Setting Smart Goals

(Last Updated On: August 27, 2018)


At the beginning of every year you probably begin with a set of resolutions or some goals (or both), but do you know that there is a difference between the two. Understanding this is key to fulfilling them, so we will look at what resolutions really are and then, how setting smart goals is important if we are to achieve any success at all.

According to a quick search on Google, I came across the following definition for “resolution:”

  1. a firm decision to do or not to do something
  2. the quality of being determined or resolute
  3. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

A good look at those words tells us that making resolutions is really about making a serious commitment to, change, do, or stop doing something. They are to be quality, firm, resolute decisions that solve a problem. They also require action. Resolutions and goals are different. Understanding this is key.

  1. This is an example of a resolution: “I will exercise three days per week!” or ” I will join the dancing group” – a simple decision.
  2. This is an example of a goal: “I will improve on my relationship with my spouse and save some money – a decision but more detailed planning has to go into this to make this a reality and it has to be measured over time.


Since most people confuse the two, we will treat both similarly for this post, but with the emphasis on goals, however, please note that this is significant in why most don’t follow through with resolutions. They set goals thinking that they are making resolutions, without understanding that goals require a plan.

I challenge you to read on to see if this helps and leave your own valuable input below this article if you desire.

goals on paper

Same Old, Same Old – Ringing in the New with Old

So why do we sometimes fail to follow through with our intentions? Why are we as human beings not learning, growing and on our way to perfection? Some may say, “life happens!” (Some may even choose to use other words here).

Here is a list of possible reasons. Do any of these apply to you?

  1. The reason for our having to reset and make new resolutions (sometimes, the same ones) is because we have failed to properly govern ourselves in the past
  2. We fail to take action in a consistent manner
  3. We continue to fall prey to the same excuses every time
  4. We allow circumstances to dictate our lives rather than proactively take charge of our lives
  5. We may be bringing the same negative attitudes to deal with the same problems we are having today
  6. We keep the wrong company

Dealing with the same problems every year, using the same methods, in the same way, will yield the same results all of the time. Sometimes, those problems are people…  🙁

It’s time to change! After all, it’s another year and we aren’t getting any younger…

Our Maturity and Personal Value System

Could it also be that we are not as mature as we should be? How do we measure maturity by the way? Is it proportional to our age and the number of life experiences we have been exposed to? Now it gets complicated because we all react differently to situations and based on our own value-system and frame of reference.  Some of us learn quickly and make adjustments and some border on madness by repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

A common and popular model that ensures we reach our goals is called SMART, made popular by Professor Robert S. Rubin.
There is plenty of information about SMART out there already, however, I will reference it in order to make a greater point. Namely, the reason why we break our “resolutions.”

Set goals

Achieving Goals – the Importance of Setting Goals the Right Way

What is that acronym “SMART” all about anyway? This model is used in almost every major training module regardless of the topic being taught – by professionals, educators, and personal coaches. SMART is a core training device to get people to set goals effectively. Why? The answer is this… it works providing one stays with the plan! Yes, and yet even with a plan, there is an important characteristic needed for the plan to work. It’s called commitment, which manifests as action. Without commitment and action, all of our lofty resolutions and goals die an unfruitful and peaceful death.

SMART Employers produce SMART Employees – A win-win

The model is used for businesses and individuals, as both can benefit as they take advantage of the objectives and practical tools from the SMART model. It’s a win-win situation.

Progressive companies know that the personal development of their employees is tied to the company’s overall success, culture, and reputation. This is why companies collectively spend millions every year on training and human resources.

People can be a company’s greatest asset. Get people to change and it can cause the productivity and value of the whole company to change for the better. It is sometimes unfortunate that many of us as employees miss out on the opportunity to become better, and at someone else’s expense. Let’s look at the model below and its variations.

Setting SMART Goals Using SMART is how we manage and ensure we attain our goals

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

Looking at the SMART model, we can see that it really does work. There is enough practical guidance in its definition that I could stop writing this article now. Yes, but don’t go just yet. Please read on.

Now, we will be using SMART to lay out an overly simplistic scenario:

Smart Goals Example – Task & Objectives:

– Task: Improve my relationship & save money Setting goals effectively

S – Specific/Significant

Avert stress, misunderstanding, financial concerns I will spend (X) amount of meaningful hours per day with my loved ones at any cost. During this time, we will do these things: exercise, play, chat and discuss our financial goals with the intention of saving an amount of money monthly going forward.

M – Measurable/Motivating

At the end of 3, 6, 12 months we should be visibly healthier, happier, understand each other better and have more money at our disposal.

A – Achievable/Agreed

We have agreed to readjust our lives to make this happen. We have the time, we are physically able and we have income.

R – Relevant/Realistic

We want to live our lives peaceably, have the right attitudes when dealing with challenges and the unexpected and we want to be financially viable.

T – Timely

By the end of the year (or two), we will be in a confident and better position overall, in all aspects of our relationship

 SMART Goals Example – Future

Stepping into the future

Five years from now, a serious financial crisis occurs. Where are we now in our “plan?” Have we maintained our goal by taking consistent action, or has life happened?

“Life happened!” is not an excuse

Being properly prepared for this situation, would cause us to react and respond accordingly and with the right attitude. Ideally, we should have followed the plan and therefore already prepared for this adversity financially and otherwise.

However, let’s say we dropped the ball. We tried our “best” but “life happened.” Somewhere along the way, our SMART goals became “STUPID.” A goal with no support system. We allowed the thorns and weeds of life to grow up around our beautiful “plan(t)” without taking proper care to nurture it. Here is where we miss an opportunity to succeed and why some fail to achieve goals.

Each goal needs a support system, namely our attitude/mindset and action!!


Now, do you see what I mean? It is OK to have a brilliant and well-documented plan (SMART goals) that

  • looks good on paper
  • is filled with all the goodies from our SMART training

but unless we have the right attitude (are committed and take action), we end up with little progress and back at square one. This happens whether we are rich, poor, educated, black, yellow or white, Christian, Muslim, etc. We all fail when we don’t stick to the plan and take action. Each goal needs a support system…

  • A good attitude/mindset
  • consistent action

Without this, our development and reaction to adversity will be unpredictable, untrustworthy and unstable. That’s why we give up. It’s easier.

Now we see that we can fail from the outset by not having the right attitude and rob ourselves of any chance of success. Success is the end result of setting SMART goals.

Successful Goal Setting, Sticking to the Plan!

dart boardThis is my personal definition of success. Success is a process of steps that are followed diligently. They are repeated over and over again. They are based on principles and not personal values, nor emotions.

Are you succeeding at failing? This may be why. Our attitude towards our goals may be wrong. We need more than a plan. We need to have a plan for the plan. We do this by having the right attitude and taking action.


What more is there, you may be asking? I know, it’s time to wrap it all up.

  1. First, we are reminded that we should be SMART in setting goals.
  2. We looked at its definition and application with the help of a scenario
  3. Then we learned why we can still fail despite following proven methods that work re. SMART, by not having the right attitude and not taking consistent action to stay the course

Now we will conclude this presentation and hopefully end with a solution we can use.

Another important word that we can use apart from right attitude and action, is proactive. Utilizing this word can result in even a stronger stance as we plan our goals. Being proactive is key in counteracting any opposition to our list of goals. It is acting in anticipation of future problems, requirements, or changes. It’s not a new word. Another way to look at it is planning for the worse and being a step ahead.

many doors

The Power of Making Choices

Finally, as human beings, we are designed by our creator with the awesome ability to make choices.

The ultimate power resides in our minds and in our ability or power to choose what is best, over what is not. We must win the war in our minds if we truly desire to be consistent and determined to win in our plans.

This power granted to us has also given us great responsibility. How we manage this responsibility is dependent on our maturity. With this authority, we have the tremendous but easy task of making choices. We can choose to:

  • be bad or good
  • be weak or strong
  • be deceitful or truthful
  • go back on our word or keep promises
  • be dishonest or honest
  • give up or fight
  • stay still or take action
  • procrastinate or persist and be proactive

Some may think we are only human and so, it's OK not to try too hard to be perfect. However, we don’t falter because we are human, we falter because we make bad choices or live below the principles and values that would give us a good… Click To Tweet
…If only we had counted the costs before making any decision, we could have saved ourselves much time and be more on point in life. Every new year would be welcomed as an opportunity to truly move forward not reset. The mind is the most powerful tool for overcoming our weaknesses. It determines our character and our personality. At some point in the near future (now), use it to look back at the past and examine ourselves. This will allow us to truly reposition ourselves for greatness. It is simply called, learning from our mistakes.

Let us truly transform ourselves by making good choices, being proactive, having a good attitude/mindset and taking consistent action.

Have a SMART year!!

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