Becki has been exploring Self-Help and Self-Care for the past ten years. Now she wishes to share her experiences of thriving with you!
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”
— Greg Reid
The key to achieving your dreams is in the way you manage them. One tool for lifestyle and dream management is the creation of goals. Many people, however, struggle to create goals they can stick with and accomplish.
This is where S.M.A.R.T. goals come in.
In this guide, you'll learn how to create goals which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, then how to break these goals down into a plan of action using a specific series of tools to create the path to achieving your dream.
What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals which are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.
There are some variations on this theme. "Attainable" is sometimes "Actionable" and "Relevant" is sometimes "Realistic." In all cases, all possible replacements for the words in the acronym should be considered. Your goals should be both actionable and attainable, both relevant and realistic.
This method of goal-creation makes your goals more accessible by applying them to the life you're currently living, as well as the life you want to have. It makes creating a plan for achieving your goals easier and more attainable.
- Specific goals zero in on what really matters. Instead of a goal to "lose weight," a specific goal says "I want to lose 20 pounds."
- Measurable goals define the criteria by which the goal is considered achieved. Instead of "improve my credit score," a measurable goal says "achieve a credit score of 650."
- Actionable goals are goals which require you to take an action to complete them. An actionable goal is "I want to earn $500 monthly selling loose leaf teas" instead of "I want to earn $500 per month."
- Attainable goals are goals which can be achieved within the specific timeline you've laid out. It could be argued that you're capable of anything you apply yourself to, which means that "attainable" must then be relevant to the goal.
- Realistic goals are the same as "attainable" goals.
- Relevant goals are goals which lead you toward your ideal lifestyle. A career goal may not be relevant to someone who wants a lifestyle which doesn't require working.
- Time-bound goals are goals which have an end-date by which you intend to complete them. This is as simple as adding a date to the end of your goal. "I want to write three novels by a date five years from now."
Keep reading to learn how!
In order to get started with creating your goals, you may want to gather some supplies to get you started. It's best to create your goals with intention, and you may want to create a draft of your plan before you commit to it.
These tools will help you get started.
- A notebook or notebook paper
- Multi-colored pens
- A planner of your choice (see below for recommendations)
- Pinterest (optional)
You'll be doing some writing to begin with, so you may want to get into a space where you can spend some time by yourself without interruption. If you have Pinterest on your mobile phone, this is a good time to get the app going if you plan to use it.
If you enjoy ritual, you may consider playing some soft music or lighting some candles and incense. This process can be quite meditative and calming, and you should make it about you and your goals, not about what other people think.
Start Dreaming Big
The first step to creating your S.M.A.R.T. goals is to visualize the life you want to have. This step of the process helps you ensure that your goals are relevant to the outcome you want most, and that they are specific to you.
This is where Pinterest comes in. If you choose to use it, Pinterest can be a tool which will produce a digital vision board.
If you have a starting point for your dreams, use Pinterest to select images which represent the things you want to see more of in your life. Choose pins relating to your dream career, your dream body, lifestyle activities you're passionate about, and pin them to a board that's just for you. Make it secret, if you like!
Tip: You can print your images from Pinterest and create a vision board to hang on your wall!
Once you have an idea of what your idea future looks like, start writing it down.
This is called "scripting" in the Law of Attraction, and is an effective tool for creating the visualization which will help you manifest your dreams.
On a practical level, it helps you sort out what it is you really want, separating what's important from what's less important so you can focus on the main points when setting your goals.
This is one of the reasons you should consider creating a draft of this script. Once you're happy with it, this description of your ideal future should go into your planner.
Copy Your Dream Into Your Planner
I highly recommend the This is My Era Planner. It's what I use for my day-to-day planning and it provides all the necessary space to map out your dream life, create S.M.A.R.T. goals, and develop these goals into a plan. Not only do I love the planner, I love the people behind it. This Black-owned company provides school supplies for vulnerable school children in Africa. Not only do they donate the items, these men and women travel to the communities they serve and get their hands right into the work.
This planner provides space at the beginning of the book for you to describe "your era." You will have enough space for a paragraph (or two short paragraphs) of hand-written text. Alternatively, you could type and print and then glue or tape your work into the planner.
This step is important because it keeps your dreams close to your goals. It helps to re-read your vision for your ideal future, because it reminds you of the reasons you continue to do the work, even when working to achieve your goals isn't as fun as you'd hoped it would be. This vision is excellent motivation!
Decide Where To Start
The This Is My Era Planner suggests creating ten goals which will span a period of time. The planner lasts for a duration of (roughly) three months, but your goals can (and should) leave room for longer. The recommended time span is between 18 months and three years (though good goals can be as far out as five years).
