SMART Goals – Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

29.10.20 Theories & Concepts Time to read: 6min

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SMART belongs to methods & concepts and is an acronym used as a guideline when setting objectives for personal development, project management, and managing employee performance. In this article, we discuss the five characteristics of SMART Goals in detail, focusing on College/University students, which will help you focus your efforts and surge the probabilities for you to reach your goals in a systematic fool-proof manner.

Using SMART goals, you can direct your time and resources to make progress towards attaining your goals. You can also continuously monitor your progress, giving you that sense of achievement, which will encourage you to trudge on until the desired results are acquired.

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The acronym SMART has several definitions though the most commonly used are Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When setting goals, ensure you factor in each element of the SMART framework. You will then quantify your progress step by step as you go along, encouraging yourself that you are closer to your achievement. SMART goals will also help you identify, in good time, when goals are too farfetched and out of reach, thus allowing you to adjust them accordingly.

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By setting SMART goals, you are equipping yourself with targets to aim for. For example, suppose you’d like to become a Doctor. Let’s demonstrate how to convert that into a SMART goal.

Smart – Be specific and clear. “I want to become a Doctor is vague.” What type of Doctor do you want to be? What specialty? “I want to become a Cardiologist” is specific.

Measurable – Look at the available evidence indicating if you are indeed making progress towards this goal. What courses are you currently studying? Do they meet the basic requirements to become a Cardiologist?

Achievable – Do you meet the general requirements to study Cardiology? If not, is there a bridge course you will be required to accomplish before studying your Cardiology studies?

Realistic – When setting goals, you’ll need to determine how important it is to achieve this goal. Does it align with your long-term goals? Is it within your values?

Timely – What is the time frame within which you would like to have achieved this goal? Setting a timeline ensures you stay focused. If your time-frame lapses and you have not yet achieved your goal, perhaps it is time to re-strategize and ask yourself if it was realistic.

Setting goals that are not smart, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely is generally setting yourself up for failure. By merely stating your desire, “I want to become a Doctor”, it remains as just that, a desire. The statement has no sense of direction and lacks clarity. Setting SMART goals will push you in the right direction, increase your chances for success by verifying your goal’s achievability, and help you create a roadmap to aid you in actually achieving those goals.

To set SMART goals, you’ll need to follow a systematic methodology. Use each element of the SMART framework as your guide when setting your goals. This way, you will be able to track your progress and quantify if, indeed, you are on the road to success.

SMART Goals: Definition

SMART goals are tangible targets that you purpose to attain over a certain duration. Carefully drafted, they are bound to set you up for success if you follow them through to the very end. SMART is an acronym that defines the most crucial features of each goal. While there is a variation of the words, the most commonly used are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. When you use SMART goals, it is difficult to get distracted and drift away from achieving your goal.

The 5 Qualities of SMART Goals

Let’s break down the acronym SMART, discuss each one in detail to understand the qualities of SMART goals, and include a practical example. Here we use the example of your goal to become a Chiropractor.


SPECIFIC: Be specific in your wording

Suppose you’d like to change your major, don’t use vague language when setting your goal. Be specific in your wording, stating exactly what it is you want to achieve and the measures you will take to ensure success. In short, have a defined destination. For example, you’d like to become a Chiropractor and you’ll need to change your major classes. Identify which specific classes you need to drop and those you need to join, and see the relevant authorities who will facilitate this move.


MEASURABLE: Your goals should comprise of measurability

Your goal ought to be quantifiable and trackable. Something whose progress can be monitored and increase measured. How many of your classes have you managed to change to get closer to achieving your goal of becoming a Chiropractor? Have you purchased the requirements for the class? Quantify your goals to gauge your progress.


ACHIEVABLE: Purpose for realistic and achievable goals.

Using industry benchmarks will leave you frustrated. Base your goals on your analytics. Have you achieved the minimum score required for Chiropractic classes? If not, have you applied for the bridging course that will give you access to the classes?


REALISTIC: Select goals that are relevant to your college or university degree.

Suppose your initial major was not in line with your goal to become a Chiropractor and you only realized this halfway through your semester. Now that you are keen to set your SMART goals, you want the relevance of your courses to be at the forefront of your selection. Do not lose sight of your end goal.


TIMELY: Include a time-frame and deadline

Having an open-ended goal does not motivate one to achieve it. Setting deadlines to your goal gives you the necessary pressure to ensure accomplishment. Give yourself a time-frame and state when you will see the Dean or Professor and get your classes changed. Timelines will assist you in making significant progress consistently.

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SMART Goals: Advantages and Disadvantages

There are numerous advantages and a few disadvantages to using this methodology in setting yourself up for success.

  • It provides direction/helps create objectives.
  • It evaluates your strengths and weaknesses.
  • It motivates you.
  • Gets you out of your comfort zone, forcing you to take action.
  • Incredibly useful in achieving a goal.
  • It helps retain one’s focus on the desired result.
  • Performance enhancer tool/identifies the areas you need to improve.
  •  It gives you a feeling of satisfaction as you continue to monitor your progress.
  • Saves time that could otherwise be wasted in activities that aren’t goal-oriented.
  • It can be disheartening if not followed through.
  • May create unnecessary pressure.
  • If you fail to meet your goals you will feel a sense of disappointment/feeling of failure.
  • Setting goals can sometimes inhibit your creativity in other areas as all your focus may be channeled towards your goals.

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In a Nutshell

In this article, we have looked at the following:

  • SMART goals: what they mean.
  • Examples of SMART goals.
  • Guidelines on how to set yourself SMART goals.
  • SMART goals: the definition of the acronym.
  • Qualities of SMART goals
  • Advantages and disadvantages of SMART goals.

With this information, you are now well versed with what SMART goals are and how to implement them to help you succeed in your goal setting. Now go achieve your dreams using SMART goals and prepare for success!