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Goal Setting: 13 Tips for SMART Goals!

Why Goals are Important

An often quoted 1953 Harvard Business School study on the topic of the importance of setting goals, stated that written down goals made all the difference! Is there merit in this? According to further research, this study apparently never occurred – yet has become an urban myth.

So in 2011, Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University undertook to confirm or deny whether there is merit in the myth!

A psychology professor at California’s Dominican University, Matthew’s research focus has been on the psychology of career choice and career development – goals obviously play a big part.

What the study found, provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of:

  • Accountability
  • Commitment
  • And writing down one’s goals!


The first key insight discovered was that accountability has a positive effect on goal outcomes.

Mathew’s conclusion on accountability was that, “Those who reported their weekly progress updates achieved significantly higher outcomes than those who didn’t.”


The second insight is that just making a public commitment makes a difference.

The conclusions of the study in this area: “Those who sent their commitments to someone else, accomplished significantly more didn’t.”

Simply sharing the goals, even once with people who will encourage and support you helps you stick with it. (Be careful not to share with those who will ridicule you though)

Written Goals

Finally, if you only do one thing in relation to your goals, write them down!

Study conclusion here, “Those in the study who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who didn’t.”

This confirms what I have seen in my nearly three decades of experience in helping people achieve greater outcomes for themselves and their life.

So the question that often is raised is, “How do I set Goals, now that I know they are important?”

Here are 13 Tips for Successful Goal Setting:

Make sure your goals are:

  1. What you really want. A goal should be emotionally satisfying. It should tug at your heart strings. Making sure that you really want to accomplish the goals you set, will help you continue when the going gets tough. As an entrepreneur you may choose to add incentives that are personally meaningful to you, and this will foster honest introspection and evaluation of what you really want to achieve. It isn’t difficult to know what you want, as Ayn Rand said: “Well, I always know what I want. And when you know what you want-you go toward it.” Ask yourself why you want the goal. These SMART Goal Setting Steps will help.
  2. Written down. Forbes discussed the positive effect of written goals as supported in the study: Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals. A written goal represents a real commitment. Commitment is what separates dreams from goals. Fill in the Savvy Team’s Goal Setting Steps, and the SMART GOAL questionaire. Seek counsel as to your goals appropriateness.
  3. Planned out. Action planning is a process which will help you to focus your ideas and to decide what steps you need to take to achieve particular goals that you may have. It involves identify your objectives, prioritise your tasks, identify the steps needed to achieve your goals, and includes having a contingency plan. Work out a plan of action and keep a copy of your goal plan in sight. Refer to it often, and adjust what is needed to achieve your objective. Have a life plan.
  4. Supported by regular accountability. The positive effect of accountability was highly supported in the study. Those who gave weekly progress reports accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals or those who had formulated action commitments but just sent those commitments in.
  5. Believable to you. If you absolutely want to reach your goals in life, believing in yourself is a must if you want to get anywhere in life today. Keep believing in yourself, because on the way to success you will inevitably fail over and over again! Therefore to achieve success in life or in business, you must keep believing that you will eventually get there.
  6. Clearly articulated. You should be able to both describe and visualise, and be excited by the result you are after. Athletes use visualisation to help them achieve success, and so can you. By visualising your success with close attention to the details and how you feel as you visualise, you prepare yourself to take the steps necessary to get there. If you can’t see yourself accomplishing your goals in your mind, chances are you probably won’t.
  7. Specific.  Be as specific as possible so you can focus on them easily. Making specific goals and working consistently to achieve them is extremely rewarding. It improves your self esteem. Being clear about what you want is one of the first steps to accomplishing your task/s. NOTE: as long as they make you feel good when you think about them, being specific assists you achieve them. If you get overwhelmed by the specific, go general (stop being specific).
  8. Measurable. Trying to achieve an ambiguous, unspecified accomplishment or a feeling like being happy allows no real measure of success. Quantifying the results you are hoping to achieve with percentages, dollars or time will allow you to measure what you’ve achieved and readjust accordingly. “That which is measured, improves.”
  9. Set for the long-term and the short-term. Ideally, you should set goals for the long-term, and then mini goals that are short-term and ultimately tie in with the bigger picture. Long-term goals can be approximately three to five years away, while short-term goals could take anywhere from a couple months to a year or two. Differentiating between the two will help you from becoming overwhelmed or discouraged, and will also assist in always keeping the long-term perspective in mind when the day to day threatens to make you lose sight of it. You will also need to set daily and weekly tasks to be completed.
  10. Committed to. Your commitment to your goals will determine whether or not you achieve them. This means you must be able to achieve the goal as a result of your own ideas, work and determination, with or without the willing assistance of someone already in your network. Determine the actions you can perform to achieve the goals you set for the day, the week, the month. Know what they are and be willing to do them. Unrealistic goals can ultimately lead to depression and low feelings of self-worth.
  11. Linked in together. For example, it would not be realistic to strive for a better work-life balance at home and to also try to increase your business growth and sales by 300%. Pay attention to how they make you feel and how each goal ties in with others you have to make sure they are not mutually exclusive.
  12. Not overwhelming. Taking on more than you can handle can overwhelm you and make you give up altogether. It’s okay to set more goals if you are honestly inspired but know your own strengths and weaknesses and plan honestly so you don’t let yourself or your team down. Use the Team Metrics Chart to keep check on your progress.
  13. Fexible. Assess your progress periodically, provide honest feedback and adjust as you go along. If you encounter roadblocks on your path, don’t give up. Instead, be willing to alter them to meet your new needs. Don’t become rigid in accomplishing something that is no longer relevant to you or your business just for the sake of your ego. Knowing when to walk away or shift gears can be real progress, in and of itself.


We hope these 13 tips will help you along your path to setting ‘smarter goals’ and accomplishing more!

Most importantly, when approaching completion of a goal, set new ones! Successful people form habits to do things that less successful people don’t like to do, planning and goal setting included.

~ Summary of Recent Goals Research PDF here: Gail Matthews Written Goal Study -Dominican University

Share your thoughts in the comments section. What have you found has helped you in the area of Goal Setting and achievement?

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One thought to “Goal Setting: 13 Tips for SMART Goals!”

  1. Goals are important to set and revisit time to time, this sure helps you get your head in the right space.

    One of the tips that stood out for me this times is:
    #10 Committed to: there is a link that takes you to, ‘Your commitment to your goals’

    I found that number 3 in ‘Your commitment to your goals’
    #3. ‘Expect and have faith that you will get help along the way’, is so true with the Savvy Team. As if you are committed to a goal you will always have the faith and the wonderful support from your Savvy Team leaders.

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