Setting SMART Goals: The Method to Quantifying Your Success

You’ve got big dreams to take your next professional step forward, but you aren’t sure where to start. Have you tried setting a SMART goal?

When you use the SMART method, you set aside the time and resources to achieve measurable goals. Once you outline exactly what you want to achieve, you’re able to develop a specific action plan to make those dreams come true.

Let’s take a look at how setting SMART goals can help you take your performance to the next level.

The SMART Goal Method

According to the SMART goal method, you achieve your dreams by determining standards of success and sticking to them. Like the “where, who, what, why, when” method in journalism, it gives you the specifics on what qualifies as success.

A goal like “I want to be better at my job” does not qualify as a SMART goal. It’s too vague; how are you supposed to know when you reach your goal? How are you supposed to work towards success if you don’t know what the qualifications of success are?

By following each step in the acronym of SMART, you’re setting up an action plan for a specific goal that you’ll feel motivated to achieve. You won’t have a question of whether or not you’ve achieved success, because, with the SMART framework, your key performance goals get spelled out for you.

Understanding the SMART Goals Acronym

Because “smart” fits so perfectly to describe your goals, not everyone realizes that SMART is an acronym. So what does SMART actually stand for?

We’re going to break down SMART letter by letter so you can see exactly how to format your SMART goals.


Possibly the most important part of your SMART goal, your wording needs to be specific.

Let’s go back to the “I want to be better at my job” goal and how it falls short of the SMART method.

This goal is too vague. How can you know when you’ve “gotten better?” How much better do you need to get before you’ve achieved the goal?

Let’s say you work in customer support. How will you define success? The number of people you help? The number of 5-star reviews you get?

You pick the goal to increase the number of 5 stars you receive. Now that you’ve gotten specific, you can create an action plan to achieve the goal.


Along with wording the goal with specificity, you also need to choose a goal that can be measured. How do you measure the goal of “being better?” The easiest way is by quantifying the goal.

So you want to get more five-star reviews. Great! How many do you need to get before you’ve succeeded? Put a number on it so you can create a measurable goal.


It’s all well and good to set a goal of “I’m going to be the CEO of the company in 6 months.” But if you don’t have a fighting chance of making it happen, your enthusiasm and motivation will fizzle out quickly. When you set an achievable goal, you’ll actually feel motivated to see it through because success is within your reach.

Decide what you consider achievable by taking stock of where you are currently. How many 5 star reviews are you currently getting a month? With a dedicated effort to provide better customer service and help more people during your work hours, how many more could you possibly get in that timeframe?


When setting your goals, make sure you pick something that is relevant to your future.

If your overarching goal is to become better at your job, it doesn’t make sense to set a SMART goal about being a better unicycler.

Unless you work for the circus, then you’ll want to create SMART goals about how unicycling can expand your current skill set.

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for your hobbies or passions, but they don’t necessarily need to have SMART goals if they don’t fit into the bigger picture of your future success.


Giving your SMART goal a deadline essentially makes it a contract. You have this set time frame to make your goal a reality. Once you hit that end date, you’ll need to reassess and make a new goal.

Making your goal time-based will keep you focused. If the achievement date is left open-ended, you may never find the motivation to make it come true. Remember to set a deadline that is achievable.


Setting SMART Goals vs. Manifestation

Manifestation has become a popular buzzword on social media and in the “girl boss” community. While both SMART goals and manifestation both are ways to achieve your goals, they have little else in common. SMART goals use definitive criteria to measure success, whereas manifestation is more about setting a more overarching, vague goal and the journey of working towards it.

Think of it like assignments in school. A SMART goal is your math homework. You have a specific set of instructions and by following the formulas and equations, you arrive at the one right answer.

Manifestation is like a creative writing assignment. The prompt is “write about what you want your life to look like in the future” and you write about the feeling of success and your dreams about what you hope your future holds.

Through manifestation, you fixate on that feeling of future success and you work hard to see results. Through SMART goals, you don’t think about feelings and instead focus on the quantifiable metrics of success.

Both are about achieving your goals, and both require you to work hard. When deciding which method to use, there’s no right or wrong answer. Just like some people would feel overwhelmed by such an open-ended prompt, others might feel stifled by such strict goals and objectives.

Experiment to See if SMART Goals Are Right for You

People develop motivation in different ways. SMART goals might be just the goal setting strategy you need to get yourself motivated towards building success. You might also find that the strict deadlines feel too restrictive and take the joy out of your success journey. If SMART goals don’t work for you, it’s okay. There are plenty of other ways out there to achieve your dreams. It just takes a bit of experimentation to find which one’s right for you.

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Author, Artist, Photographer.

Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.

She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.

She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.


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