SMART goals help you achieve success

Meaningful goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and defined within a timeframe for completion.

Do you have a major task that you want to accomplish?  How do you get started, and even more importantly, how do you stay focused in order to be successful? 

Paul J. Meyer describes the characteristics of S.M.A.R.T. goals in Attitude is Everything.[2]


You should really focus on a very specific goal instead of a more general one.

A specific goal should answer these five questions:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Why – specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who is involved?
  • Where – identify a location.
  • Which restrictions or limits are important to consider?


If a goal is not measurable, how do you know if you are making progress? Measuring progress should help you stay on track, reach target dates and experience the thrill of success that motivates continued effort required to reach your ultimate goal. A measurable goal will answer:

  • How much or how many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?


Goals must be realistic and attainable; not out of reach nor too easy to achieve, as they may then become pointless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true.  An achievable goal will answer the question:

  • How can this goal be accomplished?


It is essential to choose goals that matter. You may need financial support to accomplish a goal, a local champion voice or someone to help make critical “connections.” Goals that are relevant will receive that support.  Goals that support other organizational goals are considered relevant.

A relevant goal will answer yes to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?


Goals must be defined within a time frame with target dates to complete various activities. Committing to deadlines helps you to focus efforts to complete the goal on or before the due date. This should help to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably occur.

A time-bound goal will help to answer:

  • When must I be finished?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today? 

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offers educational programs to organizations concerning goal setting, strategic visioning and other related topics, including community engagement and leadership development. 

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