“SMART” is a simple mnemonic that came originally from project management and is now widely used to help with setting personal goals. It helps create a powerful, positive statement of what you want, which significantly increases your chance of success.

A SMART goal is:
   S  Specific, Simple and Stated in the positive. 
   M  Measurable & Meaningful 
   A  Achievable 
   R  Relevant &
   T  Time-framed.  

Specific, Simple and Stated in the positive

Specific goals help us to focus on what we want. If we are vague, we’ll get vague results. For example: “I want to get fit” will be difficult to achieve – we have no clear idea about what “getting fit” means.

Stating our goal in negative terms means we focus on what we DON’T want, rather than on what we DO want. It’s more effective to say “I want to weigh 140 lbs”, rather than “I want to lose 28lbs”. 

Good questions are: “What specifically do I want?”; “What will that do for me?”; “What do I really want?”


Setting measurable goals helps in two ways:
    It gives you a way of knowing when you achieve it.
    It gives you a useful way of monitoring progress and checking whether you are on track.

Ask questions like “How will I know when I achieve my goal?”; “How much….?”


It’s important that you set achievable goals. Often, we are over-optimistic and then become dispirited and give up. Aiming to become a concert pianist by the end of the week is clearly not achievable for most of us. Phrase your goal in such a way that stretches you but that also feels possible.

Good questions: “What do I need to do to make this happen?”; “Can I really do this?”; “Do I need to break this down into smaller steps?”


Having goals is really useful but they need to fit with what is important to you. Before starting to set any goals, ask yourself what you want to achieve overall in your life. Think widely – what do I want in relation to work, leisure, finances, family, friends, etc? You will then have a framework within which to set your goals.

You can now ask yourself “How does this fit with my overall vision?”; “Why is this important?”; “What will this do for me?”


Every goal that you set should have some timeframe: next week, in three months, by the end of the year… This will give you an end point and a clear target to work towards. Without it, it’s too easy to procrastinate, to delay starting or to wait until you have a spare moment.

Good questions: “When do I want to finish this?”; “When am I going to make time for this?”

Each of these questions are linked – for example, answering the question about when you want to reach your goal then prompts you to ask whether that date is achievable. Asking about how to measure it may prompt you to make it more specific, and so on.

If you want more help with goal setting – or generally understanding what you want in life, why not look at our coaching fitness check?