SMART goal setting provides a framework for staying on track with resolutions

SMART goal setting provides a framework for staying on track with resolutions

By Anne Lawton, MA, LPC
Special to The Alabama Baptist

When counselors talk with clients about setting and meeting their goals, a helpful acronym we use is SMART. SMART goal setting provides a simple and easy-to-remember framework for defining and managing goals.

As you consider your New Year’s goals take a minute to write down not only your objective but how you will reach it using the five points of the SMART method.


Having specific goals helps a person feel more confident about what they are setting out to do, as much of the ambiguity is taken away. The more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them. Ask yourself: What exactly do I want to achieve? Why do I want to reach this goal?


After setting a specific goal write down measurable steps you can take toward reaching the goal. For example, if your goal is to exercise and get in shape, then come up with a number of days a week that you will work out and the amount of time you will work out each day. You might say that you will work out three days a week for 30 minutes each day. Consider enlisting an accountability partner or using some kind of tool (calendar, apps or journal) to add these measurable steps to your daily schedule and track your progress.


Set goals small enough that you will be able to reach them. There’s nothing wrong with setting high goals, but often it’s easier to reach a very challenging goal in incremental, achievable steps. When you set smaller goals for yourself that are attainable you will be able to accomplish each goal and then you can set a new one. As you attain one of your goals you will develop more confidence to accomplish your next goal. Therefore you will be less likely to become discouraged.


Your goals should not take up too much time to fit into your schedule on a regular basis or be ones you would quickly become tired of doing. They should be goals that you have the means and ability to achieve. For example, if your goal is to get in shape and you are on a tight budget this year, then your goal would likely not include a personal trainer but might include going to the park three days a week for a walk or run. Furthermore your goals should be realistic so that you are able to maintain them. Consider any conditions or limitations (health conditions, work schedules, family responsibilities) that might interfere and how you will compensate within those boundaries.


Life is filled with appointments and deadlines. Apply that strategy to your goals. For example, if you want to be able to run a half marathon one day, you are more likely to achieve that goal if you set a time limit for yourself and say that you want to be able to run a half-marathon one year from now. If you simply say that you will do it “one day,” when will you begin to start training and taking steps toward reaching your goal? Set a timeline for your goals and stay on track. If you get behind give yourself a little grace, refocus and get headed back in the right direction.

Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. When you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound you are more likely to achieve them.

As we begin the New Year let’s not forget about our resolutions. Let’s make SMART plans now and set out to achieve our goals.

If your New Year’s goals are not SMART and you are having a hard time keeping up, consider developing a SMART plan and starting over instead of throwing in the towel. You can do this!

EDITOR’S NOTE — Faith & Family is a monthly look at important spiritual, cultural and relational issues facing today’s families. For more articles on contemporary topics like these, go to Anne Lawton served as a counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling for more than 10 years and currently volunteers with both Pathways and Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes.