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SMART Goal Setting: Step-by-Step Explanation

SMART Goal Setting: Step-by-Step Explanation

Formulating a SMART goal  is very popular and for a reason: it works! Read in this article how you can best do this. All steps are clearly explained below. This allows you to set your goals even better.

Complete step-by-step plan for SMART: Use all these SMART requirements to formulate a goal

Now is the time to go through everything SMART elements. You can find them below . Let’s start with all the parts of SMART:

S of SMART – Specific

  • Specific end result: what result do you want to achieve? What is the profit, the result? Examples include: getting 100,000 readers per month or making 50,000 net profit by selling our products.
  • The goal must be specifically  process-oriented : this is the goal that you can actually implement . Examples are: writing and publishing 250 articles or creating 3 new products and having them ready for sale in the shop. Another example: ‘Better sleep’ is not a process-oriented goal. ‘I no longer watch screens from 20:30’ is process-oriented. Another example, “I’ll be going to the gym every day for the next 100 days” is good. “I’m going to lose 10 kilos for the next 100 days” isn’t perfect …
  • There are specific milestones : when did you publish the 100th article? When will the first product be in the shop? Our brain loves progression that is visible. This motivates you even more.
  • The specific context: Who is involved, where is it going to happen and when is it going to happen? So what’s the context? You ask this question because certain behavior may be undesirable in some contexts and may be desirable in other contexts. This question is one of the solutions when someone is incongruent about their goal. An example of specific formulation is that you pronounce or write down your desired income accurately to the euro. For example: as of September 1, 2017 I earn x gross per month.
  • S also stands for: specific steps. how are you going to achieve your goal? What are the specific steps? What has to happen? What else? What are you going to do to achieve it? Make a note of 3 concrete steps to be taken (important for the coach when giving homework). So: chunk down into smaller intermediate goals / steps and also attach deadlines to those smaller intermediate goals / steps. Take small steps, but think big! What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about the consequences? What are the first steps? It is also important that there are several ways to achieve the goal.
  • What is the final step? You can also make this specific. You do not have to and cannot plan everything between the first and the last step. The rest will happen by itself. It is given to you by life and by your improvisation through your subconscious.

“I want to do something good for the world. I want to help other people. I want to contribute. I want to start a business…” None of that is specific, no matter how fun it is and how well it is intended. They are vague wishes – not concrete goals – that are likely to lead to nothing.

M for SMART – Measurable

  • How specifically will you evaluate whether you have achieved your goal? The most recommended way can be found in the next bulletin.
  • Also make it concrete and sensory specific: what should you see, hear, feel, smell and / or taste so that you know that the goal has been achieved? For example, your goal is to experience more freedom, light whatsoever to what liberty specifically for you means . You can use the meta model as an aid for this . What do you mean exactly? What does that look like? What are you doing then? This is also a way to prove that the goal has been achieved.
  • Measurable: can success be measured and controlled? This can be done, for example, with a mirror or a scale for a waste purpose. If your goal is a feeling, you can measure the feeling on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • Who else can check that?

Suppose someone’s goal is “I want to respect my boundaries.” It must be nice for this person to get started with this, but this is not a professionally formulated goal. However, it is quite difficult to make a SMART goal about this, because ‘respecting boundaries’ cannot be made specific at all, as is possible with the goal: ’50 sales talks’. So for ‘respecting boundaries’ you have to create specific smart subgoals – or milestones – with concrete behavior. For example: “My mobile is always off on all Sundays.”

A of SMART – Acceptable (also called ecology & congruence)

  • Acceptable stands for the ecology check:  What effect does achieving your goal have on other people in your life?
  • A also represents all areas of your life:  How does achieving your goal affect other areas and needs in your life?

If you do not address the above questions, there is a chance that there are hidden reasons not to achieve the goal . We call these hidden reasons sickness gain. More questions for this part can be found in this article about gain in illness.

R from SMART – Realistic

  • Realistic: This is a paradoxical point. Don’t make the goal too realistic, but rather challenging! Challenging goals are often easier than realistic goals. It’s lonely at the top. 99% of the people in the world believe they are incapable of achieving great things, so they focus on mediocrity. For example, it is easier to collect 1,000,000 than 100,000. The adrenaline and enthusiasm you get from such a big goal will help you overcome the barriers you encounter along the way. That is lacking with goals that are too realistic. The power of goal setting is to set non-realistic goals. You are better than you think.

