What Is A SMART Goal?

There are different types of goals and it important to set some of each. The first type of goals is an outcome goal. An outcome goal states what you would like to see happen at the end of period of time. Some examples are: to lose 40 pounds; to complete a half marathon; to stop negative thinking. All these are good goals but by themselves would be difficult to determine if you are making enough progress. That is why it is important to also have process goals. These goals are the how-to goals we need to make those larger outcome goals happen. So, for the example of losing 40 pounds, you may have a process goal of journaling what you eat every day. At the end of each day you can determine if you completed this process goal. Additionally, if you journal your food intake, it will allow you to make changes to help you get to the 40-pound loss.
Another aspect we need to look at when setting either type of goal is the time factor. Goals can be short-term. These short-term goals are achievable in a week or two. Then there are intermediate goals. These goals will take several months to accomplish. Often these are goals found at the midpoint of long term goals. Intermediate goals allow us to reassess how things are going on the way to longer term goals. Long term goals are the result or the bigger picture. These long-term goals are your outcome goals. They are what you want to achieve.
When writing goals, it is important to write SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realistic-Timely. If you write a SMART goal, anyone should be able to understand what you are going to do, how you are going to measure your success and when you plan to achieve it.
Specific means that you use language that is detailed and easy to understand and observe. For example, write everything I eat in my journal including what time I ate and how much I ate. This states exactly what I will do.
Measurable means that there is a way of determining if you have accomplished the goal or not. For example, I will journal my food every day for each of the meals I eat. I can look and see if I did journal every day. I can also look and see if, when I did journal, I wrote down everything from that day.
Achievable deals with how big or small of a stretch your goal is. We do not want to make a goal too easy. While we want to challenge ourselves, we do not want to tackle something larger than we can handle and become defeated and frustrated. If you have never even walked to the end of the block, it would be unlikely that a marathon would be choice for a goal. When looking at this part, we need to ask ourselves what evidence is there that I can accomplish this goal in the time frame I have set.
Realistic deals with the likelihood that the goal can be accomplished. This is closely related to achievable. This may be something we need to look at in terms of ability. So, for example, if I do not know how to swim, it may not be realistic to set a goal to swim a mile. That isn’t saying that I could not learn but I need to ask how realistic is that? We can also look at this in terms of desire. If I do not want to do something, how likely is it that I will achieve it? What if I were afraid of water or didn’t like it? Then how realistic is it to make a goal to swim at all? Last, we need to determine exactly what we can do at this moment and what a reasonable amount of progress is. So, let’s look at the swimming example again. If I can swim 3 laps without stopping, then it would reasonable to work up to being able to swim 6 laps without stopping.
Timely goals have a specific end date. This is the one area that most people do not want to do. People are afraid of setting specific time tables for their goals for fear of failing. But if you never set specific time lines, then how do you know if you are making progress? The lack of a time table to complete your goal allows you to be wishy-washy about your goal since there is no real hurry or urgency. Additionally, specific time tables allow you assess your progress and adjust in order to get back on track.

I would love to hear about some of the goals you are setting.

Until next time….
Change. Discover. Transform.
Carla Carter, Ed.D., LCPC, CMPC, EMDR Certified

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