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How to Set Goals and Achieve Them

Setting goals is something that everyone has heard of, but very few people implement. Goal setting takes discipline to put into action and more so to stay consistent with it. If you understand the 5 SMART goal methodology and how to write SMART goals, naturally, you’ll be able to accomplish more in a short period of time than the average person would in their entire life. I’ll share some examples of SMART goals and what it entails so you, too, will know how to write a SMART goal.

What Are the five ELEMENTS OF  SMART Goals?

The SMART goals aren’t goals, per se, but more of a methodology of how to approach your goal setting agenda. A SMART goal is an acronym to help you identify and break down whatever you want to accomplish in life. It means that the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—SMART. This five SMART goal format helps you build the foundation necessary to achieve just about anything you want in life, so long you stay consistent in doing something everyday that moves you forward in your goals.

Let’s start with S—Specific. To be specific, you must know what the end goal looks like or what the final outcome will look like. Can you picture it? Is it to buy a house? Is it to get out of debt? How about to run a marathon? What does “finished” look like?

If you’ve ever read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” you’ll know that one of the habits is to begin with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you’ll wander in circles, aimlessly, either staying in place or actually going away from where you want to be.

You’ll see that when we break down your goal using the SMART goal methodology, everything works together. You’ll have to do some fine tuning as you build your road map, but when you do have everything written down and laid out, you’ll wonder why this wasn’t taught in school to prepare you for life.

For your goal to be measurable, you have to be able to quantify your progression towards your goal. When I say quantify, what I mean is—can you put a number to it? If you want to lose weight, what’s your target weight? How many times will you have to work out each week and for how long? How many calories will you have to burn every day? How much food do you have to eat? When you can break down your goal into small measurements, the goal will be more attainable—which is our next step.

For your goal to be attainable, it has to be a bit of stretch for you to work for and you’ll have to exert yourself a little bit for it. Think about where you are now, are you doing anything that is exerting your efforts towards anything rewarding? Be honest. Getting the next power-up in your video game isn’t necessarily exerting yourself for something rewarding.

Let’s say you make $50k per year at your job and you want to buy a home. By making $50k a year, do you think you’ll be able to afford a multimillion dollar home? Probably working your entire life and penny-pinching you might, but you’re talking about decades of discipline. The SMART goal setting is about working towards incremental wins that will allow you to make the larger wins. Making $50k per year can land you a decent house around $200k. If we were to take the traditional 3.5% for a $200k home, you’re looking about $7k plus closing costs so let’s say $12k to be conservative. $12k is more attainable in a shorter amount of time. It may be a stretch to get it, but it’s attainable—it’s doable.

Your goal doesn’t become real until unless you begin to believe you can do it. Let’s take another SMART goal approach in the example of doing running a marathon. You’ve ran before and feel inspired to run a marathon—it’s a bucket list item you want to cross off. You want to complete a marathon—specific—which is 26.2 miles—measurable—and you have 2 weeks to prep—not attainable nor realistic.

To prep for a marathon you need at least 6 months to prep if you’re somewhat active. When you do some research on what is expected to reach your goals, you begin to see that the steps you need to make will make your goal more attainable. When your goal is attainable, you will begin to have confidence that you can reach it, which then makes it more realistic.

Relevancy is necessary so you have a reason or a “why” to pursue your goal. If your SMART goal isn’t relevant to you in any way, you’ll quickly lose motivation to push through the hard times to attain it—and you will run into obstacles along your way. Without relevancy, you will quickly lose steam, drop your goal, and feel unmotivated to do anything else. Again, it’s about the small wins that will help you reach your larger dreams.

It does take time—which is our next step—but once you get going and start seeing the small wins throughout your goal setting, you’ll begin to make more relevant goals that propel you upwards towards your larger endeavors.

For time-bound, Napoleon Hill has a famous quote “a goal is a dream without a deadline”. If your goal does not have a deadline, then what motive do you have to get it done as quickly as possible? Or what’s the point in working for it if it doesn’t matter when it gets done? Better yet, how likely are you to push for it if you have “all the time in world” to accomplish it? On the flip side, if you do attach a deadline to your goal, you’ll then see the light at the end of the tunnel to push through because the timeline says that if you do these certain things, hitting these certain milestones, you’ll get to where you want to be by this date. By making your goal time-bound, you create urgency to start right away and to get it done before the timer runs out.

