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13 Personal Smart Goals to Help You Grow
personal smart goals examples
Self-Development

13 Personal Smart Goals to Help You Grow

You can get there!

Even if you've never sat down and intentionally created a list of goals, you're likely familiar with working toward milestones. This can be something as small as completing all your work in time to enjoy the weekend or as grand as saving up for a new house, car or large purchase.

Setting goals helps build personal development and achieve success, especially when done strategically. In this article, we'll define the different types of goals (personal goals, smart goals), examples of each kind of goal and how to set personal smart goals with intention.


What are personal goals?

Personal goals are the achievements you set out to accomplish in the span of your lifetime. These personal goals can be oriented to achieving a particular lifestyle, such as retiring early or investing enough money so that you're able to earn passive income and work very little – or not at all. They can be family goals – whether that's starting a family, taking a trip or seeing your children reach certain milestones. They can be career goals – such as working for a company you admire or even starting a business of your own.

Personal goals can be as big or small as you make them. For example, you may have your eye set on a big promotion or purchase as a long-term goal. But personal goals can be achieved in the short term and encompass anything from learning one new recipe each month or saving an allotted amount of money from each paycheck to use for fun or leisure. 

What are smart goals? 

Smart goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Realistic (or Relevant and Time-Bound. George T. Doran coined this method of personal goal setting in the early 1980s. His paper, "The S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management Goals and Objectives," was meant to give companies a framework for setting and achieving goals. Since the paper's debut in the 1980s, this goal-setting method has been adopted and adapted by many and has become a widely used way to set personal goals.

How to set personal smart goals

When using the smart goal method, consider these questions for each point in the acronym.

Specific: What are you trying to accomplish? Paint a clear picture of the goal - what it looks like, who it involves and why you need to get there. Why is this something you wish to do or achieve? Get familiar with the motivating factors behind why you want to accomplish this smart goal. When will you work on your goal, and what needs to happen for you to have time to do so? Planning for how you'll reach your smart goal from a time perspective helps keep you on track.

Measurable: How will you measure the success of your smart goal? Utilizing the specifics above, determine what this achievement will look and feel like and how it will be measured. For example, if purchasing a home is your smart goal, what are the parameters that would indicate success? Is it also finding an affordable mortgage rate? Is it buying a house with certain qualities in a desirable neighborhood? Make sure your smart goal is a measurable goal and clarify what those measurements will be. 

Attainable: Smart goals don't necessarily have to be small goals. However, if you're setting a personal smart goal that you have no way of reaching – whether it be lack of tools, knowledge or other boundaries that keep it from being attainable – you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Determine what will be necessary in order for you to achieve the goal you're setting – then work toward obtaining those resources as your first step. 

Realistic: Is it possible for you to meet the smart goal you're setting? If the goal is something like starring in a movie – but you have no acting experience or concrete steps to take to achieve it, it's not likely you'll complete your smart goal. There's no harm in dreaming big – but ensuring you have the proper knowledge, resources and training to reach the smart goal you're setting will make it achievable. If your smart goal isn't realistic, examine what would need to happen to make it more tangible. 

Timely: Even long-term smart goals need to have target deadlines attached in order to achieve them. George T. Doran's original paper on smart goals recommends working backward from the date you want to achieve your goal by creating an outline that identifies the critical needs and logistics that need to happen – and when – to hit your smart goal deadline. Having your goal be time bound helps to ground and frame the work that needs to be done in order to achieve success.

Why set smart goals?

There are plenty of benefits to setting smart goals. Here are just a few reasons you should consider adopting a smart goal framework to achieve personal success.

Setting smart goals improves results

Top achieving professionals all have one thing in common – they set goals and work toward them. When you have a vision to work toward, the path to success becomes more transparent and tangible. Having a measurement plan for how you'll track progress helps identify whether or not you're on track and allows you to maintain the focus needed in order to get there.

Setting smart goals provides a sense of control

Do you often feel like you have little to no control over what happens in your life each day? We all have daily responsibilities we need to get done, from job demands to paying bills, caring for family and other necessary chores. Having a smart goal to work towards gives us something that we're uniquely in control of and can achieve with the right tools, time and hard work.

Setting smart goals holds you accountable 

At one point or another, all of us have dreamt up overarching goals we'd love to achieve someday in the abstract. Setting a smart goal transforms a vague goal into something specific and attainable. It makes the goal you've been dreaming about feel possible in a way it hadn't before by making the goal measurable, time bound and concrete.

Setting smart goals motivates you

Knowing you have the power to change your current circumstances and strive for something better is a powerful motivator. Setting a smart goal takes things a step further. Following the smart goal framework gives you the focus and discipline you need to achieve success. 

Smart goal examples

You understand what smart goals are, what they consist of and how to set them. But you're still feeling stuck or unsure of where to start with your smart goals, reviewing smart goal examples can be helpful. Here are a few smart goal examples to help get you started.

Increase your visibility at work

Particularly in a remote workforce, standing out and getting noticed can be tricky, making this smart goal example important. This smart goal is specific – but there are many different methods for getting there. For example, speaking up at least once during each meeting may be your starting point. This smart goal is attainable and realistic. To achieve it, you may spend extra time preparing for each meeting on your calendar and come ready with the talking point you want to discuss. At the end of each week, you can measure your progress by how many meetings you were able to speak at, what the outcome was and the number of people you've been noticed by at each meeting.

