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Setting SMARTER Goals

Let me guess, almost half of you have made new year’s resolutions: promises to yourself about losing weight, eating healthy, getting more sleep and being more financially responsible.

We humans just love to use the calendar year as a reset button to jog ourselves into new habits. The trouble is, we generally don’t put much effort into how we plan to stick to the promises we make to ourselves and to others. We have good intentions, and even greater desires, but without making the time to formulate a real plan for achieving our goals, they often fall flat. In a hurry.

I was told at a cocktail party last year that there is a 10% dropout rate for resolutions by the second week of January. I’m not sure to which research the person was referencing, but if that trend trickles through the rest of the year, we’ll have all failed well before the year is out!

What I find particularly troubling with this disastrous figure is that many of us make the same resolution year over year. A broken record. I’ll do it…some day.

How ludicrous is that? 

We all have pipe-dreams – but let’s not call them resolutions or goals, okay?

So, how do we expect different results when we keep doing the same bloody things (or nothing at all)?

We meander through the year with this grand notion of achieving our goals but very few of us actually get serious and set effective plans in place. Why? A bazillion reasons (some valid, some not) and a dash of overwhelm. 

If this sounds familiar, then I challenge you to make 2020 the year that you get serious – I mean it, seriously serious – about achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

We sometimes set goals, and then life gets in the way. Perhaps other priorities hurdle them. Maybe we set the goals waaaay too high, or don’t allocate the necessary resources – time, effort, money – to meet them. Some of us may even expect our goals to magically come to fruition without effort. Sort of like winning the lotto. I get it. I'm one of those folks who buy lotto tickets with the dream of winning. I've been playing the same Lotto 6/49 numbers for over 30 years (and I'm seriously serious about that) – but…it would most certainly not be accurate for me to say that I have a goal of winning the lotto. I have dreams, but I’m not delusional enough to label that a goal.

Sure, people talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals as a proven method for goal attainment. And for some, it does work. Heck, I fell in love with S.M.A.R.T. goals a long time ago! Not back in ’81 when George Doran developed the concept (nor the many since who have been attributed with or subsequently adapted his work - including shiftED), but for many years, in multiple training programs and during performance reviews with those reporting to me, I have promoted goal setting.

Whether part of a personal plan, embedded in a number of certificate training programs that I developed, or during one-on-one coaching with professionals, I incorporate the notion of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting into the conversation. Why? Because if done properly, it works. And it’s adaptable.

Doran offered that S.M.A.R.T. stood for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related. And although there are variations and a few takes on what the S.M.A.R.T. acronym stands for, the one that I’ve become most intimate with is shiftED’s SMARTER version of goal setting, with two additional elements that increase the probability of success.

Want to know more? Click here to download shiftED Academy’s SMARTER Goal Setting infographic and please let us know in the comments below how you plan to succeed with your goal setting this year.


- Tisha Parker Kemp

Originally published January 4, 2019; updated January 1, 2020 

Original photo of doors from qimono on Pixabay: modified by Yours Truly



Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70(11), 35.


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