A word of caution, the more you ignore this deadline, the harder it becomes to stick to anything you set for yourself. Whatever you set for yourself, you need to follow through or you won’t even take yourself seriously which is a bad place to be in. Again, it’s about the small wins and setting up yourself for success while stretching yourself and getting a little bit out of your comfort zone.

There’s one mantra I live by and that there’s not such thing as an impossible goal—just impossible deadlines. Let’s use another example of wanting to pay off student loans. You have $40k in student loans and you’re expected to pay it off in ten years. If you have a job that pays you $50k a year, it’s impossible to pay off that student loan in six months. If you apply the SMART goal methodology correctly and push yourself a little bit, break down exactly what you need to do, and set milestones along the way, it is possible to pay off that loan in three to five years.

Benjamin Franklin says that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If you can set aside an hour to break done one goal using the 5 SMART goals, you’ll have a custom roadmap that’s catered to your dreams and what’s important to you—and this will motivate you like nothing has ever before. You’ll create intrinsic motivation on purpose and will be motivated to do this in every aspect of your life.

If that wasn’t enough, if you were to cross off one or two things every day that moves you closer to your goals, you will be able to reach most of your goals in less than 12 months.

What Are Examples of Goals?

Some of goals can be condensed in about 7 categories:

  1. Fitness
  2. Personal development
  3. Relationship
  4. Religion
  5. Academics
  6. Career
  7. Finance

Some common fitness goals would be to lose weight, eating healthier, drinking more water, exercise frequently, long distance running, run faster, jump higher, etc.

Some common personal development goals would be reading more books, learning a new skill, learning to play an instrument, learning to speak a new language, meditation, being more productive, etc.

Relationship goals could be becoming friends with like-minded people, finding a spouse, getting to know a well-known person in the community, befriending your neighbors, etc.

Religion can include reading more church publications, providing more service to those around you, improving church participation, doing more missionary work, donating to those need, etc

Academic goals could be passing a difficult class, getting a prestigious degree, getting accepted into a certain college, finishing an online course, accomplishing a challenging class assignment, etc.

Career related goals can be a little more difficult, but they are still doable which could be getting a promotion, improving a KPI (key performance indicator), expanding the company’s client base, scaling business employees, growing the business into different markets, improving a product or service, etc

Finance goals can include increasing personal savings, saving for a downpayment on a home, paying off a home loan, reducing monthly expenses, buying investment properties, making smarter investments, etc

The best place to start is to look at where you are now in each of these categories. Then ask yourself where you want to be in each category. Write those things down using this goal setting format. Then one at a time, apply the SMART goal strategy to them. It won’t happen overnight, but expect it to take some time for you to build out these road maps for yourself.

Example of Personal SMART Goals

SMART goals are most commonly used for personal achievement. Some personal SMART goals could be, but not limited to:

  1. Reading 25 pages a day or 30 minutes a day from a book related to your career
  2. Learning a foreign language that would benefit you in some way (remember it has to be relatable)
  3. Learning to play an instrument like the guitar or piano
  4. Learning to draw
  5. Learn to sing (by the way, Hugh Jackman shares his insight of him learning how to sing here:
  6. Saving money for a house downpayment
  7. Paying off credit card debt
  8. Learning how to overcome the fear of public speaking

SMART Goal Examples for Students

As shared above under academics, students are able to apply the SMART goal format in their own academic careers such as, but not limited to:

  1. A class project
  2. Getting a passing grade in a subject
  3. Applying and getting accepted into a college
  4. Passing an online course
  5. Forming an active study group
  6. Applying for an internship
  7. Forming an academic club
  8. Finding a breakthrough in a research

SMART Goal Examples for Work

Most employers don’t offer career roadmaps for their employees, but if you apply the SMART goal method in your workplace, you’ll be able to create one yourself.

  1. Getting a promotion
  2. Improving your department’s KPI
  3. Reducing headcount while maintaining or improving department productivity
  4. Increasing sales
  5. Growing brand exposure
  6. Improving a product or service
  7. Reducing company attrition
  8. Improving company-wide training

SMART Goal Examples for Fitness

Fitness seems to be the most popular category when it comes to setting goals. Everyone wants to be fit for appearance or performance. Some common SMART goal examples for fitness are:

  1. Losing weight
  2. Finishing a marathon (or a long distance race)
  3. Running a certain distance in a certain amount of time
  4. Being more active by exercising frequently and consistently
  5. Eating healthy
  6. Drinking more water
  7. Meditating frequently and effectively
  8. Being in the outdoors more

What Is An Example of A Measurable Goal?

