The SMART Model is often used by life coaches as a structure in order to set achievable and measurable goals.

The chances are that if a goal does not meet the majority of the SMART Model it will not be measurable or achievable. It would then be seen more as a dream or wish and may actually do more harm than good in the long run.

SMART stands for the following:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

The SMART process is about teaching clients an easy to follow process to create detailed and specific goals in order to get results.

Specific Goal Setting

Any goal set needs to be specific.

A vague goal is rarely fully achieved as there is no way of telling when and how it has been accomplished. With any goal the following questions can be asked to narrow down a more specific goal.

  1. What do I want to achieve?
  2. Where do I want to achieve it?
  3. How, exactly?
  4. When do I want to achieve it by?
  5. With whom?
  6. What are the limitations/challenges?
  7. Why do I want to achieve this specific goal?

Measurable Goal Setting

Next, the goal needs to have some accountable aspect which lets the client know when they have achieved it. We need to ask following 3 questions

  1. How much of something so I need?
  2. How many of something do I need?
  3. How will I know when I have achieved the goal?

If at least one of these questions is not easily answered then it generally means an impossible or unachievable goal has been set.

Example - To be rich you need to know whether you would be happy with a set amount of money in the bank (after a set amount of time) or whether you would be more happy with a certain type of lifestyle (after a set amount of time). In this example, if the definition is to pay off a mortgage, this is easily measurable as there will be a total figure which can be split down into saving specific amounts per month.

Sometimes goals are harder to reach and out of the client's control, for example, someone wanting to meet their life partner. In this case, the process the coach would undertake would mean setting specific, measurable goals which will help them stand the best chance of reaching their ultimate goal. In this example, a specific goal may be to go and socialise with new people, or new friends, at least twice a month.

Attainable Goal Setting

The next part of goal setting includes determining that the goal is ultimately achievable. Questions could include -

  1. How can this be accomplished?
  2. Given the specific constraints, how realistic is this goal?

The first question is generally about how realistic a goal is in general. The second is much more personal to the individual involved, for example, if the goal was to be a policeman and the individual had no qualifications and a criminal record, this could be an unrealistic goal. However, it may be possible to modify the goal to be realistic, for example, they could potentially get into volunteering with the police force or choose a career in another form of security.

Relevant Goal Setting

The goals you set has to be relevant to the client and the ultimate goal.

  1. Is this worth achieving?
  2. Is this the right time?
  3. Is the effort in line with the rewards?
  4. Is this something that I should be doing?

These questions can be difficult to answer honestly, so this could be something the client could take away and discuss with someone close to them.

Relevant goals are a better use of time and can lead to more motivation and help prioritise what is ultimately important to your client.

Timely Goal Setting

In all cases, goals need to have a time limit or time dimension to them.

Parkinson's Law - This states that generally, a task will take as long as the allocated time given to achieve it. Generally, people leave their goals until they start to worry about whether they have enough time to complete them. By allocating shorter time frames to complete tasks, they will get done quicker with less idle time at the start of the process.

Planning Fallacy - People are generally optimistic and over the promise of work and deadlines.

The difficult part is to get a balance between Parkinson's Law and the Planning Fallacy in order to give the urgency required to get the client to prioritise and start working on the goal, but give enough time to complete the goal effectively.

The following questions could be used and the goal split into different timely deadlines

  1. When exactly should be done?
  2. What should be done by the end of today?
  3. What should be done by the end of this week?
  4. What should be done by the end of the month?
  5. When should the goal be completed?

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Jenni Donato

Jenni now works as an Award-winning Life and Mindset Coach, helping mothers to reconnect to who they are by blending simple psychology and science to design their new beginning.