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The S.M.A.R.T. Approach to Achieving Your Goals

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Steps to setting and achieving SMART goals and stretch goals. #Goalsetting #Planning #BulletJournal

Career + Finance

The S.M.A.R.T. Approach to Achieving Your Goals

October 6, 2023

by: The Dimple Life

Dreams without goals are just dreams, and they ultimately fuel disappointment. Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency

Denzel Washington

As the quote above reads, a dream will remain a dream without a goal attached to it. We achieve goals with discipline, consistency, and focus. Goals can help ground you toward a mission. One highly effective method for goal setting is the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By applying this method to your goals, you can significantly increase your chances of successfully achieving the goals you set out for. While SMART goals are the most effective, within that there are stretch goals that we can explore below.

What is a stretch goal?

Stretch goals are so important to personal and professional growth. They are – literally – goals that stretch you outside of your comfort zone and push you to achieve more (more than what you may think you can accomplish!). They help us to think and dream big. Since the goal is so much bigger than what you think you can do, they help inspire new commitment, drive, and effort.

An example of a stretch goal, is if someone is just starting to exercise and they set out to make their stretch goal of running a marathon next year. It might seem completely impossible but with the right steps in place, running a marathon in a year is trainable and it is something anyone can accomplish.

Stretch goals especially feel attainable when you have achieved some “smaller” success. Success and crushing your goals take small steps along the way to reach the finish line. Perhaps you ran your first mile on the treadmill. It’s that extra boost of energy and confidence you get from crushing that first mile that can help you realize you can achieve more.

Once you have identified what your stretch goal is (think about goals both professionally and personally), now how do you achieve them? It’s important to remember to not just think and dream big but the real work happens in the action.

What is a SMART goal?


Vague or broad goals are difficult to measure and can lead to confusion and a lack of motivation. Specific: Be as specific as possible with your goal. In the example above with running a marathon, a marathon is specific. “Run more” as a goal is not. To make your goals specific, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Why is this goal important to me?


If you can’t measure your progress, you won’t know if you’re moving closer to your goal or not. To make your goals measurable, consider the following:

  • How will you track your progress?
  • What metrics or indicators will you use?
  • What is the ultimate measurement of success?

In the example above, running the New York City Marathon is a measurable goal. You can track your progress by putting yourself on a training schedule to work up to the 26.2 miles. Further, running to and from the gym is perhaps 2 miles away that can be another way to ensure your goals and schedule are measurable along the way. Measurable goals allow you to stay on track and adjust your actions as needed.


Setting achievable goals is essential to maintain motivation and prevent discouragement. While it’s essential to dream big, your goals should also be realistic and attainable. To ensure your goals are achievable, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this goal within my control and capabilities?
  • Do I have the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how can I overcome them?

Going back to our marathon example, if you haven’t exercised in years and your schedule is already packed, setting a goal to run six days a week may not be realistic. Instead, start with a more attainable goal, such as running three times a week and gradually increase your fitness and endurance levels from there.

Realistic / Relevant

The relevance and realistic nature of your goals is crucial in maintaining focus and motivation. A goal should align with your values, aspirations, and long-term objectives. To determine if a goal is relevant, consider the following:

  • Does this goal support my overall objectives and values?
  • Is it the right time to pursue this goal?
  • Will achieving this goal bring satisfaction and fulfillment?

For instance, if you know that you’ll be going on a vacation, the holidays are coming up, friends and family will be in town and you’ll be busier than usual, is it the right time to commit to an extensive training schedule? Or perhaps if you’ve never run a 5K or a half marathon, those may be more realistic goals to meet. Ensure that you are setting yourself up for success as it might not be the right time to pursue this goal.


Finally, the time-bound aspect of SMART goal setting emphasizes the importance of setting deadlines. Without a timeframe, goals can become open-ended, leading to procrastination and a lack of urgency. To make your goals time-bound, consider the following:

  • When do you want to achieve this goal?
  • Is there a specific date or timeframe that makes sense?
  • How will you break down the goal into smaller, time-bound milestones?

Being time-bound when it comes to a marathon is fairly straightforward as you have a clear deadline for when you will need to be ready to meet your goal. However, in some instances there may not be a hard deadline. Ensure that in those examples, you have a specific date or timeframe to complete your goal otherwise it may be easy to make excuses for yourself to get out of it.

As you embark on your journey to achieving your goals, keep in mind that flexibility is key. Life is unpredictable, and circumstances may change. Be willing to adjust your goals as needed, while still adhering to the SMART principles. With determination, focus, and a SMART plan, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your dreams into reality. So, take that first step today, and watch as you move closer to your goals with precision and purpose.

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