How to Use SMART Goal Setting

What is Goal Setting and Why is it Important?

Setting goals is a powerful motivator, the value of which has been recognized in an abundance of clinical and real-world environments for over 35 years. To break it down, researchers Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham define goals as “the object or aim of an action, for example, to attain a specific standard of proficiency, usually within a specified time limit.” Goal setting is the process of us setting these goals and working to achieve them.

There are numerous, proven benefits for setting and achieving goals in both an organizational setting and on an individual level. Research shows that goal setting can drastically increase employee motivation and organizational commitment. Each individual that participates in setting goals and searching for new strategies to aid in their success often increase their task-relevant knowledge while also enhancing self-efficacy and self-confidence. Not to mention, achieving one’s goals has the power to positively impact mental health and set individuals up for greater success in their future endeavors.

Key Principles of Goal Setting

As stated by Positive Physiology, there is a wealth of research in the area of goals, particularly within organizational settings. Some of the most famous researchers include Locke and Latham. In 1990, they released a “theory of goal setting & task performance.” Their theory suggests that there are five key principles that determine the success of one’s goals.

  • Commitment: Commitment refers to the degree to which an individual is attached to the goal and their determination to reach it. A strong degree of commitment is almost always required to achieve one’s goals.
  • Clarity: This refers to not only the clarity of the goal, but also clarity in what one actually wants to achieve and why they want to achieve it.
  • Challenging: Goals need to be challenging, but also attainable. Goals that are too easy can cause one to lose interest, but unattainably challenging goals can destroy motivation.
  • Task Complexity: Similar to the challenge level of one’s goals, task complexity is also a key principle. Very simple goals that lack depth are not motivating enough to achieve. However, overly complex goals with numerous steps can become overwhelming.
  • Feedback: Goal setting is more effective in the presence of immediate feedback. Feedback, which can include internal feedback, helps to determine the degree to which a goal is being met and how you are progressing.


Now that we have discussed what goals setting is, why it is important and key principles to consider before setting your goals, it is time to actually set some goals! A tried and true method for successfully creating goals, and one of our personal favorite methods, is the SMART goal setting guide. SMART is an acronym that stands for; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time. Following these steps will help you set and achieve your goals!

  1. Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. When drafting your goal, try to answer the five “W” questions. (Who, What, When, Where and Why)
  2. Measurable: Measurable goals allow you to track your progress and stay motivated. They also help you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.
  3. Realistic: Goals need to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it should stretch your abilities but still remain possible. When setting an achievable goal, make sure you consider all possible constraints, such as time, finances, etc.
  4. Relevant: This step is a very important step when setting your goals. Each goal you set needs to matter to you, and also align with other relevant goals you have already set.
  5. Time: Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. If this is a long term-goal, set smaller goals within the timeframe. For example, set expectations for where you want to be one month into the goal, 6 months into the goal, etc.

If you are interested in a more hands on approach to goal setting and improving your motivation, Health Designs offers wellness workshops on both of these topics. Contact us today for more information!


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