Getting Started With Goal Setting

Have you ever set a goal to “eat healthier” or “exercise more”? How well did that work for you? If your answer is, “Not very well,” it’s not surprising. Abstract goals with vague outcomes don’t provide you with enough direction for what actually needs to be done. To greatly improve your likelihood of success, try setting SMART goals to create lasting behavior change.

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym for a goal-setting strategy that helps you clarify outcomes, focus your efforts, and be more productive in moving toward a goal. When you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound, you are much more likely to succeed.1

To see how to transform a goal into a SMART one, let’s look at the example:

“I want to exercise more.”


Create a goal that has a clear and focused path for exactly what you will do. It should include details that clarify what you hope to achieve.

“I want to get regular cardio exercise.”


Your goal should include a way to track or measure your progress, and it should tie in with the “specific” component. How will you know when you’ve reached this goal? What will the result look like?

“I would like to get regular cardio exercise. A routine would look like going several times a week.”


Make sure that your goal is within your capabilities and not too far out of reach. Take into account the small (but important!) steps needed to get there.

“I haven’t run or jogged in a few years, but I can walk briskly! That will increase my heart rate and get me outside.”


Make sure that your goal is something you will be able to continue doing as part of your regular routine and lifestyle.

“My kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I have some time to go for walks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings.”


Give yourself a target date or deadline by which the goal needs to be met. This will keep you on track and motivated to reach the goal, while letting you evaluate your progress along the way.

“I would like to have this routine established before our family vacation three months from now so I can walk a lot without needing to take breaks.”


Once you’ve put it all together, you’re left with the following SMART goal:

“I will establish a consistent cardio exercise routine by walking briskly three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for three months as I prepare for our family vacation.”

Set a SMART Goal of Your Own

  1. Initial Goal. Write down the goal you have in mind.

  2. Specific. What do you want to accomplish? Who needs to be included? Why is this important?

  3. Measurable. How can you measure progress and know if you’ve successfully met your goal?

  4. Achievable. Do you have what you need to achieve this goal? If not, what do you need to obtain? Is the amount of effort needed equal to what meeting the goal will bring to you?

  5. Realistic. Why am I setting this goal now? Is it aligned with the direction I wish to grow in?

  6. Time-bound. What’s the deadline and is it realistic?

  7. Your SMART goal: Craft a new statement of your goal based on what your answers to the questions above have revealed. Share your goal with your coach for support and accountability!


  1. Disease prevention and healthy lifestyles. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  2. S.M.A.R.T. Goals Worksheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from: