I know, I know: goal setting is not exactly a sexy topic. I wrote about it before and addressed the issue of coming up with top level goals that allow you to structure your life around them. But even when having a very clear idea of how you prioritise your goals in life, you can still completely fuck up the way you design those goals in detail. This is why S.M.A.R.T. goals are useful: they can provide you with a clear how-to structure. And they make clear why it is crucial to at least be aware of the essentials of goal setting.

What S.M.A.R.T. goals stand for

S.M.A.R.T. goals originally go back to performance and project management, where they were used as a pre-defined checklist of how to handle tasks with the best possible outcome. The acronym stands for


deliberate practiseEach of these keywords add a unique layer to how to get the most return on the least resources spent.

Specific makes sure you focus on improving a clearly defined, rather small aspect of a larger process.

Measurable asks you to define indicators of progress, make sure you track those carefully and document your advancements in a detailed manner.

Achievable specifies how exactly you plan to reach you goals and put your plan into action.

Relevant forces you to reflect on why you even want to reach that goal. Why is it relevant to your larger purpose?

Time-bound means that you define a time frame for your tasks, which also gives you a deadline that you are working towards.

Personal growth and S.M.A.R.T. goals

track development, S.M.A.R.T. goalsNow, the reason all this is relevant to your personal growth is because in order to continuously progress, you need to have a clear idea of where you are right now, what you want to accomplish in the future and how you want to get there. Unfortunately it is quite common for people to have a goal but no vision whatsoever of how to reach this goal. Their practise routine might be vague and not targeted enough to make a real difference. This way it can happen that you work on a skill for years without really moving forward. If you find yourself on this kind of plateau, ask yourself: Is your goal specific enough? Do you measure your progress and do you even know what you are measuring? Is your goal achievable in the sense that you know exactly what you need to to in order to reach it? How relevant is that goal for your grander vision (which comes back to the importance of top- level goals)? And do you have a clearly defined time frame in which you plan to finish your task? In short: have you set S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S.M.A.R.T. goals and deliberate practise

S.M.A.R.T. goals are directly related to a concept that has been popping up repeatedly in self development and personal growth: the concept of deliberate practise. In short, deliberate practise is the idea that in order to fully master a skill it not only takes a lot of practise, but you actually need to push yourself past what you can already do with each training session. Practise only counts when you are doing something you are not able to do yet. It is not deliberate practise to execute a skill you already possess. S.M.A.R.T. goals can help to make sure that your practise is in fact ‘deliberate’. To follow the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines means to constantly keep track of your progress, elevate it, but also make sure that what you try to accomplish it within reach and not ‘too far out there’.

If you are dedicated to improving continuously, deliberately practising and moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals can give you an outline on how exactly this can be executed.