A goal is a goal is a goal, right? Nope. Some goals are smarter than others, which doesn’t just mean they look super cool in reading glasses — it means that they have all the factors necessary for you to strive for and reach them.
Happily, those five factors are pretty simple to explain, so before you set your next goal for, well, anything — running, mindfulness, weight loss, you name it — take a look at this and see if your goal meets the criteria. If not, see if you can change things up so that it does. (Then get ready to blow that goal out of the water!)
Smart Goals: 5 Components
- Specific. Is your goal exact enough? Because, if it’s not, it’s pretty hard to tell if you’ve reached it. So, rather than saying, “I’d like to run faster,” try narrowing it down a bit with something like, “I’d like to shave one minute off my 5k time.”
- Measurable. Can you track your goal? If not, you can’t really tell whether or not you’ve met it. In the example above, there’s a specific amount of time being shaved off a particular distance, which makes it simple to tell whether you’ve reached your goal … or you still have some work to do.
- Timely. Does your goal have a timeline or deadline? That helps to give you the motivation you need to stay at it. So, when it comes to that 5k time, try amending it to, “I want to shave one minute off my 5k time by the end of next month.”
- Attainable. Step back for a moment and analyze your goal. Do you believe you can achieve it? If you’re fairly new to running, but you’re dedicated and your running times are coming down rapidly, then the goal mentioned above is definitely achievable. But, if you’ve been shaving seconds upon seconds from your 5k time for years and are already running at an elite level, taking a full minute off in such a short amount of time isn’t so attainable. Which is fine — in that case, either give yourself more time, or make the goal less extreme.
- Realistic. This seems similar to No. 4, but there’s a distinct difference. Let’s stick with the 5k goal and assume that you have room to improve on your time, but, let’s say you hate doing speed work. Why set a goal that forces you to focus on something you hate and won’t want to do? If you prefer lots of long, slow runs, perhaps your goal should be on running a 10 miler or marathon at a comfortable pace. Think about the why behind your goal, and if the path to achieving it takes you down a road you don’t want to go, that “why” just might give you an alternate route to getting what you really want.
Now look at your goal one more time — does it hit all five marks for a smart goal? I’ve set some that weren’t so smart … and I didn’t get too far with them! —Kristen