SMART Goal Setting

By Leo Gura - January 28, 2014 | 4 Comments

How to set SMART goals and how to go even further, beyond SMART.

Video Transcript

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Hey this is Leo, for and in this video we are going to talk about setting smart goals. So what are SMART goals? We are going to break that down. We’re going to talk about how to set goals in a smart way. I’m going to talk about, how to set powerful goals, goals that you can achieve. Versus the type of goals that most people set that are not achieved and do not create the kind of success that people want from their goal setting process.

SMART is actually in acronym spelled S-M-A-R-T. It actually stands for something in the goal setting process. This has been a really widely publicized concept. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals if you work in the corporate environment or do any kind of personal development work, basically all across the world.

SMART, what does SMART mean? There are basically five points here. And it tells you what kind of goal. It basically defines the goal. So you know that if your goal hits all five of these points, then it’s a good goal. And if it doesn’t have these five points, then it’s a bad goal. So let’s talk about it.

The 5 Points To SMART Goal Setting
SMART, and I am going to list each item, each letter in the word SMART and then I am going to go in detail into each point.

First is Specific. The S in SMART stands for specific. Your goal needs to be specific. The next point is M, measurable. The next point is A, attainable. The next point is R, realistic. And the final point is T, timing. So those are the five points of a smart goal.

So you can literally use this as a checklist, this is how it’s intended to be used. Once you create a goal, you create this rubric or checklist. You go through and you use it to ask yourself, “Is it smart? Is it specific? Is it measurable? Is it attainable? Is it realistic? Is it timely?”

Now you can probably, just from what I’ve said right there, already get a lot of value if you just go and analyze all of your goals based on that simple model without even any further explanation because these ideas are self-explanatory.

But let me going to some of the nuances here, and then I’m actually going to give you my improved version of the goal setting process. Because I think that SMART is okay, but I think there is a better way to think about goals and to use this SMART checklist.

In fact, I don’t really use it. I don’t find it as valuable as some other ideas that I have.

Be Specific

So, SMART. Specific, actually this is the most valuable component of the five point smart system. Your goal needs to be specific. And I do buy into this idea. I think it’s really, really important that when you create a goal you try to specify it in as much detail as possible.

The biggest reason that people do not achieve their goals, aside from they don’t really set goals, is that they are not specific. A vague goal, like I want to lose some weight, or I want to get into a relationship, or I want to make more money, or I want to improve my wardrobe, these are very vague goals. If you set a goal like that, what tends to happen is, first of all, I wouldn’t even call this a goal. This is a vague desire that you have. And a vague desire is not a goal, and is not going to accomplish anything like what a goal will accomplish.

To set a good goal you need to be very specific. That means, details. As much detail and imagery, detail as you can. For example, if you want to live in a nice house, instead of saying I want to live in a nice house or a nice place, you specify.

Where exactly do you want to live? What size of house? What location? What city? How many bedrooms? Be very very specific. So maybe you want to live in San Diego. Okay you want to live in San Diego. What part of San Diego? Do you want to live in a suburb? Do you want to live in a condo? Do you want to live in a high-rise? You want to live in a duplex? Do you want to live on the beach? Do you want to live in the city? Where?

Let’s say you want to live in a high-rise. If you want to live in a high-rise, how many square feet should it be? Which direction should it be looking? Should it have an ocean view? Should it have a city view? Should it be near a good school? Should it be near some clubs or some restaurants? What are the details of all of that? How much does it cost? Do you care how much it costs? Go ahead and fill in all those blanks.

What really, I find helps, is to visualize all of that in your mind. Use your mind as a kind of experimentation chamber where you’re prototyping, just rapid prototyping, your ideal life, what you want for yourself. So be very specific but your goals, drill down into them. That is huge.

Make It Measurable

The next part is Measurable. How are you going to know when you’ve achieved it? This is pretty easy for this example of living in a high-rise. You’re going to know because you’re sitting in it, and you’re looking out your window at your ocean view, let’s say. It’s a 2000 square-foot condo and a high-rise, so there you are, you know. But it’s important that you do have that kind of measurable point specified so that you can measure it easily.

So if I ask you, “Have you achieved your goal to live in San Diego?” You know, you have some sort of objective metric that I can look at and say, “Yep you’re right you did.” Or you didn’t, because I can say, I can ask you for your address and if your address is not in that condo that you wanted and it’s very easy to tell for everyone, not just you, that that goal did not come about. Or that it did, if you do have that address.

So make your stuff specific and make your stuff measurable. Now measurable may be a little more tricky, for, say, a business. Maybe a goal that you have is that you want to pull in more clients, you want to pull in more sales, you want to pull in more traffic to your website, you want to pull in more customers to your store. Maybe you want to be better-known in your industry.

But what does that mean to be better-known in your industry? How are you going to measure that? It should be something that a panel of judges, let’s say we have a panel of judges, sitting like the Supreme Court and we can bring forth in front of them some sort of document for evidence that we can say, “Here look, I am now more reputable in my industry.”

What might that look like? That might look like a newsletter article, a news magazine article written about you. Maybe you get the cover shot of a trade journal that you’re part of. Maybe you have a website that receives an X number of visitors per month and those are industry related. Maybe those two things are related. Maybe work in a new job where you are more visible, more public.

Maybe now you have people calling you, two people calling you every week, asking you about your industry or asking to work with you because you’re so visible in your industry. So those are some specific points.

