How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve

A woman brainstorming ideas

We all set big goals for ourselves. We want to learn to play an instrument, learn a new language, or maybe start a new business. The problem is that these goals are so huge that we don’t know where to begin, and so vague that they’re almost impossible to actually complete. The key to good goal setting is to break your larger goals down into smaller ones and complete those one at a time.

The SMART goal system is used across industries to help people set small, realistic goals, and actually achieve them, laying the foundation for accomplishing their larger dream. Let’s explore what SMART stands for!

Specific: Do you want to learn another language? Has that been on your bucket list for years? Maybe it’s time to actually pick a language. Make sure there are no vague statements in your goals, big or small. You can’t achieve something if you don’t even know what that thing is.

Measurable: You have to know when your goal is complete. If you want to lose weight, then you can technically say you’ve accomplished that goal after you’ve shed the first ounce. But you don’t want to lose just 1 ounce! What do you want? Attach a number to that goal to help you keep track of your progress.

Actionable: How are you going to complete your goal? You may want to learn to bake perfect French macarons, but just saying it won’t make it happen. Will you take a class? Watch YouTube videos? Use a cookbook? Make sure you include an actionable step in each goal.

Realistic: Your goal has to be realistically attainable for you. Look at your schedule, resources, and abilities before setting a goal. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Set smaller objectives that can be achieved step-by-step on the way to your ultimate goal.

Time-bound: Set an end date for each of your smaller goals. This doesn’t mean your whole goal has to be complete by then. It’s just a time to evaluate your progress and tweak your plan if something isn’t working.

Using this system, “I want to learn a new language” becomes “I want to be conversationally fluent in French by my trip to Paris next Spring. I will start by completing the beginner’s French class at the local language school on Wednesdays from 7-9pm, which fits my schedule and my budget.” Now the goal is actionable, and much more attainable.