T from SMART – Time-bound

  • Time-bound: when is the specific deadline? At what time or on what date is that exactly?
  • T also stands for: Interim deadlines. Introduce interim deadlines that are already quite tight so that you can take advantage of the Parkinson’s effect. The Parkinson’s effect states that you will always meet a deadline, whether it has to be completed in a week or two months.

Additional requirements and questions to reflect on the SMART goal

smart goals

When formulating the goal, also consider the following requirements that the NLP Outcome Model adds:

  • Set a goal that really excites you. Not an easy goal. No ‘six’. What do you really want? Make your wildest dreams come true. Set your goal there. Otherwise you are just setting a goal ‘because you have to’.
  • Is it formulated positively ? Do not concentrate on what you do not want, but on what you do want, otherwise you will automatically send yourself there. So don’t: I don’t want to smoke, I don’t want to be fat. But: I want to be healthy. Not: I am not a thief. Well: I’m honest.
  • Is it in your circle of influence, so in your own reach ? When setting goals, it is important that you have full influence on the outcome. This puts you on the cause side ( proactive ) . You could set a goal that you will win the lottery the day after tomorrow, but you cannot control this yourself. So make sure that achieving your goal depends solely on you. A goal that you have control and influence over. These are, for example: “I want to go to that job interview well prepared.” “I will live a healthier life by exercising more and eating healthier.” If you need help from others, what can we change so that you can achieve this goal completely independently?
  • Why do you want to achieve the goal? What is the real reason ? List the reasons in order of importance. What are your values related to this, so what do you find important in {context} (values ​​are highly context-related)? Why is this goal so important to you?
    For making changes, the why is 80%. So making changes is not a matter of skills, but a matter of motivation, willingness and just doing. The next bullet has to do with this too: the goal behind the goal …
  • If you could achieve the desired situation, exactly the way you want it, what would that give you? What will that do for you? What are the gains for you? What will be different? What is the impact of this? So what is the purpose behind the goal? What basic need does it fulfill? Chunk up.
  • Is the goal important or meaningful to you? Are you working on this personal development goal for yourself?
  • What gives you the most satisfaction from achieving the goal?
  • How bad do you want it? How serious are you about this? If you could have the target right  now  , would you take it? Are you willing to play at 100% ? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal? What are you unwilling to do?
  • Congruence: how does the goal align with your values? Does it match your vision of life? What is your gut feeling, does it correspond to who you are? Is it something you feel you should be doing instead of something you really want?
  • Are there multiple ways to achieve the goal? If you only have one choice, then you are a robot. If you have two choices, you have a dilemma. If you have three or more ways to accomplish something, you have options. Then you will also achieve it. And when those three options disappear, we just create new ways. Don’t put all your money on one horse on the way to the goal. Otherwise you are blind to the infinite other possibilities that could come your way towards your goal. Moreover, that one drug that you have put all your money on can suddenly take a hit while you were completely dependent on it.
  • Provide a  supportive environment. Tell as many people as possible that you are working on your cause so that they can support and encourage you. Talk to people around you. Asking for help is also a quality of successful people!
  • What is the positive intention of not having achieved this goal before? So what short-term pain have you associated with working towards the goal?
  • Future pace, or ‘evidence procedure’: How will you know that you have achieved the goal? What do you see, hear and feel? (Do this in the  first person / associated .)
    It is now {future date}. I, {name}, am / have successfully achieved the following goal: {the goal}.
    I see…
    I feel…
    I hear…
    At this point you can also do the TLT technique to install the target in your future . This technique is at the bottom of the article about the coach model.
    If you want to give the goal an extra boost, write in detail on 10 pages what a day will look like {in 5 years} when your goal is reached.
  • Put your signature under your goal.
  • Make the goal visible daily . Frame the goal, or even better, make a mood board of your goal! Place it in three places in your house where you will see it hanging daily … Or not! You can also choose to write down your goals and then put them away somewhere. As a result, the goal will remain in your subconscious life, and life will offer you the opportunities to achieve the goal, without you being able to consciously resist it.
  • Most importantly: execution . Plan each evening for the actions for the next day that will move you towards your goal. With start and end time.

The SMART goal has now been formulated, but you can do even more

Great, you can now formulate a solid goal. If you really want to coach someone with this goal, study the coaching model . That model is all about getting the goal clear, and everything that comes with it is also covered. For example, it is important to know where you are now, what your obstacles are and what your aids are.

An extra step beforehand: gain inspiration for the goal

smart goal setting

Somewhere you have to start. So ask yourself the following inspiration questions before setting up your SMART goal (but you can also skip this if you already know the big picture).

