The most common about approach to setting successful goals are usually the best and I am sure that you have heard of SMART objectives.

But I don’t like to assume – if you have been hiding under a rock, here is what they mean:

S – Specific

To be specific about what the goal is, rather than saying “I want to be fit”.  You should say something more specific like “I want to be fit enough so that I can run 10k in under 50 minutes.”

M – Measurable

Your goal should have some sort of measure to show that you have achieved it.  In the above example it is being able to run 10k in under 50 minutes.  Another example may be “To write 1000 words of more everyday”.  Quantify your goal to show that you are achieving the intended outcome.

A – Achievable

Is your goal realistic?  With running, this might not be realistic if you are morbidly obese and weigh 300 pounds.  Review your currently ability and adjust the goal accordingly – the obese person may just aim to walk 10k or focus on losing the pounds so they can start running.

R – Realistic

Is what you doing realistic?  For running 10k it might be because most people can run outside.  If you want to run 30 miles it might be harder as you lack the time to dedicate to the training.  If you want to run in the Olympics it might not be realistic because you are in your late 30’s.

The realistic attribute is taking a long hard look at whether what you intend to achieve is feasible.

T – Time-based

This involves setting a time limit to your goals, which is beneficial as this adds a sense of urgency and will motivate you.  If you want to run 10k, you will likely achieve it (or be close to achieving it) by setting yourself the target of the end of the month as you will be out training 3 or 4 times a week and eating better than if you are saying “I will run 10k in under 50 minutes… someday when I can be bothered to go outside and have a run”

Also make sure to keep record of when you start your goal, then you can be accountable for how long the time period has elapsed.

Using SMART against your goals

Have a look at all the goals you have written.  I find it useful to use a table (like below) and write how you will fit it into each component.

Improve running fitness Specific

I will run 10k on the road in under 50 minutes.


This will be measured by time where I aim to complete the distance in under 50 minutes


Previously I have been running 5k where I have been achieved a personal best of 24 mins 45 sec.

I ran a 10k race 2 months ago where I got a time of 54 mins 27 sec

I am confident based on my running history that this goal is achievable.


I have time in the evening three days a week to focus on running

I have a new pair of running shoes which will cope with the discomfort of running faster


I intend to achieve this time within four weeks following the 1st June.


Keeping focused

For the best success with using SMART against your goals to do the following:

  • Review your goals on a regular basis – twice a week should keep you reminded and focused on what you intend to achieve
  • Break larger goals down into smaller steps and apply SMART objectives to the sub stages.
  • Focus on only three – five goals a month using SMART. Dependent on time you will struggle to put in the required effort for progression on any more than that
  • Pay attention to the attributes – how are you progressing? Are you getting closer to your measure against the time-based deadline?  Is it as achievable or as realistic as you first thought?  Could you provide more clarity with the goal and make it more specific?
  • Go back and review making changes as appropriate – you might feel like you are failing when you review and have to make changes because of something you didn’t anticipate.  You only fail if you give up – all you are doing is setting yourself a more realistic plan based on what you have experienced.

SMART is a useful tool for writing good feasible goals – it’s commonly referenced in every bit of personal development literature everywhere because it is so simple for anyone to pick up and gets results.

If I had one bit of advice for you to take from this is keep your goals focused.


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