A goal is not a goal if it is not SMART!

set a goal
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What we learnt so far and even before understanding how to set a goal as such is that:

  1. You have to believe in your dream. All dreams are possible.
  2. You have to turn your dream into a goal. Taking this action makes your dreams achievable.

Now, let’s get to work on how to set a goal. Knowing how to set a goal is crucial because it is the goal you will be mind-and-hands-on day-and-night until you achieve it. But do you know how to set a goal? Let me give you one example from my own experience so as to show you why it is important that you set a goal properly.

After finishing my master’s degree, of course, as every other person, I wanted to find a job. I was pretty much preoccupied with this question that I turned it into one of my resolution points. When I would think of this dream of mine, this is how I reasoned: “I want to find a job, at least close to what I studies for and I want to find it by September”. This was back during summer 2014 (and entered my 2015 New Year Resolutions List).

Yes, it is not general as ‘I want to find a job’, but it is not specific too in that it does not entail all that I really expect from this job. Soon after that I had hell a lot of job with one civil society organization. Indeed, I worked tirelessly from the moment I would wake up ‘till the moment I would fall asleep unconsciously.

Was this what I set as a goal? Yes. Was this what I really wanted? No. Why? Well, because I did not set the goal properly. I did work a lot for a civil society organization as I wanted, but as an executive board member, I was not paid. It was very satisfactory, but I needed something that would bring me food on my plate along with personal satisfaction.

It is then that I learnt that whenever we set goals, we have to make them SMART. I am sure some of you have already read about it, even have I, but did not take it seriously. Even after I had this, so to say ‘failure’ did I realize how important it is to make my goals smart. Don’t repeat my mistakes, learn from them!

What is SMART and what are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym derived from the following words:

S – Specific

set a goal
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M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-Bound




A goal is not a goal if it’s not specific. For instance, ‘I want to find a job’ – how is this even a goal? It is so general, vague, with so many meanings that can be attributed to it. A goal is specific if it is tells us straightforwardly, clearly and precisely

  • What we want to achieve;
  • Why we want to achieve it;
  • Who is part of our story;
  • Where does our goal take place; and
  • What we need to do to attain it, what our resources and limitations are.

A goal is not a goal if it’s not measurable. Take my previous example ‘I want to find a job’. How do we know if I am close to achieving it? Of course we cannot establish that. A goal is measureable if it can be quantified, if it helps us measure the progress we have made in completing our goal and track the pace with which we are achieving each particular goal, that is

  • How much/many have I achieved; and
  • How far I am from my goal.

A goal is definitely not a goal if it is not achievable. My example goal ‘I want to find a job’ is achievable, but there are other problems with it that make it NON-SMART goal. A goal is achievable if it can be implemented in reality, but not under-looked and meaningless in which way it is just a set of simple activities. When setting an achievable goal we need to know:

  • How can the goal be accomplished; and
  • How realistic is the goal, not overlooked or under-looked, based on other constraints.

A goal it’s not a goal if it is not relevant. If I have a job and set a goal ‘I want to find a job’ how relevant would that be? A goal is relevant if it has some value to us, if it adds value to our lives, if it means something to us. When setting a relevant goal we need to know:

  • Are we the person to pursue this particular goal;
  • Does this pay off to pursue it – is it worth the efforts;
  • Is now the time to pursue it;
  • Can the environment we operate in hold it; and
  • Does it comply with our needs.

A goal is not a goal if it’s not time-bound. My example goal ‘I want to find a job’ obviously lacks this time attribute because I am not really willing to look for a job my entire life. A goal is time-bound if it is put in a reasonable time-frame for its completion and to add to it a bit of sense for urgency. When setting a time-bound goal we need to know:

  • Until when we shall achieve our goal; and
  • At what point in achieving the goal are we going to be ‘X’ week[s]/month[s] from now.

Now that I provided a well-elaborated background on how to set a goal, let me help you by putting my example in the SMART goal setting machine. If finding a job is my baseline, by adding the SMART principles, my goal would be:

I want to find a job



I want to find a job… in the field of civil society development because civil society is the third and equally important sector as the public and business one in developing the society, and where I will work with prolific civil society development practitioners and experts in South America while dealing with the political unwillingness of politicians and lack of support from the business community. Given that I have some knowledge to rely on, by the time I achieve my goal, I will be working on building my capacities and knowledge on civil society in South America. So as to achieve my goal, I will be self-educating, participating in various relevant trainings, seminars and conferences, networking and practicing in some local relevant civil society organization so as to stand out on the job interview as the competition is tight. As someone who wants to work all the life in the civil society sector in South America, it is of crucial importance that I contribute first to it becoming enabling for civil society organizations’ operations and now when civil society is facing issues it is more than ever needed that I do so. As an ambitious and highly motivated person, I am looking forward to the yes-you-got-the-job answer 10 months from now, with some progress and recognition of me being visible after 5 months from now.

You thought a goal is a one line long sentence? That’s why you failed it. That is why goals have to be SMART. Whenever you have troubles on the way to achieving them, go to your written goal (always write them down) and see where you went wrong.

Now, it’s your turn. What is your goal, like really?


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