  • What could you work on now, so that your life changes immediately?
  • If you knew you can never fail, what are you going to do differently?
  • What is something you absolutely want to do before you die?
  • What is something that, when we work on it right away, will bring a smile to your face?
  • What should go different so you can say, “I have a perfect life!”
  • What is what you really want?
  • What change that you can make in your life would you immediately give more space?
  • Use the Disney model as the first input for shaping your goal.
  • Read the beginning of the article on the law of attraction to learn some tools to figure out what you want.

Once you’ve completed this first step, you can use the SMART requirements to formulate your SMART goal.

Formulating goals, why should you do that?

Making goals SMART is also very important in education, healthcare and business. Why? Because otherwise something is done just like that.

Without goals we are the plaything of what is happening.

You will set goals with each client. This is done explicitly during the intake interview, but also during the assignment of tasks. But why should you set goals?

By setting goals and doing that in a mastermind group , you may make an investment of a few hours per week to formulate the goal and discuss it with others, but it is an investment that you will earn back in the following weeks and months by three great powers that help you achieve your goal:

  1. Our breed is in focus. We have created a personal goal for a specific time in the future. So we have our sights on high and in the near future our subconscious will notice every opportunity to achieve our goal. Raymond van Barneveld’s goal was to aim for a triple 20. Once upon a time there was a car salesman who managed to increase his sales from 8 to 32 per month just by increasing his goal.
  2. The fact that you want to change something already means that you have changed. Because the fact that you want something means that you have already made a representation of it (you do that by setting a goal). At a certain level in your body / brain you now have what you want. This inner view affects you and will steer you in the right direction, both on a conscious and unconscious level.
  3. People who don’t keep their commitments are inconsistent. Nobody likes to be inconsistent. This is especially effective when you tell other people what your goals are. At Mastermind groups you have publicly signed your goal. Now you have to!
  4. When we set goals correctly, we are intrinsically motivated. An article will soon be published with the correct way to formulate goals.

A few more insights for your goals

Formulate goals

  • Know that bad days can happen. A step back is not the same as a total reset. The learning curve is never constant.
  • All the answers and skills are already roaming everywhere, both inside and outside you. All you have to do is set the right goals and believe you can find them.
  • “Whether you believe whether you can or not, you are right in either case” – Henry Ford.
  • Choose your beliefs carefully as they can become self fulfilling prophecies. How would it affect you if your teacher told you you can’t draw? And what effect would it have on you if your teacher says you are a gifted draftsman?
  • When in doubt, doubt your limitations, not your success.
  • You achieve your goals quickly if you take action. After each action you look at what you can do better next time and you adjust your action. You learn at exactly the same speed that you are willing to make mistakes. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Believe the following: “I never make mistakes” (I do have feedback moments). Thomas Edison made thousands of ‘mistakes’, but without those feedback moments, he wouldn’t have been able to invent a light bulb in the end. If you cause a ‘feedback moment’, do this: evaluate, make a smart goal, try again. You then become a learning machine. We don’t learn from doing things right, we learn from mistakes. To do nothing is to fail.
  • Think bigger. Don’t fuss about trivial little problems. Keep an eye on your big, important goals and deal with big problems.

There is always a connection between expectation and result.

Do you coach someone towards his / her goal? Feel free to direct the person

If you want to coach someone towards a well-formulated goal, then of course you would prefer that the goal meets all the characteristics of this article. So if you want to steer the client towards a better formulated goal, don’t just impose it on the other, but use questions:

  • Can it also simply be ‘full of self-confidence’ instead of ‘more self-confidence’?
  • May the goal also be formulated in the present tense? We do not want to create a distance between you and the goal, so not “I go” or “I want”, but “I do”.

In this way you let the client know that the goal can be formulated even more attractively, while you keep the choice with the client.

Practice continuously with setting goals

Set goals, using the steps in this article, for any behavior you have. Do this with as many situations as possible, such as after a coaching conversation, a training that you have followed and especially every time after which you have received feedback: set the goal of what you will do differently next time, ask others for feedback from you next time while they pay specific attention to your goal and then let go of the goal.

This will make you grow enormously on an unconscious level. Goal setting is a kind of magic spell that you install in your timeline. That spell will come true if you followed the steps in this article.

Also guide someone else in setting a goal and find out what it takes to make the goal meet the NLP requirements of this article. Good luck with setting SMART goals!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!