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Setting SMART Goals For Success

What does success mean for you?

It could mean achieving a goal such as losing weight, getting fitter, a better relationship, or finding more ‘me’ time.

Success can come in many different forms. By setting goals for ourselves we can measure whether we have achieved them or not.

But if your goals aren’t followed up with a plan of attack, they remain as dreams that may never come to fruition.

Take a look at the goals listed in the first line of this article. Notice anything?

They are unspecific and unmeasurable. If you set a goal such as ‘getting fitter’ how will you know when you have achieved it?

If you say you want to ‘lose weight’, how will you know when to pat yourself on the back for doing it?

For this reason, there is a popular acronym for goal-setting –SMART.

This is how it works. Your goal needs to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Frame

Let’s look at each of these more closely.


Being specific means that your goal is well articulated and clearly defined – if you don’t really know what you want then you aren’t likely to be motivated to achieve it. It’s important to be specific about not only the outcome you want to achieve, but also the behaviour based changes that are needed to get you there.

In addition to being specific, it is important to be clear about why it is important for you to achieve your goal. Ensuring your goal is worthwhile will increase your motivation and help you succeed in achieving it.

For instance, it is not specific to say, ‘I want to lose weight,’ but it is specific to say ‘I want to lose 10 pounds by improving my diet and increasing my exercise.’

In order for this goal to be motivating, however, it is vital that you think very deeply about why this is important for you. Move past the superficial reasons and hone in on what is really driving what you want to achieve.


Making sure you have some aspect of your goal that can be measured or quantified is also important, i.e. 20 pounds. This allows you to track your progress by taking incremental measurements along the way (not too regularly) and gives you a ‘tangible’ outcome to celebrate.


Make sure it is possible to achieve. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will set yourself up for disappointment and frustration that will diminish your motivation and erode your confidence.

This is a classic outcome of the diet mindset, where an unachievable goal is set (i.e. I will NEVER eat chocolate again), which inevitably results in feelings of failure, self-blame and demoralization.

Setting short term stretch goals is an important tool to help make a long-term goal more achievable. That is, break down the 20 pounds weight loss goal into 5 incremental goals of 5 pounds weight loss; and be sure these increments are supported by specific behavior-based strategies. i.e. “to lose 10 pounds by replacing my morning tea biscuits with fruit”.


Much the same as making your goal achievable, it must be realistic. If your goal is to lose weight, it is realistic (and sustainable) to lose around 1 pound of weight a week. Given this, it would be unrealistic to aim to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks. A more realistic goal would be 20 pounds in 12 weeks.


While your goals must have a deadline, give yourself the time you need to realistically achieve the goal (i.e. half a pound – 1 pound weight loss per week).

Sustain behavior change takes time (on average around 2 months, depending on circumstances) but it is the difference between hitting your goal and then reverting back to where you started, and hitting your goal and maintaining it for years to come.

See if you can SMART-en up your goals. Write them down, and take the steps necessary to make them happen. Success is just around the corner!


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