The SMART way to set goals

In this post I want to show you the SMART way to set goals.

I created a six week course and one of the key topics sets out how to use SMART goals to help you achieve success in your business more quickly and with less frustration.

Most of the time when I start with a new client, the very first thing we do is a roadmap process, and the very first step of the roadmap process is looking at their goals.

SMART goals are really, really important.  S.M.A.R.T. is actually an acronym, the original was apparently from George T. Doran in 1981 (at least that’s what the Wikipedia article tells me!).

The reason why this is useful, and why you should actually care about using an acronym when you set goals, is because it makes your goals more concrete;

  • they’re easier to aim for
  • easy to achieve
  • easy to make progress towards.

If you set your goals using the SMART criteria, then it is more likely to actually happen. There are a bunch of different versions out there (you can see all them on the Wikipedia article if you really want to), but here’s the one that I like the most:

S is for Specific

“I would love to be rich” is not a very smart goal or not a very SMART goal, and one of the reasons is because it’s not specific. What exactly does rich mean? What type of rich do you want to be? Do you want to be the kind of rich where you have a big lump sum of money, and you’d never be able to spend that no matter how you tried? Or do you want to be the kind of rich that has lots of income coming in for investments? Or the kind of rich that has huge amount of wealth and lots of assets?

Be specific! What kind of rich do you want to be?

M is for Measurable

The reason why this is fantastic is because you’ll know exactly when you actually achieve the goal! For instance, “I would like to be asset rich” is specific or more specific than it was, but there is no way for you to say “yes, I am that thing right now”. So, you could instead say “I would like to have 100 million dollars in assets”. That is measurable and it’s specific!

A is for Actionable

It has to actually be something that you can take action towards or something that you can do. It’s not like “I would like someone to give me $100,000 in assets”. That would be specific and measurable, but it wouldn’t be actionable because it’s not something that you can really do.

Try something that is actionable: “I would like to earn 100 million dollars in assets”,  so that there is an action element there.

R is for Realistic

Is it realistic for you to become a trillionaire? Well the odds are pretty small, technically people can do it, but probably not. So maybe set a goal that is a little bit more realistic.

Instead of saying “I would like to earn 100 million dollars in assets”, let’s perhaps change the goal down from 100 million, let’s maybe drop it to five or ten million. Something quite small and realistic, assuming you are starting from nearly zero.

T is for Time-Based

“Time-based” means that there’s a time criteria to it, so that there is some pressure on you to make progress along a certain time schedule. If you say “I would like to earn $5 million in assets”, that’s a bit better than “I would like to be rich”. Because it’s specific, you put a number on it. Your version of riches says it’s measurable. Actionable, it’s like you’re going to take action towards this thing. Realistic, that it is more realistic than 100 million.

Time based; now that’s the key. When are you going to do this? How can you actually track whether you’re on target or not? There needs to be a specific element, but also a specific time element. Say, “I would like to earn $10 million in assets in five years”, so that there’s a time element.  Then you obviously run that time element through the realistic filter.


By applying the SMART way of setting goals we have transformed our goal:

Before –  “I’d love to be rich.”

After – “I would like to earn $10 million in assets in five years.”

Then once you’ve got the SMART goal, it’s a lot easier to create a plan because you know where you are, you know exactly where you want to get to, and you can draw a straight line (or slightly blurred line) between the two. But that’s the rest of the Roadmap process.

One last thing: now that you’ve set this goal and you fulfilled the SMART criteria, just do a little check in with yourself:

  • are you actually interested in achieving that goal? or
  • is that something that is not really of interest to you anymore?

What about you?

If you have set goals before, have you used the S.M.A.R.T. criteria?

Do you have your own flavour of SMART criteria?

Is there a different way that you use to set goals?

Ben McAdam

Hi, I'm Ben McAdam. I'm a Profits Coach and entrepreneur. I help business owners grow their profits and gain clarity around their numbers, without judgement or confusing jargon. If you want some help with that: let's have a chat.
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