Learn a new hobby in two months

This smart goal example is relevant and time bound. It's essential to be specific in the case of this smart goal – with so many hobby options out there, choosing one that's realistic and attainable to learn is critical. It's also important to understand why this specific hobby is the one you're choosing. For example, if you're working in a very technical field, are you setting this smart goal to tap into your more creative side? Or maybe you're looking for a hobby that could earn you additional income, such as making a specific craft you can sell. Using the smart goal template, paint a clear picture of when, how and why you'll learn this new hobby – as well as what success will look like to you at the end of your two-month process.

Become a regular volunteer

How do you define regularly volunteering? It's up to you to set the parameters of this smart goal. Think about factors such as how much time you have to devote to volunteering, access to transportation that will get you to and from your volunteer work and what kind of organization would be most fulfilling for you to spend your time at. In addition to the time spent volunteering, determine how else you might measure this goal and what time frame you want to achieve this in.

Wake up earlier

The easiest way to get more time into your day is to wake up earlier than you usually do. When setting this smart goal, starting small and working your way up to the optimal time you're looking to rise each day is vital. Determine a realistic, attainable amount of time to set your alarm clock earlier – this can be as small as 15 minutes to start. Using the "timely" porting of the smart goal acronym, work backward from the date you want to achieve waking up earlier by, and determine how you'll get there by plotting out how much earlier you'll rise in the weeks or months leading up to the final goal of your ideal morning routine.

Improve your time management 

Similarly, just because you have extra time doesn't necessarily mean you're able to use it wisely. If your smart goal is to become more productive, determine when you'd like to have this goal achieved, why it's important to you and the barriers to entry that you see. This can be distractions throughout the day or putting more structure into your workday when you complete tasks.

Take 10 minutes to reflect on your wins of the week

At the end of a long week, it's all too easy to focus on what went wrong and what could have gone better. Making a smart goal to look at what did work for you can help you improve the weeks to come. This smart goal is easily attainable and realistic has a measurable time frame. Taking time to reflect on your wins helps you become more self-aware, which will improve many areas of your life and help you stay motivated.

Limit social media use

personal smart goals examples
(Charday Penn / Getty)

This is a great smart goal example for students as well as anyone who finds themselves aimlessly scrolling through social media. There can be a variety of specific motivators behind this smart goal – from increasing productivity to improving sleep and even better self-esteem since you'll be spending less time comparing yourself to others. Depending on how heavy of a social media user you are, the time frame for achieving this smart goal can vary greatly. But using the smart goal framework to determine why this is important, how you will measure success and the date at which you're looking to have this habit kicked by will help yield positive results.

Organize one room in your house each week

Living in an organized and clutter-free space comes with a host of mental health benefits, which makes this smart goal example a compelling one to consider. Notice that instead of setting a goal to organize the entire house, this smart goal is broken down into a more achievable, realistic one. When setting this smart goal, you can make this goal even more manageable by assessing how many hours each day per week you'll spend organizing the room you're working on for that week. This smart goal also makes it easy to work back on from a time perspective – the number of rooms in your home will dictate how many weeks it will take to achieve.

Make one 20-minute phone call to a friend or family member each week

Hectic schedules can make it easy for us to lose touch with the people we care about. Reconnecting with the people that matter in your life is a crucial smart goal example – one that can be reached by setting aside time each week to dedicate to it. When working toward this smart goal, get specific on who you most want to connect with, then find out when you're both free to speak. This can be done efficiently thanks to scheduling tools and online calendars. To ensure you stick to this goal, consider sending out calendar invites to those you're planning to speak to in order to help you stay on track.

Meditate for five minutes every day

Mediation has plenty of health benefits – but blocking out large amounts of time to devote to this practice can be challenging. This smart goal example makes meditation more achievable and realistic by devoting only five minutes per day to the practice. Even the busiest of people can spare five minutes – and even if you're not successful the first time you try meditating, making it a point to give it a try for at least five minutes every day is a measurable way to see improvement and progress. 

Build an emergency fund that covers six months of expenses

No one likes to think about the worst-case scenario. But being prepared in the event of an unexpected job loss or emergency is a smart goal to make. Budgeting is another chore no one looks forward to doing – but focusing on identifying how much you could be saving makes looking at your overall budget less overwhelming. Measure the expenses you accrue each month, then measure how much you can save each paycheck. From there, it will be easy to see the path forward for how long it'll take to save up enough money to cover you in case of an emergency.

Plan healthy meals during the workweek

Time is often a barrier for those looking to eat healthily. This smart goal makes doing so more achievable by setting specific parameters for which meals you'll plan how many times per week this will happen. Determine when your meal planning and preparation will occur – whether it's all at once on a Sunday or each evening prior to getting you prepared for the following day.

Add one new contact to your network each week

If you're looking to build and grow your career, there's no better smart goal than networking. Instead of setting a smart goal to "network more," adding one person to your network each week makes the goal more attainable and realistic, as well as measurable. However, clicking the "add" button on LinkedIn is not enough for this smart goal. Determine how much time you'll spend searching for someone who's a viable network connection, how long it will take you to write a compelling introductory message and the parameters for which you're measuring the quality of this new contact. 

Summary

Whether you're striving for personal growth, a successful career, self-improvement or other overarching goals to become the best version of yourself, setting smart goals can help you get there. Write smart goals down, get specific on why they're important and how you'll achieve them. Remember to make sure the smart goals you set are relevant and time bound, measurable goals that you're able to achieve. Some of the smart goals you set out to complete may be hard to accomplish at first, but you're sure to achieve success with the right attitude and hard work.

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