But you can see that a lot of people will have this goal, I want to be better at my job. Yes I want to better at my business, yes I want to have more authority in my industry. But then they don’t specify what those points are. So important: Measurable.

Make It Attainable

Attainable. Is your goal attainable? Is your goal something that you can obtain. If I set a goal of flying to the moon, that’s not something that’s really attainable given my skill set, given my desires. It doesn’t really align with what I even want to do in my life. It’s not really something I should be shooting for. So make sure that something you’re shooting for is something that matches your talents, matches your strengths, matches your desires. Something that can be done.

Make It Realistic

The next point R, is realistic. Again, realistic means that you set it up in such a way that it’s possible to do given the expectations that you have. Is it possible to do it in the time frame that you set it in? Is it possible to do right now given your skills? Or do you need to radically revamp your skills in order to do it? Is it possible to do it at all?

That’s a little bit of a tricky question, because who knows what’s really possible. Most people limit themselves in that respect. It probably is possible for me to fly to the moon, if I was really dedicated, really wanted to do it. But it’s not right for me. Certain things are just too unrealistic in the way that we set it up.

Just the process of it that we tend to set up is what’s unrealistic. Some people expect some sort of fast-track, or short cut, like they want to earn $1 million in a month. That is highly unrealistic. But if you want to earn $1 million, it is totally realistic for anybody, you just have to have a realistic plan in place. So get that into place.

Give It A Time Frame

The last point in SMART is of course the T, a time frame for the goal that you want to accomplish. This is also called time bound — setting time boundaries. So, when do you want to have that condo in San Diego? When are you going to have your picture on the front page of a trade magazine? When are you going to have a marriage? When are you going to have a spouse? Be specific. Will it be a year, a week, a month, minutes? Be as specific as you can get. The more specific the better.

Okay so that’s smart. For every point, it’s pretty clear what each one of those things means. The way that you use this is you simply run down every goal that you’ve got, for you personally, for a company, for what you’re working on. Run through this process to make sure it hits all of these points especially the point of being specific. You want your goals to be very specific.

Beyond SMART

I’m going to give you my thoughts really quickly about a better way to do goal setting. I find that the SMART way is not always the best way to set goals. For me, these are the essentials of setting amazing goals. Alright, ready?

One, make sure the goal is specific. Yes, you have to be specific, so we’re still going to keep that same point.

Next, make sure your goals are huge, big, compelling, inspiring, goals. These goals need to get you fired up and motivated. Those wimpy little “realistic” goals, those layup goals that you’re setting, those are actually going to be harder to accomplish than the big ones because they don’t generate any kind of excitement or passion or motivation within you. So, make sure your goals are big.

Then make sure that your goals are aligned with you. They have to be aligned with you. You have to really want them. Don’t set a goal that’s just, for example, that’s just to earn a lot of money, when what you really want is to spend more time with family. That’s ridiculous, you’re going to waste years and years of your life chasing money when what you really want is to spend time with your family.

It’s going to detract from the time away from your family because you’re going to be spending it all at your job. So be very clear about what you want. That’s where values clarification comes into play, and feelings identification. Identify the feelings that you want to feel. And make sure that the goals you set are going to connect with your top values and your top feelings.

The connection has to be there. The closer that the two are to each other, the better. You don’t want some long circuitous route where you say, “If I go and earn more money, then I can start another business, which will create even more money, which will allow me to then retire. Then when I retire I can finally spend time with my family.” Yeah, good luck doing that.

Why would you want to create that? That’s totally wrong. If you want to spend more time with your family, go directly to what is going to get you to spend more time with your family.

The next point is, look at your goals, visualize your goals, and with as much detail visualize your goals every single day.

For me, I created a mental rule for myself, a mental law. My law is, that I don’t consider myself as having set a goal unless I look at that goal and review that goal for at least a minute or two every day. So, if I set a goal the only way I can even count it as a goal, otherwise I just counted as a vague desire, if I write it down. I have to write it down, and I have to review it, look at it, think about it every single day. Every single day. Every single day until it’s accomplished.

Otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s just a vague desire. I made this rule for myself because it’s too easy to not write stuff down. It’s too easy to be wishy-washy. It’s too easy to be vague. And then nothing happens. So that is my little version of this SMART process. That’s how I would approach setting goals. I think this is what gets you the biggest results.

Wrap Up

Alright so this is it I’m out of time I’m going to sign off please leave me your comments tell me what kind of goals you’re setting and how this has helped you. Please like it and share. That’s why I release this content for free. And of course go to if you’re interested in this topic where we talk about this goal setting process and much more. We talk about advanced techniques for how to really get yourself to accomplish your goals. This is just the tip of the iceberg for achieving your goals. Check out and sign up for the free newsletter there with weekly video updates.

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Karen says:

I like this video; I use the S.M.A.R.T. stuff in my work as a chemical dependency counselor, and I also like the stuff you put in at the end- classic life-coaching stuff! Thanks for all your hard work- this is a great site- it’s my first time here, but won’t be my last, by far! Have a wonder-full day!

Leo Gura says:

Thanks Karen

celeste says:

Hey Leo…. Do you have worksheets for goal setting or any of your other videos? Thank you!

Toralf says:

I have a feeling you might just change my life… If you do, I’ll make sure you know. Thank you ever so much for all the stuff you put out here. I am deeply gratefull.

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