The beginning of a new year is when most of us review where we have been and where we want to go. This type of review is important for us personally and professionally. However, goals should not only be done once a year but throughout the year. There are many ways to accomplish this, and one of the best is setting SMART goals.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. This article will address each of these SMART areas and how they pertain to both the personal and professional areas.


Being specific is probably the hardest one to address. It is instinctive to write down grand goals with high expectations. Goals should be written down, but it is best to start out small, so they actually be achieved.

If you look up at a 1,000-step staircase all at once, you might think you can never accomplish climbing that staircase. Most people will look at a goal in this way. One step at a time is the best way to work through your goals. By taking, say, three steps at a time in climbing the staircase, over time you have reached beyond what you originally set out to do.

Keeping goals concise and simple is also difficult. The more solid your goal, the better the outcome. Simple is best because it is more understandable. One sentence is sufficient in addressing what you need to say, and being too wordy just makes a goal more formidable. Brevity will win the battle in stating the necessary facts for your target outcome.


Having an specific plan will help address what needs to be measured. Now it's time to determine how to measure your goals.

Metrics are great tools, but can also be used in the wrong manner. Be realistic in what you want to accomplish. Don't overstate the numbers or the types of plans to accomplish your goals. The plans should be there help to motivate you or your team into action.

All too often, the metrics being defined are so cumbersome you need a math degree to understand them. Measurements are meant to be used as a gauge to see how well you are actually performing the goal. What is most important is you are actually heading toward the goal, and the measurement is a guide to keep you on track for its achievement.


Once you establish what you want to do and how to measure it, the next step is it actually achieving. Goals should be incremental. As stated previously, smaller steps are better than trying to accomplishing it all at once. The incremental approach helps you to gauge if the goal is realistic.

This is where you may want redefine what you want to do. Goals are not written once and set in stone. There is always fine tuning and adjustments that may need to done. In fact, you may have to scrap a goal all together and start over.

This is a process of learning what works and what does not. There will be a give and take in this phase, but in the end, this will help determine a better strategy for both you and your organization.


This step is where a lot of people go beyond what is really necessary. Matching the goals to your needs and ambitions can be contentious. Being realistic is what makes the most sense.

This goes back to the specificity of the goal. The better you state the intended achievement; the less likely you will tend to go overboard.

Individuals and organizations both have certain obligations that need to be met. Goal-setting is the best way to achieve these requirements. Common sense is the best rule of thumb in making sure your intended outcomes match your needs.


A timetable determines when these goals will actually be met. Setting milestones and completion dates helps all parties to be committed.

Commitment in one of the hardest things for people and organizations. This is a way to have control over the outcomes that are vital to its success. You do not want to overpromise or underdeliver in this area.

These milestones must be just as realistic as the goal itself. There will be times that adjustments will need to be made on deadlines; that is to be expected. What matters most is that you are taking necessary steps in completing the intended goals.

Finally, goal-setting is not a one-time pursuit, but should be for a lifetime — whether it pertains to the individual or an organization. There will always be something that needs to be accomplished. The best way is to take the time necessary, communicate what is required and have commitment to get that goal achieved.

Robert Kennedy stated it best: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."