We all have different goals for ourselves: short- and long-term, small and big, near and far. They can include such things as where we see ourselves in a few weeks, months, or even in a few years; what we hope to accomplish in a given period of time; or what we are hoping to achieve in the distant future. But, what is the importance of goal-setting? What makes a goal SMART? And most importantly, how can we set goals for ourselves that are realistic and achievable?


Goal setting is very closely related to motivation.[1] When individuals are given specific goals to attain, they are more focused and driven, thereby increasing their motivation. Goal setting is also associated with achievement. Studies show that the success of individuals in various settings increases if they have certain goals laid out for them to work towards and achieve. When we have goals for ourselves that we care about and are thoroughly invested in, we will have higher rates of persistence, creativity, and self-regulation. Self-regulation is a key component of success. In order to work towards goal attainment and the sense of satisfaction that comes along with it, we must be able to regulate our behaviours towards achievement.


So how do we set goals and what makes a “good” goal?


One widely used technique to develop goals is the SMART model.[2] SMART goals are:

  • Specific – they define exactly what is to be attained
  • Measureable – there is a way to track the progress
  • Attainable – the goal is possible to be achieved
  • Realistic – the goal is “doable” considering one’s capacities and resources
  • Timely – there is a timeline for goal completion; the goal can be completed in a reasonable amount of time

“The most important thing to remember when setting a goal for yourself is that the goal should be meaningful and valuable to YOU.”

SMART goals are an effective way to set goals because they push you to consider the what, why, and how of the desirable goal. When a goal is clearly written out and steps are outlined as to how the goal will be achieved, the result is much more likely to be successful.


Determining a goal that provides the right amount of challenge is also important. If the goal is too difficult, the value of the end result decreases and we are more likely to give up. Similarly, if the goal at hand is too easy for one’s abilities, it’s easy to become bored and lose interest in goal attainment.


The most important thing to remember when setting a goal for yourself is that the goal should be meaningful and valuable to YOU. If you don’t have interest in the goal you are aiming to achieve, you’re much less likely to be successful. Pick an aspect of your life that is meaningful to you and that you wish to improve on in order to be successful.


Sometimes it helps to write your goals down in a journal and keep progress notes to see how you are doing. Other people may find it helpful to share their goals with family and friends in order to have a social support system to help them succeed. Whatever method you may choose, be consistent and be persistent. Set clear, realistic goals for yourself and you may be amazed at what you can achieve.


[1] Setting Goals: Who, Why, How? (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://hilt.harvard.edu/files/hilt/files/settinggoals.pdf


[2] SMART Goals: How the Application of SMART Goals Can Contribute to Achievement of Student Learning Outcomes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://absel-ojs-ttu.tdl.org/absel/index.php/absel/article/download/90/86