Intellectual Wellness: Setting SMART Goals

Yesterday‘s blog post I mentioned setting SMART goals. Today, I will go into more detail on how to set these types of goals. I learned about SMART goals in grad school. Part of my practicum was to set two SMART goals for myself at the beginning of the semester. We set these goals and then created action logs to document how we were accomplishing these goals. By the end of the semester, we were required to reflect of the process and if we accomplished our goal. I was looking through my stuff last night to prep for this blog post and I want to point out a couple of things before I get into the nitty gritty of setting SMART goals.

First off, be willing to re-evaluate the goal and action plan. One of my goals was to be a better listener in class. But I realized by midterm that I was concentrating so much on listening during class to the discussion, that I was not participating or adding to the discussion. I needed to re-evaluate my action plan to make sure that I was listening but also contributing in class. Feedback helped me realize this.

Second, SMART goals are tricky. In theory they seem really easy to set…but setting a really good SMART goal that is detailed enough in the action plan but easy enough to adjust as needed…it’s difficult. Everyone in my class required a little extra help from our practicum supervisor in refining their SMART goal.

That being said, I’m not an expert in setting SMART goals, but I do think they are a great way to get started. Ok, let’s get into it shall we?

SMART goals = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound

Specific:  your goal needs to be specific. “I want to be a better listener” isn’t specific enough. “I want to be a better listener in class to better contribute to class discussion” still isn’t really specific, but it is a move in the right direction.

Measurable:  you need to have a way that you can measure your progress. Listening (which is probably a bad example-I should have used a running goal because that is easier…oh well) is difficult to measure. You could operationally define what you think listening is and determine how much % you listen now and what you would want to be at. It’s also hard because listening is probably a skill that is quality of listening over quantity of listening. You can document after class and give yourself a rating of how well you think you were doing listening and reflect on why that is. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your goal from others as well.

Achievable:  this plus the realistic (next) are really important. You want to set yourself up for success but while also pushing yourself. Setting a goal that is actually an achievable goal (screw it, I’m going to lump them both into this category because honestly…I don’t see a big difference in these two. I think they go hand-in-hand) and realistic goal helps you keep motivated to actually accomplish that goal. If you said “I want to spend 90% of class time listening” … well that might not be achievable or realistic especially if you are also graded on class participation. At some point in time you need to make sure that you are listening efficiently  but not just sitting there doing nothing. An easier example of this is if you have never run a mile before, you can’t say I’m going to run a marathon next week. That’s not achievable or realistic. But you could say I’m going to run a mile next week and plot out what that would look like.

The tricky part about setting these goals is that they have to be achievable but also challenging. We talked about Yerkes-Dodson law a lot in my cognition class and that’s how I imagine goals as well. That inverted U shape. You want to be at the top of that where it is the most motivating and challenging. If you go too challenging then you drop in your motivation and you no longer feel like you can accomplish the goal. It’s tricky. Which is why it is really good to make sure that you are able to re-evaluate your goals. I like to do this by setting some small milestones to check in w/ goals (I also term these as small wins so it helps keep me motivated throughout the process…it’s always nice to have that feeling of accomplishment)

Lastly, the goals need to be time-bound. When do you want to accomplish this goal? Yesterday I mentioned a year…so what goal do you have that you want to accomplish in a year?

Generally speaking, I think setting one good long term goal w/ the SMART goals criteria is great. Within that, you can create an action plan…by 3 months where do you want to be in your progress? At that time, you could re-evaluate as well. Is this working for me? Is it too challenging? Not challenging enough? How is my motivation? What I am doing well? What I am I struggling with? Make sure you dedicate some time at least every couple of months to re-evaluate. I do the same thing when I consult. I do small updates and meetings to make sure what I am working on is what the client wants and everything is running well. If it isn’t, what changes need to be made? What do I need to be doing differently? By doing this frequently and having quick meetings, a small problem gets fixed right away as opposed to manifesting into I have completed the project and it wasn’t what they were expecting.

Are SMART goals something you would be interested in setting? Do you already use them? If so, how? Share your thoughts w/ me in the comments below about SMART goals! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter or email me at

7 thoughts on “Intellectual Wellness: Setting SMART Goals

  1. Pingback: Clarify Your Goals for Greater Success | Create Your Life By DesignCreate Your Life By Design

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