Get SMART: How to Set Realistic Goals

Updated By Staff Writer on April 14, 2020

In today's society, it is easy to get caught up in a busy day-to-day routine. You may be working hard daily, but not be working efficiently and maximizing your time and energy on achieving long-term goals. Setting goals and expectations leads to long-term vision and short-term motivation. By organizing time and resources, you can make the very most of your time—and life. Once goals are set, it is important to measure the steps you are taking and celebrate each achievement.


Have you ever heard of SMART goals 1 ? Simply put, it's a goal-setting system that will enable you to be successful. By utilizing SMART goals, you can simplify your goals and ensure that each goal you are setting is important to you and that there is value in achieving it. SMART is an acronym, and although there are several slight variations, it can be used to provide a comprehensive idea of what an achievable goal should be:


A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To make sure your goal is specific, ask yourself the five “W” questions:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where will this happen?
  • When will this happen?
  • Why should this happen?

For example, a general goal would be “Lose weight and get in shape.” But a specific goal would be “Sign up for an aerobics class at the local gym and participate at least 3 times a week for one month.”


It's important to establish a way to measure your progress toward achieving your goal. If your goal is to get in shape, perhaps a method of measuring your progress would be to track how many pushups you can do in one session.


When setting your goal, ask yourself if there is anything outside of your realm of influence that could stand in the way. For example, if your goal is to have the members of your basketball team be able to do 50 pushups in a minute, you'll need to make sure your team is also committed to the goal. Otherwise, you'll have a hard time making it happen.


Set goals that you are able and willing to work toward. While you should always set goals that will challenge you to be better, it's important to take a realistic approach. For example, if you don't have any experience with long-distance running, perhaps it wouldn't be wise to set a goal to complete a triathlon. That doesn't mean you won't complete a triathlon in the future! Try setting a goal to run a 5K first, and then build up to a more intense competition. Get more ideas about how to set realistic goals in this blog post.


Give yourself a time frame for accomplishing your goal. Without a time frame tied to your goal, there isn't a sense of urgency and you'll be less motivated to make it happen. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, set a realistic date for when that goal could be accomplished. “Someday” won't work.


Check in on your goals regularly. It's important to recognize what's working for you and what isn't. This is an ideal time to readjust goals if need be, or create new ones. For example, if you're overwhelmed with your goal to attend a fitness class three times a week because of your work schedule, adjust your goal to make it to class once a week. After you've successfully attended a class once a week for a month, adjust your goal again. Once you have achieved your goals, make sure to enjoy this time, reward yourself, and continue to stay motivated for future goals.


At Independence University, your online registrars want to challenge you to incorporate goal setting in your day-to-day life. We believe that by following your SMART goals you can achieve success while navigating college and day-to-day life! Contact us to find out how we can help you succeed.