Motivation Articles

How to Set and Reach SMART Goals

A Printable Goal-Setting Worksheet

You might be gung-ho about tackling new goals, but not so fast! The best way to set yourself up for success is to make sure that your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Using these guidelines is a proven way to create goals that you can stick with for the long haul. After reading the explanation of SMART goals in this article, print our goal-setting worksheet to create your own SMART goals.
Make Your Goals SPECIFIC
Ambiguous or undefined goals aren't going to provide you with the direction you need to succeed. You want to give yourself a concrete goal so you know exactly what you're working toward. You know your goal is specific if it answers these questions:
  • WHO: Who will be involved in helping you reach your goal (including yourself)?
  • WHAT: What exact goal do you want to accomplish? Be very specific. Rather than "lose weight" or "get fit," define those terms: "I will lose 25 pounds," or "I will be able to run a 5K."
  • WHEN: When will you start and when will you reach your goal?
  • HOW: How will you make this happen? These are the action steps to get you toward your goal. If you want to lose 25 pounds in 6 months, your "how's" might look something like: I will eat between 1,500 and 1,800 calories each day; I will exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week; I will track my food and calories burned each day; and I will pack my lunch at least 3 days of the week.
Make Your Goals MEASURABLE
Now that you have some of the specifics of your goal nailed down, it's time to look at how you will gauge your progress. After all, if you don't have any way to measure your goal, how will you know when you've reached it? Your goal is measurable if you can find a way to quantify your success using real numbers. Some examples of measurable goals might be pounds lost, a positive change in blood work numbers, or fitness minutes accumulated.

Make Your Goals ATTAINABLE
It's good to think big, but it's also important that you don't set a goal that is too big. A goal that's attainable for you is one that you believe you can reach and have the means necessary in order to achieve. So if you plan to work out with a personal trainer but don't have the discretionary dollars in your budget, that goal wouldn’t be attainable for you.

To determine whether your goal is attainable, ask yourself honestly if you believe you can achieve it and have all the resources (including time) available to make it happen.  Do you have (or will you be able to obtain) all the support, equipment, knowledge and resources needed to put your goals into action? Does this goal fall in line with your other priorities in life? If not, how can you revise your goal to make it more realistic?
Make Your Goals RELEVANT
You need to make sure that you're choosing a goal that fits you and your lifestyle. Don't choose a goal out of guilt, or just because someone else thinks it's something you "should" do. Pick something that is meaningful and relevant to you and you'll set yourself up for success.

To determine if your goal is relevant, ask yourself why you want to achieve it. So you can feel more confident? Be a good example to your kids? Or live a longer, healthier life? These whys are important because they will serve as your motivation throughout the process.

Make Your Goals TIMELY
If you don't put a deadline on your goal, it will be difficult to know how to pace yourself to reach it. Every goal should have a date, which will help you stay on track. In addition, set up a few benchmarks, or "mini-deadlines" to keep you on track to reaching your big-picture goal and keep yourself accountable.
Print SparkPeople's Goal-Setting Worksheet (PDF) to create your own SMART goals today!
After you've set and implemented your SMART goals, one more important step is to revisit and revise. People change all the time, and your goal might not be serving a purpose for you weeks or months down the road. Be sure to check in with your progress and priorities every few weeks to determine if your goal is still something that's worthy of your time and effort. Happy goal-setting!

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Member Comments

  • These are all great tips. It's gaining the momentum to do them that is the challenge.
  • SMART Goals, the key to success
  • I printed this out and it looks like a really good tool to reteach me some new habits. I know in the past I have had the fear of being alone. At least with the overeating, I could comfort myself that I wasn't really such a loser. If I was too fat, it was a good excuse to cover up my failures. Mostly, people just overlooked me and I was content with that.
    Why now to start again? Because I am done with my own personal fears. Food is not as good as a new friend and it will never take that place. So I redid my goals and made them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely to me. Thanks for this article. It really got me motivated.
  • I've printed this out and it will be taped to a wall for all to see. Excellent!!!!!! So many uses. Thank you for such useful, informative, amazing articles. And its all available to anyone with access to a computer!!!!
  • Excellent article. It was a much needed read for me. To commit to small attainable goals is something I need to do. It was do or die for me in the past. Then quit and have a lot of self recrimination. Facing the truth and what works and what doesn't sometimes it is very hard.
    I have finally reached a place in time of my life to get it done.
    I don't have any smart goals. I do have a generic goal of wanting to lose weight by my 40th Birthday. I believe I am afraid of committing to smart goals. Afraid of being ACCOUNTABLE and afraid of FAILURE. For all of these years on and off again at Sparkpeople, I have never totally committed and or stuck with any changes. Something has to give!
    This was a great article that really got me thinking. I don't have any measurable goals.
    I love this! I am a teacher and set SMART goals with my students twice a year. I never thought to apply the strategy to my fitness and weight loss goals. Thank you!
  • Thank you for this and for making it printable.
  • CASS20132
    Thanks for all the help. I need motivation every day to remind me why I am doing this and that lifestyle changes take time but are so worth it.

About The Author

Melinda Hershey Melinda Hershey
Melinda has a bachelorís degree in health promotion and education and is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer. Before working as an editor for SparkPeople, she developed and taught health programs for several non-profit organizations. She enjoys writing, interval training, yoga, and cooking with friends.