People use goal setting in all areas of life to help them perform better and achieve more. Smart goal setting serves us by directing focus and motivating action. To make sure you achieve your goals, there are two types of goals you need to be aware of – outcome goals and behavioral goals.
Outcome goals describe the results you want to achieve. These goals are important because they give our actions purpose. However, used alone, outcome goals are rarely effective. Most New Year’s Resolutions fall into this category, which is why most people don’t achieve their resolutions. They focus on what they want but not on how to get there.
Behavioral goals describe the steps you need to take in order to reach your outcome. You can’t control what happens in life because you can’t control other people or circumstances. However, you can increase the likelihood of achieving a goal by focusing on what you do have control over – your actions and behaviors.
In addition, by using SMART behavioral goals, you set yourself up for success because SMART goal setting helps you clarify what you need to do in order to achieve an outcome. The SMART goals template is setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-lined.
SMART Goals Template
S – Specific
Goals need to describe a specific behavior that will lead toward an outcome. Vague goals are usually misunderstood and don’t provide a clear picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. To set specific goals, ask yourself, “In order to achieve my outcome goal, what do I need to do on a consistent basis? Who else is involved? How, when, and where will I do it?”
Ineffective goal: “I am going to get organized.”
SMART goal: “I am going to take 15 minutes each day at 4:00 pm to clean off my desk and file paperwork.
M – Measurable
Setting only outcome goals makes measuring progress very difficult. By setting behavioral, measurable goals, your goal becomes more clear and concrete. As a result, you know if you’re on target and if you’ve achieved your goal. To make your goal measurable, ask yourself, “How much / how many times / how often do I need to do this?”
Ineffective goal: “I will go to more networking events each month.”
SMART goal: “I will attend 1 networking event each week through Organizations X, Y, and Z.”
A – Action-based
Behavioral goals should be action-oriented so you know exactly what you need to do consistently to reach your goals. There are always multiple ways to accomplish your goals. If you don’t define the actions you plan to take, you will probably end up doing a little of this, a little of that, and doing nothing consistently. To make your goal action-oriented, ask yourself, “What action do I need to take on a regular basis in order to achieve my outcome goal?”
Ineffective goal: “I will get 3 new customers this week.”
SMART goal: “I will contact 5 new people from my prospect list each week day and follow up until I speak with them.”
R – Realistic
Goals need to be realistic enough that you can achieve them, yet challenging enough that you stay inspired to keep working at them. Your goal also needs to take into consideration your life context to make sure you have the time, energy, and resources needed to follow through. If a goal isn’t realistic, you could lose motivation and hope, thereby giving up. On the other hand, if it’s too easy, you may procrastinate. Setting realistic goals involves asking yourself, “Do I know what it will take to reach this goal and am I ready and able to do it?”
Ineffective goal: “I will exercise for 4 hours each day.”
SMART goal: “I will exercise for 60 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening.”
T – Time-lined
Defining when you want to achieve something is important to actually getting it done. Creating timelines for behavioral goals helps build consistency. Timelines reflect the level of priority a goal has and prevents you from falling into the “when I get around to it” trap. To set goals that are time-lined, ask yourself, “When am I going to do this? What day? What time? By when?”
Ineffective goal: “I will finish my degree.”
SMART goal: “I will take 2 classes each semester and complete my degree next May.”
Putting It All Together
For your career, you may set outcome goals for categories such as career field, area of expertise, level of responsibility, skill development, or compensation. Personally, you may set goals for family, health, finances, education, social activities, spirituality, or community involvement.
To use this SMART goals template most effectively, you need to define your outcome as well as the actions you will take on a consistent basis. Using the guidelines above, follow these steps:
Using outcome goals paired with behavioral SMART goal setting will set you up for great success in your career. Remember to celebrate your progress and establish consistency, and you will achieve more than you thought you could!