Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. The acronym has a number of slightly different variations, which can be used to provide a more comprehensive definition for goal setting. Goals with an action plan and benchmarks that have these characteristics are “SMART”. A practical example some of us have experienced in our personal lives can make clear how a SMART goal can help turn hopes into actions that have results. First, an example of not being a “SMART” goal: I will lose weight and get in condition. Get SMART: Between March 15 and Memorial Day, I will lose 10 pounds and be able to run 1 mile non-stop in under 10 minutes. SMARTer: To make the goal really “SMART,” though, we need to add an action plan and benchmarks. They make sure the goal meets the final criteria, “Time based.” They also strengthen the other criteria, especially when the benchmarks include “process” benchmarks for tracking progress on the key actions and “outcome” benchmarks that track early evidence of change and/or progress toward the ultimate goal.
- reduce my bread intake to 0
- increase my vegetable intake to 2 x per day for each of the next 10 weeks.
- wod 3 x week increase my frequency to 5 x week over the next 10 weeks.
- For process, maintain a daily record of exercise over next 10 weeks.
- For outcome measure % body composition to decrease weekly for next 10 weeks
S – specific, strategic:
Goals need to be straightforward and clearly written, with sufficient specificity to determine whether or not they have been achieved. A goal is strategic when it serves an important purpose in your life as a whole, and addresses something that is likely to have a big impact on you.
M – measurable, motivational
If we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it. What measures of quantity, quality, and/or impact will we use to determine that we’ve achieved the goal? And how will we measure progress along the way? Progress toward achieving the goal is typically measured through “benchmarks.” Some benchmarks focus on the process: are we doing what we said we were going to do? Other benchmarks focus on the outcome: are we seeing early signs of progress toward the results?
A – action oriented, attainable
Goals have active, not passive verbs. And the action steps attached to them tell us “who” is doing “what”. Without clarity about what we’re actually going to do to achieve the goal, a goal is only a hope with little chance of being achieved.
R – realistic, rigorous, results-focused,
A goal makes clear what will be different as a result of achieving the goal. A goal needs to describe a realistic, yet ambitious result. It needs to take you out of your comfort zone toward improvement, but not be out of reach. The focus and effort required to achieve a rigorous but realistic goal should be challenging, but not exhausting. Goals set too high will discourage us, while goals set too low will leave us feeling “empty” when they are accomplished.
T – time-based, tracked
A goal needs to have a deadline. Deadlines help all of us take action. For a goal to be accomplished, there need to be definite times when key actions will be completed and benchmarks achieved. Tracking the progress we’re making on our action steps (process benchmarks) is essential: if we fall behind on doing something we said we were going to do, we’ll need to accelerate the pace on something else. But tracking progress on process outcomes isn’t enough. Our outcome benchmarks help us know whether we’re on track to achieve our goal and/or whether we’ve reached our goal. Benchmarks give us a way to see our progress and celebrate it. They also give us information we need to make mid-course corrections.
At CFS we want you to publicly post your short and long-term goals and achievements. The whiteboard at CFS is a place we would love to see you share your challenges and accolades. Enjoy the ride and get posting. Remember, “I want to get in shape” is a nice goal, but only a dream. Hal Urban states in his book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons”, that a goal is a dream with a deadline. I want to do the Filthy Fifty, RX’d in under 30 minutes, by Aug 1st is a goal. Although the infamous “Harvard Study” has proven to have no concrete data, the plethora of research offers validity that writing your goals down increases you commitment and likely hood for success. Do your research, then get writing.
 The SMART goal concept was introduced by G.T. Doran, A. Miller and J. Cunningham in There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives, Management Review 70 (11), AMA Forum, pp. 35-36. What Makes a Goal “SMART”? also draws from the work of Ed Costa, Superintendent of Schools in Lenox; John D’Auria, Teachers 21; and Mike Gilbert, Northeast Field Director for MASC