Goal Setting: The SMART Way

New year, new goals, right? What better time for me to quickly run over the importance of goals and the best way to set them!

Let’s first answer these simple questions:

–       Why should you set goals?

–       What’s the purpose of setting goals?

–       What will setting goals do for you?

By setting goals and working on them on a daily basis, you can achieve the life, the career, the dreams that you want. It means figuring out exactly what it is that you want, setting long-term goals for that, then setting short-term goals in relation to that same goal and then actively working towards achieving them.

Your brain is a miraculous organ. It works on a subconscious level – with you or against you – so whether you’re aware of it or not, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy. By setting goals, you’re allowing your brain to work with you, and providing you with the best possible chance to achieve those goals.

In fact, chances are you’re already working towards a goal, without even realising it. As we continue to make day-to-day choices, they determine our priorities and guide our brain into a certain direction. These choices and priorities could be choosing to go on an adventure every weekend, to putting your kids’ needs first, or choosing to read a book. Or, they could be choices that involve hanging around the wrong crowd or putting off that assignment or deadline to watch the final season of House of Cards. Again. Actively making these choices sets patterns in our behaviour; it determines our priorities. As such, every choice we mark either works towards our goal of having a healthier lifestyle or the best academic record OR prevents us from getting any closer towards it. It completely depends on what you want – irrespective of whether you’re the rabbit or the tortoise – your choices become habits, which become routines which work towards your BIG goal.

So, if you’re sitting there thinking, ‘what the heck, how do I even start? Well, you’ve come to the right place, I am thy fellow friend, at least for the day and we are going to set some goals together!

As your fellow friend, let me ask you this: would you like to know the most effective, simple and time-effective way to set and achieve goals?


Well, let me share it with you!!!

Science has proven that there are a set few ways that will actually work for you. One of those ways is something called SMART goal-setting; a technique that gives direction to what you want to achieve.

As you may have noted, SMART is an acronym so, what does it actually stand for?

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable/ Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Time-Bound / Timely

Super simple, single-word explanations of how to set up and frame your goals.

Let’s break these words down into practical explanations and instructions.


Remember back when we were all a little younger and we learnt about the “W” questions? Well, let’s take ourselves back to those younger years, because the first word ‘smart’ focuses a lot on the “W” questions, for the purpose of making the goal super specific.


–      Think about the details (include as much detail as possible as it makes the goal more specific, hence, attainable)

–      What is it exactly that you’d like to accomplish?

–      What are the limitations?

–      What are the requirements?

With whom?

–      Will anybody else be involved with this goal? If so, write down who that’ll be.


–     Why exactly do I want to set this goal? What will I get from it?


–     Is there a specific place you want or need this goal to take place?

–     Is it location restricted?

If you’re wondering what happened to our friend, when? He comes into the mix a little later on, and is still equally as important in terms of time-frame.


In order to keep yourself accountable, it is essential to have a measurable goal. A measurable goal is one that:

–     Identifies how you will feel when you reach your goal

–     Identifies how you would like to reward yourself when you reach it

  • Whether that be something you buy yourself, treat yourself to or a trip you could take or something free, like time off from work or study or a walk along the beach
  • Anything that will motivate you to push yourself towards that goal

–     In short: Identify whatever may be your driving force to achieve your goal, that is what makes your goal a measurable one

–     How can you measure your progress? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly?

–     What efforts are required?


Is your goal attainable? Are there realistic expectations for yourself, are they realistic in terms of the effort you can put in, the situation you’re in, the costs, the time-frame?

This is such an important aspect of SMART goals because if the goal you are setting is unattainable (whether owing to lack of time, effort or money), then you are setting yourself up to fail. Yes, it’s important to push yourself, yes, you should set the bar high, but never to the extent where the bar is impossible to reach in the first place.

So, ask yourself this:

–     Based on constraints in my life currently, is this a realistic goal?

  •  Constraints can include: finances, talent/ ability, time-frame, people power, existing experience or knowledge, fitness or even your attitude etc
  • P.S. All of these constraints can be worked on and amended to the point that they would no longer be restrictive, it’s just a matter of time, dedication and will to change the circumstances
  • P.P.S. If there is an attitude constraint, as in a negative attitude or a fear, then this can be addressed, worked on and fixed as well


In terms of the relevance of your goal, pay attention to this next question…

Have you set this goal for you, because you want it? Or has your goal been influenced by what others want you to do or what you think others want you to do?

There’s a difference. Not only does pursuing a goal for the ‘wrong reasons’ end up making it hell for yourself, but by the time you do actually achieve it, it may actually feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.

So, the questions are:

–      Is the goal you have set relevant to you?

–      What is the objective behind this goal? (Why do you want to reach this goal?)

–      Will this goal help to reach that objective?

–      Will you be satisfied when you reach the goal?


… a.k.a a deadline.

Time-bound makes it definitive with a start-time and date and an end-time and date.

Deadlines are what keep people accountable and are what make people get things done. So by implementing deadlines for yourself,  you’ll be more motivated to actually reach your goal within that set time-frame.

In saying all of this, make sure it’s a realistic time-frame, there’s no use in setting yourself a goal of running a 10km marathon next week when you’ve never run more than a metre in your life! You need to prepare yourself for this marathon! You need to train for at least a month, you need start at 1km and then build up to 10km, you need to practice running the 10km distance – even if you’re heaving by the end of it – then, and only then, you can run the marathon.

So, make sure that the time-frame is realistic. If it’s too short, you’ll be pushing yourself beyond capable means (and potentially entering cardiac arrest in the process which doesn’t sound like much fun to me!) and if it’s too long, distractions may filter in and deter you from your goal and you can lose motivation.

A side note when it comes to setting goals: DO NOT, I repeat, do not set goals in a negative fashion, where comments such as “Don’t do this…” or “Stop that…” are involved.

For example: “Stop negative self-talk” or “Don’t procrastinate” or “Stop watching TV” or “Don’t go on social media every day”.

Why’s that? Because it gives a negative tonality and actually encourages your brain to follow that negativity. Doesn’t make sense, huh? Basically, negative self-talk tells your brain to do the opposite of what you say *shock horror* So, by telling yourself to stop doing something, you’re actually telling your brain to keep doing it. Mind boggling, I know, but true nonetheless!

The best way to avoid this is to change up the tonality and ensure that it positively reinforces a behaviour.

As an example, check out the following:

I will immediately counteract any negative thoughts with positive ones I will stop negative self-talk
I will do two hours of homework a night, in order to achieve well in every subject I will do two hours of homework a night, in order to achieve well in every subject
I will be disciplined on a daily basis Don’t procrastinate
I will reduce time watching TV and only watch my favourite TV show for 1 hour a week I will not watch any TV for the entire week
I will limit my attention to social media by turning notifications off and by logging out before I commence work Don’t go on social media every day

Here is a template to help you set your own SMART Goals

Smart Goals Worksheet Template (1)

Now, go out and  SET THOSE (SMART) GOALS!

Till next time,


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