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SMART Goals: How Do People Set Goals for Themselves?

When it comes to long-term goal setting, there’s no one right way to reach your goal. But having a process to plan your goals, track progress and see them through is an important step towards success. So, where should you begin? Consider setting SMART goals to help make your dreams a reality.

What Are the Best Practices for Goal-setting?

Every goal is a unique personal journey and your approach will certainly vary. The best practice for goal setting is one that allows you to break things into smaller, actionable sections. By using a goal-setting system like SMART, you can better understand your goals and objectives and what it will take to achieve them.

  1. VO: Ready to achieve your dreams? Try using SMART Goals with these helpful tips from American Family Insurance!

    We keep the “SMART” on screen, as an illustrated person slides into frame, looking at the “SMART”, appearing somewhat concerned, but smiles towards the end of the next sentence.

    VO: Setting goals can sound daunting, but when you use SMART Goal setting, you can easily plan out how to make your dream a reality.

    The “SMART” title now takes over, and spreads out, breaking into its acronym’s words.

    VO: SMART means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive, and can be applied to small or big life goals.

    The “SMART” tightens up again into a single word, and shifts to the top of the frame, in small letters, where it will remain for the rest of the video. This will help us know which section we’re in, and keep the viewer grounded, like chapters of a book.

    We see our character again under the title, standing in a bedroom – show a bed between two red nightstands.

    VO: Let’s say you want to update your bedroom’s look.

    The word “Specific” now appears in the middle of the screen. The “S” in “SMART” also changes color to emphasize where we are in the timeline.

    VO: The first step is to be Specific. The more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to get it done.

    “Specific” reduces in size and shifts up to rest under “SMART”.

    We focus on our nightstands. As we elaborate on how we’re refinishing them, we add an illustration a paintbrush with AmFam blue color at its tip.

    VO: Instead of “I want to update my bedroom.” be specific and say “I want to paint my two nightstands blue.” Now you know exactly what you need to do.

    The word “Specific” fades out, and the word “Measurable” is in center frame. The color highlight in “SMART” now shifts to “M”.

    VO: Next, your goal should be measurable.

    On screen next to the first paint brush appear a sanding sponge, primer can, and a second paintbrush.

    VO: Break down your goal into smaller tasks and take on one task at a time. It’s a great way to stay on track.

    One by one, the sponge, can, first paintbrush and second paintbrush get bigger.

    VO: To refinish your nightstands, you'll want to sand, prime, and apply a first and second coat of paint, one step at a time.

    Show the two finished nightstands – now gleaming and AmFam blue in color.

    VO: By breaking big tasks down into smaller ones, you’ll achieve your big goals in no time!

    “Achievable” is now in center screen, as “Measurable” fades away and the letter “A” in “SMART” is highlighted.

    VO: Then, make sure your goals are Achievable.

    We go back to our sanding sponge, primer can, and paintbrush. We add an blue paint can, a painter’s tarp and painter’s gloves.

    VO: You want to be sure your goals are realistic. For example, do you have the tools, time and resources you need to achieve your goals?

    A money counter pops next to the tools, counting up as we highlight each tool. When its done counting, it turns into a stack of bills.

    VO: Let’s say refinishing your nightstands will cost $200 in supplies. Make sure that’s realistic for your budget before you start working on your goal.

    “Relevant” is now in center screen, as “Achievable” fades away and the letter “R” in “SMART” is highlighted.

    VO: Your goal should also be Relevant to you. Ask yourself, “Does this goal help me get closer to my dream?”

    “Relevant” shifts to the top of the screen. A to-do list flies in from the bottom, showing items of renovation around the house. Nightstands are at the top. Then, starting an herb garden, upgrading the living room TV and learning how to knit appear on the list.

    VO: If your dream is to update your bedroom, then refinishing those nightstands is a relevant goal! In contrast, working on your kitchen herb garden or taking up other projects might not be so relevant to your dream of a more relaxing bedroom.

    “Time-Sensitive” is now in center screen, as “Relevant” fades away and the letter “T” in “SMART” is highlighted.

    VO: And lastly, you’ll want your goal to be Time-Sensitive.

    “Time-Sensitive” shifts to the top of the screen as our character returns, with a monthly calendar next to her. On the calendar, we mark a date towards the end of the month with our finished nightstand.

    VO: Deadlines can be stressful, but if you plan small deadlines in advance instead of one big deadline, you’ll see they’re not that scary.

    We add more markers on different dates - our sponge, the primer can, the paintbrush, to show that each task can be done on a different day.

    VO: For example, you can plan on priming your nightstands one day and painting them blue on another day. When you assign each task to a certain day or timeframe, your final due date will become clearer.

    “Time-Sensitive” fades out. We now see our character with her finished nightstands, painted indigo. The “SMART” increases in size to emphasize the name of the program.

    VO: And that’s it! Remember, no matter what your goals are, you can use SMART Goal setting to clarify your purpose, focus your efforts and get it done!

    We end on the Am Fam logo and the URL.

    VO: American Family Insurance is here to support you and your dreams. Learn more about how we can help inspire, protect and restore your dreams at

What is the Meaning of the Acronym S.M.A.R.T.?

