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How To Create SMART Life Goals – The Basics

Anyone who has ever worked in a corporate environment is likely very familiar with annual goal setting. There’s a reason for this – to remain focused on what’s most important. Why not apply this concept to your life? Too many people never achieve their goals – they start by not creating reasonable goals to start, neglect to remain focused, and quit too soon from the frustration of it all. Let me show you how to create life goals that will shape the trajectory of your future.

Why You Should Have Life Goals

In the absence of life goals, you are allowing events to shape the trajectory of your life. This approach to life is lived by many, many people. But if you want to be empowered to live a fulfilling and purposeful life, setting some life goals is a great way to start.

You might also want to read this article: How to Create a Life Plan . . . It Starts with a Bucket

SMART Definitions

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. In teaching this concept in many corporate settings, I’ve found people can really get hung up on the details of the acronym instead of creating a goal they can achieve. Let’s start by detailing each letter of the acronym below.

As mentioned previously, a SMART goal means you’ve taken the time to think through the how, when, what, where, and why of your goal. It means you aren’t just setting some random goal. The focus is going to be on a goal that is relevant (R) to your life, future, and purpose.


The purpose of the S in SMART is to ensure the goal is specific enough that you’ll know when you’ve achieved it. Getting in better shape or saving more money are not specific goals. Accomplishing a 500-mile bicycle ride (see my personal training journey here) or saving $1000 is specific.


Measurement is at the forefront of all good goal writing. Basically, how will you know you’ve arrived? If your goal is to be a better spouse, how will you know you’ve done it? In the business environment, although plentiful with metrics of all kinds, employees really struggle with creating and committing to measurements. This makes sense because so often their goals are dependent upon others for achievement. That isn’t the case for your goals.

Measurement holds you accountable for a specific outcome. You can’t just say “I’m going to do better at (insert whatever).” With measurement, you kind of need to “show me the money.” Whether it’s a fitness goal, financial goal, relationship goal, or spiritual goal, taking the time to figure out how to measure it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Your measurement is the tool to use to make sure you are on track throughout the specified time period. Let’s take the example of weight loss or fitness level. There are a variety of ways you can measure these: weight (scales), measurements, increased strength, increased stamina as evidenced by duration or distance, or even clothing size.

Relationship building could be measured by the number or quality of date nights, the score on a custom survey your partner completes each month or the number of random gifts you provide unexpectedly.

When you are thinking about how to create life goals, the key to measurement is to make sure it’s appropriate for the goal and that it provides a clear indication of accomplishment throughout the time period.


Making sure your goal is achievable (A) sets you up for success. Even if you think you can do more, sometimes it’s best to set a more achievable goal so you can experience success. Remember, goal setting isn’t just for New Year’s Resolutions. You can set a goal that only takes three months to accomplish and then set a new one.


Realistic goals mean they are realistic for you. Losing 100 lbs this year may not be realistic for you. Set a goal that is realistic for you – not others. And it should be realistic in the context of other competing priorities you might have. I’m a huge fan of big goals but I also understand how failure is a real struggle for most people.

If you struggle with failure, you might like this article: Overcoming the Fear of Failure or How to Develop a Growth Mindset for Success.


Simply put, this means you have an end date for this goal achievement. When it comes to life goals, the end date may be a bit more fluid. However, at a minimum, you should have a year by which you plan to achieve the goal. For example, maybe I have a life goal of visiting Paris in my lifetime. If I plan to visit Paris this year, I’m going to list a specific date by which I plan to accomplish it. If it’s a lifetime goal, maybe I want to accomplish it by the time I’m 45, so list Dec. 31 of the year you turn 45.

How to Structure Your SMART Life Goal

As you can see by all the components of a SMART goal, it’s difficult to create a goal with all the necessary components in one sentence. That being said, you should make it as brief as possible. Why? Because when you are able to commit the goal to memory, you can recite it each day and remain focused on it.

My recommendation is to work on no more than 3 SMART goals a year. And if you can work on one SMART goal, that’s even better. Michael Phelps didn’t win so many gold medals by focusing on 15 different things. He focused all his energy on being the best swimmer in the world. The more scattered your focus, the less likely you are to achieve your goals.

Making the Case for Micro-Goals

Did you know up to 80% of all New Year’s Resolutions are given up within 90 days?

There’s just got to be a better way.

As our attention spans have decreased, so has our ability to focus on a goal for an entire year. This is why I’ve put my focus on creating and achieving micro-goals.

Instead of setting the goal of running a marathon, you set a micro-goal of running 30 miles a week for three months (2 miles here, 5 miles there, totaling 30 in a week). While the idea of running a marathon can seem overwhelming when you can’t even run a mile, focusing on running 30 miles a week feels more reasonable. Why not make that the goal and once accomplished, set another achievable goal? Before you know it, running a marathon will just feel like the next logical step in your progression.

If we focused more on micro-goals, we’d be less likely to give up so soon. With each accomplishment, we’d feel empowered and confident that we could achieve the next level.


Life goals are the best way to shape the trajectory of your future. By learning how to create life goals, you will be empowered to live a life of purpose and fulfillment. Utilizing SMART tools and micro-goals will ensure you are able to accomplish the goals you set and live the life you desire.

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