Setting SMART Goals

Many people struggle to meet their goals. But I’d venture to say more of us struggle with setting goals. Reaching that finish line or hitting the target begins long before your feet hit the pavement or you aim your bow. The proof is in the planning.

When setting goals, it’s important to make sure they are SMART goals!

S – Specific – Setting broad goals, such as “I want to be a better student.” “I want to pass my HiSET.” or “I want a better job.” are all admirable things. But they lack the specificity needed to succeed. Try breaking the goals down into detailed parts. For example, “I’d like to study for 5 hours this week.” “I’d like to get a 140 on this week’s Reading practice test.” “I’d like to get a job in the healthcare industry.” Creating a zero-ed in target helps to focus your efforts and better define where you are heading.

M- Measurable – Without a number-based, measurable goal, you’ll never know if you truly hit the mark. Think about it this way…How do you know someone is getting better at darts? Their landing mark is closer and closer to the center. The same holds true for someone who wants to be a better student. They must set parameters that can be measured to see if they in fact are meeting their goal. This can be personalized to the needs of each learner and their specific area of focus. It can be based on practice test scores, study time, or another area that needs specific attention. Whatever you choose, make sure you can measure your performance to check for success.

A – Achievable – I once had a student say, “I want to get a perfect score on the GED. I’m shooting for a 200 on my first try!” WOW! What a goal! But is it achievable? I guess in theory, it is. But when we set our sights on perfection, accepting nothing less, there’s a lot of room for disappointment. Try setting small, reachable goals to build confidence. Once you meet your initial goal and have the drive to go farther, set other. When we go all in on the first hand, there’s a lot of room for error and our momentum can suffer because of it!

R – Realistic – Is your goal realistic? Does it fit the demands of life? Here’s what I mean. Is it realistic to say, I’m going to say, “I’m going to study 8 hours today,” when you are already working a 12-hour shift? Probably not. It’s not a practical goal. You are going to be tired, hungry, and cranky! At the end of the day if you end up putting in a couple of hours and then get some much needed sleep, you’ll be left with the feeling that your efforts weren’t worth it because you didn’t meet your giant goal. The fact is 2 hours is a lot of study time! When we make goals that are TOO BIG, we not only set ourselves up for failure, we miss the value of smaller efforts and achievements along the way. Set goals that fit your schedule and you’ll be checking them off in no time and moving on to bigger and better things.

T- Time-Bound – Set boundaries and hold yourself accountable. Saying “I will study 1 hour, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” is more specific and “boxed-in” by time than saying, “I will study for 3 hours each week.” Hold yourself accountable to time-frames and specific goals within your chosen day or days. Without the bounds of time, that 3 hour a week goal, could easily become a 3 hour cram session on Sunday night! This is not motivating and does nothing for your long-term memory and retention. Make a plan and stick to it.


Interested in learning more about setting and keeping goals? Essential Education can help. From our workbooks to interactive coaching sessions, we’ve got the prep you need to succeed in work and life!

Call or reach out today! 1-800-460-8150 or studenthelp@essentialed.com

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