Career Success The SMART-T Way: Steps to Reaching Goals


By Lysa Appleton.

There is a Japanese proverb that says:  A vision (goal, objective) without action is a daydream; an action without vision (goal, objective) is a nightmare.

By now, you’ve likely seen a plethora of news posts regarding resolutions, goal setting, intentions, etc. I was reminded this week that according to research conducted by Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, only three percent of people write their goals down, but of those three percent, ninety-seven percent or better achieve their goals.

So why is that?  I believe that it is true for three reasons: First, when we write things down we send our brains a message that the goal is concrete and not just an idea.  Second, when we write things down we free up headspace for creativity and innovation….a sort of defragmentation exercise.  Lastly, when we write goals down we propel action with a “ready/aim/fire” as opposed to a non-effective “ready/fire/aim.”

Following “4 Ps” is crucial:

Make it Personal:  It is important to set goals because you want to reach them; they need to be meaningful and valuable for you and not driven by another’s agenda.

Make them Positive and Present:  Goals are far more effective and sustainable when they are worded in the positive and the present.  For example, “I have three new coffee/information meetings scheduled this week” as opposed to “I will have three new coffee/information meetings scheduled this week.”

Put, (write) them down:  This is the hardest point to follow through with consistency; however, it is the biggest secret to success.  In writing your goals down in the positive and present, they become concrete and this encourages your brain to “buy in” and support your goal.

SMART goals are nothing new and for years many people have written about their importance and value in reaching successful outcomes.  There is one more element to goal setting. SMART goals become SMART-T goals.  When setting goals, be sure they are:


Be very clear and detailed about your goal because when goals are too general we aren’t able to visualize them. If we can’t see them, we have a hard time devoting our efforts toward reaching them.  For example, we would not attempt to build a house without specific plans.


Make sure that you can measure the success of your goal, and of all the little steps it takes to achieve it.  If we can’t measure a goal, we have no idea how close we are to reaching it, and that can be de-motivating.


We sometimes think that we should set high targets or goals for ourselves in order to grow and stretch; however, if we set goals that aren’t manageable, we soon get discouraged and stop trying. Instead, set goals you know you can reach with a little stretching, and when you get there, set another incremental goal ~ climb the mountain one step at a time.


Goals need personal, meaningful importance or they will easily be discarded.  Set goals that are relevant to you and not driven by another’s agenda.


Set a deadline for the final goal, in addition to dates for all of the smaller goals that comprise the larger one. Deadlines are great for getting things done.  The dates may change and are not set in stone, but having them will hold you accountable to putting forth effort.

And finally….


This element is critical.  Share your goal(s) with colleagues, friends, family, a mentor or career coach in order to stay accountable. If you are like me, deadlines and check-ins are great motivators to accomplishment.  Choose one or two people to check in with once a week to share how you are doing with your goals, to brainstorm solutions to any obstacles, and to acknowledge your achievements.


Keep them visible:  Keep your written goals where you can see them often.

Celebrate your accomplishments:  Celebrated goals can be large or small, long term or short term, but it is motivating to acknowledge your wins and recognize your progress.

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”  ― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Wishing you a successful year!


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