The “SMART” Method of Creating Personal Goals

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“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with the plan.”

-Tom Landry, Former NFL coach and player

We often hear about the importance of creating personal goals, whether we are in recovery or not. We have goals in our extracurricular activities, such as winning a sports match or mastering a new hobby. We have professional goals, such as meeting our supervisor’s expectations or getting promoted to the next level. To paraphrase the above quote from Tom Landry, setting a goal is less important than the actual plan for attaining the goal. How can we start to create more effective goals for ourselves? One simple technique is the “SMART” method.

“SMART” Goals

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. When creating goals for yourself, consider the SMART components to ensure that you can stay on track and accomplish your goals:


  • Specific


      • Often, we have goals that are too broad. While broader goals (such as “I want to help others”) may define our purpose, specific goals define our actions.
      • Think in terms of action. What exactly will you be doing? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to complete a 90-day recovery program? Where and how will you accomplish your goals? 
      • The more details, the better! Having more details gives us a clearer vision of what we are setting out to achieve.


  • Measurable 


      • A goal is measurable when we can determine improvement and progress in incremental steps. For example, if you want to pursue a new career path, you can break the steps down and check off each accomplishment (resume building, job searches, etc.) toward your goal. 
      • Measurable steps mean that the steps can be quantified in some way. A runner can start by running two miles a day and checking the duration of each run. A basketball player can compare scores from one game to the next. Someone in recovery may attend at least one group meeting every week.
      • Remember, if your goal is not measurable, you won’t know if you are working on it!


  • Achievable


      • Creating a goal that is unobtainable sets us up for failure. For example, if you want to be the best basketball player of all time at age 45, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. You can, however, learn new skills and improve your ability to play the game.
      • Some goals may require us to prepare more first. For example, if you want to be a doctor, but do not have a high school diploma, you are unlikely to get into medical school. However, you can make earning a GED the first milestone to reach your goal.


  • Relevant


      • Determining a goal’s relevance helps ensure that you stick to your goals.
      • If a goal is relevant to you, then the goal is important to you! You might have a good goal in mind, but if that goal isn’t important enough to you, you will be unlikely to stick to it. For example, you may feel pressured to own a home because all of your friends own their homes. But if you are happy in your apartment, homeownership may not be relevant enough to you.
      • Only you can determine the relevance of your goals. If your goal feels more important to others than it does to you, then you are less likely to accomplish it.


  • Timely


    • “Timely” refers to setting deadlines for our goals. Time can refer to when we want to accomplish a specific step (for example, I will learn to sing two songs for open-mic night a month from now) or how frequently we would like to work on something (I will practice the guitar four times a week for 30 minutes each time).
    • Without a deadline or time frame to accomplish our goals, we are more likely to procrastinate. We may not feel pressure to achieve our goals and keep putting them off until “tomorrow,” only to find that tomorrow never comes.
    • Time can be long or short, though you will be more successful in setting both long-term and short-term deadlines. For example, a long-term goal might be to run a marathon next year. Your short-term goal can be running a pre-planned amount of miles each week until you build up the endurance of a marathon runner.

Creating personal goals the “SMART” way can help you to accomplish more by creating a plan that you can stick to. As you plan out your personal goals, ask yourself, “Is this Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely?” The “SMART” method can also help you create meaningful goals for yourself that will guide you as you continue in your recovery progress. Remember that the planning process is the most important step toward accomplishing any personal goal, including recovery. Planned goals have a much higher chance of being achieved than those we only intend to accomplish.

In the early stages of recovery and goal-setting, you may experience setbacks that make you want to give up. Sometimes, a supportive environment can make all the difference. The Kimberly Center offers outpatient, residential, intensive outpatient and continuing support programs for those in recovery from alcohol or substance use, trauma, or mental health issues. We will help you attain your recovery goals, in the program that is right for you. Our Ft. Myers, Florida facility offers evidence-based, compassionate addiction treatment for men and women. We provide you with the support and tools you need to create a life that is substance-free and emphasizes your inner strength and the importance of a strong support system. We offer a safe place where you can learn from others and begin building the life you want to live. Our compassionate staff will get to know you and your concerns, and help you achieve long-lasting recovery. To learn more, call us today at (855)-452-3683.


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