Setting SMART Goals


This is the time of year that people usually start setting resolutions for the coming year. 

But 2020 has been hard, isolating, and unpredictable–and for the time being it seems as though 2021 will be much the same. So setting resolutions for a pandemic year doesn’t sound like fun to most of us. Why set ourselves up for failure? 

So instead of resolutions, today I’m going to be talking about goal setting. Specifically setting SMART goals. Instead of starting 2021 with a list of resolutions that are likely out of our control, let’s go into 2021 with the skill set for goal setting so that we can set smaller, achievable goals for ourselves throughout the year. Learning how to set goals the right way can help prevent the disappointment that so frequently comes with resolutions, because they have been considered and planned for–whereas many resolutions are just wishful thinking. 

So, what’s a SMART goal?

No, it’s not just a goal that’s really really smart. SMART is an acronym. It stands for: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

Let’s dive into each: 


The goals you set should be specific. Having specific goals leaves less room for uncertainty as to whether you’ve actually achieved your goal or not, and also helps you plan out the how of achieving your goal. For example: a non-specific goal would be “I want to read more.” A specific goal would be something like “I want to read one new book every month.” Other questions to ask yourself to make sure your goal is specific: 

  • What’s the purpose of this goal?
  • What will I need to achieve this goal?
  • Are other people involved in this? 


This one pairs along with the specificity needed for S. In the example above, the goal got more specific because it became measurable. The goal was one new book a month–that’s a task you can measure and check off each month, rather than the vague “read more” task. Basically you are asking yourself “I want to do what, by when?” 


This one is fairly self explanatory: is the goal achievable for you? (This is also especially relevant in COVID times–some goals that we previously would be able to achieve might not be possible with the restrictions we’re living with right now.)

For example, if you don’t usually cook, the goal “I’ll make dinner for myself every weekday” is probably not realistic. There are reasons you don’t cook currently which can range from just not really liking it, to not having the skills to cook, to not having enough time. All of these are legitimate reasons to not cook all that often, and need to be considered when setting a cooking related goal. Instead, you could set the goal “I will pick one recipe a week to try” which is much more achievable than 5 home cooked dinners every week. Ask yourself: 


Sometimes, we set goals because we think that’s what we should be working towards. For example, November is National Novel Writing Month, where writers try to write 50,000 words throughout the month of November in order to have a “first draft” of a novel in just a month. If you are a writer in a community of other writers, you have likely heard about it, and possibly signed up to try it yourself. But it’s not actually relevant for all writers. People who write poetry don’t measure their works the same way novelists do. If you’re a short story writer, 50,000 words doesn’t really match up with your craft. So signing up for NaNoWriMo seems like a relevant goal since it’s about writing, but it’s not specific to you. Ask yourself: 

  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • How will achieving this goal improve my happiness or sense of fulfillment? 
  • Will this goal really add value to my life? 

Time Bound: 

Goals that aren’t time bound are hard to accomplish. If you say “I want to go hiking more” that’s a nice sounding goal, but when will you hike more? Next year? On weekends? Will you go on one big hiking trip and call it accomplished? Tie bound alternatives to this goal could be: 

  • I want to go on one hike a week (weather permitting) 
  • I want to climb X mountains over the summer 
  • I want to explore X new trails a month 


The SMART goals method helps you set goals that make sense for you and your life, and can realistically be achieved–meaning much less of that let down that comes every year around resolution time when we realize we didn’t follow through on the ones we set last year.