SMART Goals: How to Create Meaningful Goals

Do you ever feel as if you’re working hard but not going anywhere? Maybe you see small improvements here and there, but nothing really worth writing home about? Well, don’t worry…you’re not alone. In this post, we’re going to talk about SMART goals. This simple system can seriously change your life for the better. Ready to start setting meaningful goals? If so, let’s go!

Countless people spend their lives floating from one job to another or rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off. Naturally, this approach isn’t exactly ideal for achieving your goals. On the other hand, we have SMART goals, which help clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, and improve your chances of achieving what you want in life.

In this post, we’re going to explore what SMART goals are and how you can employ them to achieve your goals, both in the short and long term.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that you can employ to guide your current and future goal setting.

Many attribute the concept of SMART goals to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. The first documented use of the term surfaced in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Since then, Professor Robert S. Rubin (St. Louis University) wrote about Smart goals in an article for The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Rubin stated that SMART goals have come to mean different things to different people, as is evident below.

Breaking Down SMART

In order to develop clear and reachable goals, every goal should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, or significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful or motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed or attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic, or results-based)
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

Rubin also notes that the definition of the SMART acronym may require updating to highlight the importance of efficacy and feedback. Some have even gone so far as to expand it to SMARTER so that it includes two additional focus areas: Evaluated and Reviewed.

How to Use SMART Goals


Your goals need to be clear and specific. If you fumble this initial step, you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve your goal. When drafting your goals, try your best to answer the five core “W” questions”

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is this goal going to take place?
  • Which resources are required to achieve this goal?


It’s critical that your SMART goals are measurable. Doing so allows you to track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps you stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goals.

A measurable goal should address questions such as:

  • How much/many?
  • How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?


Your goals need to be realistic and attainable in order to be effective. In simpler terms, your goals should stretch your abilities but stay in the realm of reality. When you set an achievable goal, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to hitting your mark.

An achievable goal typically answers questions such as:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is this goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?


This element of the SMART goal system is all about ensuring that your goals matter to you. This step also helps you develop goals that align nicely with your other relevant goals. We all need support and assistance in achieving our goals, but it’s important to maintain control over them. That being said, make sure that your plans drive everyone forward, but that you’re still responsible for achieving your personal goal.

You should nod your head when you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this goal worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this goal align with our other goals?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
  • Is this goal applicable to the current socio-economic environment?


Every SMART goal needs a target date. Having a deadline ensures that you stay focused and have something concrete to work towards. This part of the SMART goal system helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.

A time-bound SMART goal usually answers these questions:

  • When?
  • Where will I be six months from now?
  • What can I accomplish in six weeks?
  • What can I do today?

Pros and Cons of the SMART Goal System

The SMART goal system is an effective tool. It provides clarity, focus, and the motivation you need to achieve your goals. It can also improve your ability to reach your marks by encouraging you to define your objectives and define a clear end date. SMART goals are also awesome because just about anyone can use the system without a specialist or any sort of training.

Various versions of the SMART goal system mean that it can lose some of its effectiveness or be misunderstood. Some people believe that the SMART goal system doesn’t work well for long-term goals since it lacks flexibility and others suggest that it stifles creativity. If you’re curious as to the other downsides of the SMART goal system, check out this post – Locke’s Goal-Setting Theory.

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