Realistic. The fourth term examines whether both your goals and the plans you created to achieve these goals are realistic. In other words “is my goal do-able?”, “is my action plan to achieve this goal do-able?”, and “do I have the skill set or knowledge base to follow through on my plan?”
To put this into perspective, consider the goal “I want to lose 5kgs in three months.” While this goal may sound realistic the plan you put into place to achieve it may involve unrealistic methods, like going cold turkey on certain foods or starving yourself. Hence although this goal is realistic the plan isn't.
Timing is another issue that needs to be considered. You may have a specific, measurable, achievable goal in place but you may also be too busy doing other things at the time. As a result trying to achieve this goal, at this point in time, would be unrealistic.
Realistic is the one term of the SMART method that I really agree with. How realistic something is to achieve will directly relate to the probability of you achieving it. However deciding on whether a goal is realistic can be tough. There is no one way or blanket approach to use when making this call. It is something that is very personal and can’t be quantified due to the huge variation of factors involved. Therefore when considering how realistic a goal may or may not be, make sure you think about the ‘you’ factor. That is, how realistic is it that ‘you’ can achieve this goal and not how realistic is it that this goal can be achieved.
Timely. The last part of the SMART goal approach states that goals should be met within a certain time frame. By establishing an end point you have a clear target to work towards. Without an end point there is risk that commitment may wane as there is no urgency to start taking action.
There is no doubt that putting a time frame around goals is a good way to keep things moving. However I have issues with the term timely in that you really don’t know how long a goal will or should take to achieve. Again, time frames work well for specific shorter term goals but when you are stepping into the unknown regarding a new long term or lifestyle goal it can get tough. I have certainly done this in the past only to feel defeated when the time period expires, and the goal hasn’t been met. Instead of looking at what I’d achieved up to that point I felt as if I had failed. Whether or not you choose to use time frames will depend on the things that work for you. If you are a person who simply can’t get things done without pressure, then perhaps you would benefit from being ‘timely’. On the other hand if pressure turns you off then it won’t work. As always you must do what works for you.
So there you have it, the five elements of the SMART goal method. It’s widely acknowledged as the ‘industry standard’ for those wanting to give themselves the best chance of success when setting and following through on goals. But… just because the SMART goal method is the standard approach to goal setting, does this mean you should adopt it too? Could there be a better way to set goals?
Despite having no doubt that the validity of this method is strong, I think the SMART goal approach is a little too involved for the majority of people. For the most part people appreciate a simple approach to challenges that often appear quite complex to begin with. In addition SMART goals although effective for short term goals, seem to become less and less effective the more long term our goals are. It just so happens that when it comes to exercise and health related goals a lot of us do want to make long term or lifestyle goals. Life after all is a long term prospect.
So the question for those of us who are in it for the long term is, “are SMART goals for us?” For short term goals, maybe. For longer term goals, probably not.
For a different perspective and a look at a new and highly effective method of goal setting check out the '2-3-4 approach to change' here http://www.exercisechange.co.nz/resources.html