Creating a goal seems like a simple enough task, but actually achieving a goal can feel daunting or unrealistic. After all, only 8% of people are reported to accomplish their New Year’s resolutions. But being mindful about goal setting and using the SMART goal framework can create a goal that is both meaningful and achievable.

The SMART goal setting method is used by individuals and organizations to create effective and achievable goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

  • Specific: Be as precise as possible in defining what outcome you want to achieve, why you want to achieve that goal, what resources you will use to achieve it, who can help you achieve your goal, and where you need to be or what you need to do in order to achieve your goal.
  • Measurable: Outline how you will measure success and what metrics you will use to know that you have achieved your goal. 
  • Attainable: Determine whether your goal is attainable given your current circumstances and potential constraints. Consider what challenges you may need to overcome to achieve your goal and outline how you will overcome those challenges. Consider time constraints, financial costs, educational requirements, etc.
  • RelevantConsider how this goal is relevant to what is currently going on in your life. Will achieving this goal contribute to a future opportunity, or will it conflict with other priorities? 
  • Time-based: Create a meaningful deadline for achieving your goal– when do you need to achieve it, and why is that deadline important? What milestones do you need to hit on your way to goal achievement, and when do you need to hit them?

The SMART goal setting framework answers the questions of “why” and “how” you are going to achieve your goal in addition to simply what that goal is, turning a basic idea into a tangible action plan.

Let’s look at an example. Jason currently has a B in English but his teacher thinks he could get an A- with a little more effort. He uses the SMART goal framework to map out how he will achieve this goal:

  • Specific: Jason will work toward getting an A- in English by the end of the semester. This will benefit him by boosting his overall GPA, which will help him to get into the college of his choice.
  • Measurable: In order to achieve this goal, Jason needs to make sure he completes all homework assignments, double checks his work, and works with a tutor. He will also track his grade progression throughout the semester to make sure he is staying on track.
  • Attainable: Progressing toward an A- from a B should be attainable for Jason. Last semester, he scored well on most of his projects and papers, but forgot to turn in a couple of homework assignments and didn’t always check his work before handing it in, leading to point deductions. With more planning and time management, he should be able to achieve his goal.
  • Relevant: Jason’s strengths are in Math and Science, and he would like to pursue a career that focuses on those subjects. But Jason is looking at competitive colleges and increasing his English grade will increase his overall GPA and help build important writing skills that are vital to higher education and many careers.
  • Time-based: This goal has a firm deadline based upon Jason’s current school semester.

Using the SMART goal methodology can help you take a step back to assess your goal and the steps you need to take toward goal achievement. 


About Ascend 
Ascend Inc. is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and mentoring organizations to cultivate, track, and measure student goals and achievement. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports students through schools and mentoring organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and beyond.