SMART goals implies that your goals are measurable. The best way to know if your goal is measurable is by a few ways—and these ways work together. First, is your goal quantifiable? Can you attach a number to your goal? Second, can you break down your goal into smaller chunks that are quantifiable? Can you break down that larger number—being your final result—into smaller steps that have a number you can track?

Let’s say you want to save $200 per month. By quickly applying this goal setting format to break down $200, that’s approximately $50 per week. That’s about $7 a day. Can you find a way to save or make $7 extra per day? When you can do that, you’ll have your $200 at the end of one month. Do this every month and you’ll have $2,400 at the end of the year. However, if you can’t consistently keep up with this goal, you’ll need to make some adjustments because this would no longer be attainable; keep that in mind—you’ll need to be able to stay consistent throughout your roadmap of success.

Let’s do another; you want to lose 5 pounds in a month. That’s about a pound a week. How many calories do you need to burn to lose 1 pound per week? According to the internet, it’s about 3,500 calories per week. Now you’re not going to deprive yourself of 3,500 per week, you’re going to eat a little less and workout a little more. You’ll intake less calories and burn more calories. That 3,500 per week is 500 calories a day. Can you eat 250 calories less and burn 250 calories every day? When you can do that, you’ll lose your 5 pounds in a month.

How about training for a marathon; if you’re a little active, you’ll need about 6 months to prepare. You’ll start your first week running every other day at most three miles a pace you’re comfortable with. As you build your endurance, you’ll continue to run every other day but include some resistance training during the week when you’re not running. If you can incrementally add more distance a little more weight to your workout each week, by the sixth month your body will have built enough endurance to run a marathon. There’s a detailed plan here: if you’d like to see what that entails.

How Do You Write A SMART Goal?

SMART goals are super easy to create and lay out. There is a format to follow when mapping out what you want to accomplish. Start by writing or typing out S-M-A-R-T vertically in a document like this:

  • S
  • M
  • A
  • R
  • T

Then you’ll write down your goal next to the “S” (specific). Just brain dump whatever goal(s) you have. You’ll be able to iterate on this, but get your dreams out first. After you’ve listed out your dreams or goals, choose one that would make all of the other ones easy to accomplish if you only had to accomplish one goal. This method comes from the book “The One Thing” which says what is the one thing that you have to do that by doing it would make everything else easier to do?

When you have your one goal, refine it. So if it’s “to get out of debt”, what’s the amount you have to pay off? This amount is your target you need to hit. As you scope out your road map, you’ll know exactly what you need to do and how to track your progress to ensure you stay on track. If you get off track, you’ll see that and know how to get back on track very quickly.

For “M” (measurable), write down your current monthly payment and how many months you have to left on the loan. By how many months do you want to reduce your loan term? Then use basic algebra to figure how much more money each month you have to put towards the loan. If it’s $25 extra per month, that’s about $1 per day. Is that something you can do?

For “A” (attainable), write down how much more money besides the minimum amount you can apply to the month every month that’s doable. So if you can put down another $25 every month to your loan’s principle, by how many months will that reduce your loan term? And is $1 per day something attainable?

For “R” (relevant), this goal has to be relevant or attached to your daily life in one way or another. Ask yourself, is this goal keeping you from doing what you want to do? Or by accomplishing this goal, will it make all of the other goals easier to reach? You need to ask yourself these questions to ensure that there is motive behind this goal. Otherwise you won’t work on it when times get tough.

And “T” (time-bound), you need to attach a timeline to this goal. When do you have to make your monthly payments? Will you have an additional $25 dollars to put towards the principle every 30 days? That’s about $1 a day. You need to commit to that in order to reduce your loan term. As you make these small wins according to the deadline(s) you set, you’ll be able to stay on track and see progress towards your goal. As you see progress, you will, I promise you, you will be more motivated to stick to your goals.


Setting goals using the 5 SMART goal strategy is a proven method to set and keep goals. This method is used time and time again by high achievers and personal development coaches around the world and it just works. Any other goal setting program may hit these points in this SMART goal strategy in different ways, but ultimately they have these points covered. When you clearly defined goals and you work everyday to achieve them, you will accomplish more in less time than you have ever imagined.

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