parent.

I want to wake up early every day, so I have more time for my morning routine.

Watch out! A common mistake that is made with identifying a goal is choosing a vague statement as the goal, such ‘I want to be happier.’ or ‘I will have work-life balance this year.’ These would have to be made more specific by thinking about what specific actions one could do to feel happier, or what exact changes in lifestyle need to be made to improve work-life balance.



There needs to be a source of information so that you can measure your progress towards the goal. This could be quantitative (productivity results, money saved) or qualitative (feedback from others, how you feel about it.).



Goals should be realistic if we have to achieve them; it is meant to inspire achievement, not to discourage ourselves. So ask yourself “Is this something which I can reasonably achieve?” Think about the methods to be used, if you have the knowledge/skills/tools needed, or what it would take to attain these skills/tools.

Unattainable goals could be things which a person wishes to do, but may be not able to, such as having a sweet tooth and abruptly cutting out carbohydrates and sugars from the diet, or wanting to increase sales by 150% in the last month of the year, or wanting to buy a new house without a fully thought-out financial plan. Rather, planning a diet taking one’s food preferences into consideration, keeping the closeness of the deadline in mind, and looking at short- and long-term finances helps when thinking of what is attainable or not in the above examples.



Why are you setting this goal? Does it align with your values, hopes and ambitions? Your goal, measurable actions and the larger picture need to be coherently related.

It is important that the goal makes sense to you rather than something that others around you think is important. No matter what the scientific evidence may be, or what social influencers or your family think you should do, it will only work if it is important to you.


Time bound:

Create a schedule for working towards to the final goal as well as how long it will take to meet each milestone along the way. Consider if yours is a short-term or long-term goal, and then create the timeline for it.


As you think about setting a SMART goal for yourself, here are some examples:

Running a marathon:

I will start training every day to run a marathon in 6 months.

I will use my tracking app and increase the distance I run by 3 kms each week.

I have already been running twice a week as part of my regular fitness regime, so I have some practise.

I value my health and fitness, and this goal will help me sustain that.

The marathon is 6 months away. In 4 months’ time, I will build up to be able to run the whole distance and I will keep that up for the last two months.



Working on a relationship:

I want to improve my relationship with my parent.

I will call twice a week (on Tuesday and Thursday) and meet them on Sunday for a meal.

I will talk on the phone while I am taking my evening walk, and we live in the same city so meeting is possible.

I want to strengthen our relationship, and spend more time with family in general.

I will implement this for the rest of the year and then evaluate any change in the closeness of our relationship.  



Waking up early:

I want to wake up early everyday so I have more time for my morning routine.

I currently wake up at 8:30AM so I will set my alarm clock back by 30 minutes every two weeks until I reach 6.30AM. I’ll make a note of the time I wake up each day so I can measure progress.

My schedule allows me to sleep at a decent time each night, so I will still get enough rest.

I feel rushed waking up every day and going immediately to work, and want to feel calmer in the mornings.

In two months, I want to wake up 2 hours earlier than I currently do.



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