You can create as many goals as you think you can handle, but it is recommended you start first with goals which are the most relevant to the life dream you wrote down in the second step.
Note that when starting out, it's a good idea to think of the overall goal (for example, your dream career might be to be a doctor), and then break that goal down into the steps it will take to achieve. The first step to becoming a doctor is to graduate an undergrad program (if you haven't already).
Using this example, a S.M.A.R.T. goal might look like this: Graduate an undergraduate program (measurable, attainable, relevant) with a 3.5 G.P.A. or better (specific) by a date four years from now (time-bound).
You'll be creating steps to your plan to complete this goal along the way.
The key to this step is knowing what the first step is in achieving your dreams. At this point, you've created a goal. But that's not enough, as you'll see if you purchase the recommended planner.
Create a Step-By-Step Plan
Keep in mind that the goal itself is not the plan. The purpose of the plan is to break your goal down into manageable steps. This is the actionable part of your goal.
To use the example of becoming a doctor above (where the goal is to graduate an undergraduate program with a 3.5 G.P.A. by a date four years from now), and considering you have not yet enrolled in a University of your choice, your steps might look as follows:
- Request information from universities with pre-med programs.
- Submit applications to universities (specify the number of universities).
- Select the university of choice from approved applications.
- Enroll in university.
- Enroll in classes at the chosen university.
- Achieve high marks in chosen classes.
- Graduate on time.
You will note that some of these steps can become goals of their own. That's fine. They should! Achieving a mark of an A in a class can be a goal of its own, something you may want to write down and create additional steps for (such as joining a study group, studying, taking practice exams, and so on).
Add the Steps of the Plan To Your Planner
If you've chosen a planner that doesn't have space for you to write down the steps to each of your goals, this is best done in a notebook or on a separate piece of paper. If you're using a bullet journal, you can create a collection for the steps to achieving your goals.
As with your dream script, this is best planned out and drafted before being added to the final planner, just to keep things neat and organized. You may want to keep your drafts in a notebook or in a binder.
Add Plan Steps to Your To-Do List
A great planner (such as the This is My Era planner) will include space for to-do lists and priorities. Decide each week, and each day, what your priorities for that time period are going to be and note them down.
You will probably have other items on your daily to-do list, and you won't need to work on every goal every day.
However, this allows you to create steps to achieving your goals, and provides space for you to check off each step as you complete it.
Not only does this give you a sense of accomplishment for having achieved the steps to reaching a goal, but it helps you to understand what achieving your goal really looks like.
No matter how big the goal, the goal is always a series of steps to reaching the end.
I'm a bit of a planner junkie, and I've tried a lot of them. These are the planners I enjoy the most and they are my go-to when ordering new planners.
- This is My Era - This company is Black-owned and supports school children in vulnerable communities in Africa by providing school supplies and ministry. I've worked with them personally and they are outstanding people. The planner itself provides more than adequate space for the creation and tracking of goals, along with a daily to-do list and daily space for gratitude. This planner is undated and provides room for about three months of planning. Its format is unique. (You may like it, you may not like it. All three monthly spreads are in one space, then the weekly spreads in another section, and then the dailies in another section.)
- Passion Planner - This straightforward planner which comes in three sizes and both a dated and an undated version, as well as an academic planner for students. They are colorful, nicely designed, lay flat, and durable. They provide space for you to dream about what you would like your life to be like, with less space for the creation of goals than the This Is My Era planner. What they add is weekly and monthly reviews and a lot of open space for creativity, vision boards, or doodling.
- Rituals for Living Dreambook - This complex planner provides a lot of space for helping you determine what you want most out of your life, along with assessing your life purpose and the ways you can achieve spiritual goals as well as practical goals. It is spiral-bound with a hard cover which lays flat. The paper quality is a bit lower on this planner, but the company provides a lot of support via their Facebook group. Briana and Peter Borten are supportive, loving people who encourage a healthy lifestyle and are outstandingly supportive of all members of their community.
My personal preference is for the This Is My Era planner. I've tried and tried to love the Passion Planner, and as much as I do love the Dreambook, it falls short for me as a planner. When it comes to managing your S.M.A.R.T. goals, you cannot go wrong with the This Is My Era planner.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Abby Slutsky from LAFAYETTE HL on August 05, 2020:
This was a terrific article. You almost made me want to try out your strategy. Thanks for sharing. Very nice explanations about everything.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on July 30, 2020:
Nice tips and guidance. Well presented. Thanks.