What are SMART goals? The SMART goals definition is: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. It’s an acronym designed to help you remember the steps and clarify your purpose, focus your efforts and be more productive, as you embark on setting your goals.

The SMART goal methodology is a tried-and-true standard to set lofty (but achievable) goals. Ready to get started? You’ll want to dive deeper into each letter in the SMART goals acronym to make sure you’re following the process correctly. And we’re here to help.


The more specific your goals, the more likely they are to be achieved. Instead of generating a vague goal for yourself, consider diving a bit deeper into the details. For example, ‘I want to submit applications regularly so that I’m able to get a higher-paying job by the end of this year,’ vs. ‘I want to get a new job.’

To get started, ask yourself:

  • What exactly it is you want to accomplish
  • Why you want to accomplish the goal
  • By what date do you want to achieve the objective


The next step is ensuring you’re actually setting measurable goals — it’s the best way to stay on track. Measure progress by assigning yourself monthly, weekly or even daily tasks to push your dream forward.

If your goal is to save $1,000 over the next six months, break that number down into smaller amounts and stash it away every week. And make a note on your calendar to keep you focused — always moving onto the next step in your savings goal. If you want to get in shape, make a goal to hit the gym three times a week and cross off the date on a calendar each day you go so you can track your progress! You’ve got this.


The last thing you want to do is set goals for yourself that just aren’t realistic. Instead, set yourself up for success by working towards something you’ve got the skills and tools to achieve. That’s not to say your goals shouldn’t challenge you — they certainly should — they just shouldn’t be so lofty that you’ll never get there.

For example, if your goal is to make a career change, consider having coffee with some contacts that work in your desired industry. Or take some classes and gain at least a bit of vocational experience versus simply applying for positions you’re not qualified for — and unrealistically expecting to get a new job right away.


Relevant goals must actually matter to you.

In other words, question your “why.” Why are you doing this? What does it accomplish for you in the grand scheme of things? Will it move you in the right direction?

Relevancy is all about making sure this goal is the right goal to focus on.

For example, if you’re already stretching yourself by saving for a house, perhaps now is not the best time to set a savings goal for a five-country European adventure. Prioritize and make sure all the things you’re working towards fit together neatly.


Every SMART goal needs a time frame — it’s the only way to ensure your everyday tasks won’t take priority over your larger goals. So, the last part of this methodology focuses on taking a look at your plan and breaking it down into daily activities you’ll need to accomplish to move the needle forward.

Once you understand the steps of your plan, you can determine how long each one should take and, ultimately, plot out a “due date” for your overall goal.

For example, if your dream is to run a marathon, but you’ve never ran a mile in your life, you’ll want to do some research and make a plan to train for a 5k, a 10k, a half-marathon and then run the big finale!

Remember, anything worth pursuing takes time, and there’s no shame in that. Just ask yourself, ‘what can I do today? What can I do six months from now? A year from now?’ Setting timely goals will get you there.

How to Write SMART Goals

When it comes down to it, SMART goal setting is all about asking yourself the right questions — some that you may have not considered! Although it may feel a bit overwhelming at first, you’ll likely learn a lot about yourself and your motivations along the way.

And be sure to write your answers down as you go instead of waiting to come to your goal conclusion.

SMART Goals Examples

We’ve covered what SMART goals are and how to write them, but if you’ve still got questions, you’re not alone. Perhaps this mnemonic device — or a pattern of letters to help you remember— can help you better understand how to apply this method to realize your dreams:

Example SMART Goal: I want a new job.”

  • S – Specific: I want to submit applications regularly to increase my odds of switching jobs in the near future
  • M – Measurable: I want to submit one application each week
  • A – Achievable: I will apply for jobs that I’m qualified for which also align with my long-term career goals
  • R – Relevant: I’m working towards saving for a house and a family, and a new job would allow me to make more money and move the needle on my other goals as well.
  • T – Time-Sensitive: I’m giving myself until the end of the year to get a new job.

Things to Consider When SMART Goal Setting

When you're using the SMART criteria to set your goals, it's important to remember a few additional things. Acknowledge your awesomeness

Before you do anything, think about all the great things you’ve already done. Your list of achievements is probably longer than you’d think! And you deserve some self-kudos for that.

Try and try again

Next step: keep trying.

Always remember, it’s ok if you don’t get it 100% right the first few times. Dust yourself off and have another go at it.

Use what you’ve learned and keep going — you can’t fail if you keep trying.

Celebrate the small

Small wins are huge motivators. Go ahead and treat yourself every time you reach another goal or milestone along the way. High fives, fist bumps, parties, chocolate — celebrate however you want. Just make sure to take time to acknowledge your milestones.

Seek support

Remember, nobody expects you to do it all on your own. Build up a good support team to keep you focused and pushing through challenges. And don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend when you run into roadblocks. Even the most successful people need help sometimes!

Want more tips and motivation? Our collection of self-improvement tools and resources will help support and guide you and your family along any dream pursuit.

Related Topics: Career , Passions , Personal Development