Knowledge & Understanding (Oh!)


The SMARTEST Way to Set and Achieve Goals – Part 4

by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.


This is part four of the SMARTEST goal setting formula.  Each of the commonly used variations from the often used SMART goal setting formulas have been incorporated into this more complete formula because they provide a broader definition of each component and can be very useful in helping coaches and their clients succeed. The last three parts, which make up the EST part of SMARTEST, adds three critically important components.  Without these the other five often never get done.

This part covers the “R” Component – Realistic, Relevant, Reasonable, Rewarding, Results-oriented

The components of the SMARTEST formula are:

SSpecific, significant, stretching

M – Measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – Achievable, acceptable, agreed upon, action-oriented

R – Realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – Time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

E – Exciting, energizing, effortless (Yes, effortless. You will understand why soon.)

S – Sage, satisfying, sensible, sane

T – True to your passion, purpose and mission 


Children, optimists and the bold types tend to think they can do anything. For these groups goals are sometimes far too ambitious and, as we have seen, overly ambitious goals usually spell trouble. Although realistic and achievable seem to be the same thing, one is about the ability to actually get the job done in the real world, while the other is about believing that you can. Some deluded people believe they can do more than they are actually able to do and some believe they cannot do things that they actually can do. In either case, they are not being realistic.

Realistic does not mean small and safe. It means reasonably ambitious. As with the achievable part of the SMARTEST formula you can be sure your goal is reasonable by testing your assumptions before you jump in with both feet. We can have anything we are willing to work for, but we can’t have it all at the same time. It's important to honestly evaluate yourself to determine whether you have the ability and commitment to turn your dreams into reality. Most of us find we need to make some adjustments and that we need to get help in areas where we lack expertise. Employing a good coach in those areas can save worlds of time and money.

Relevant seems similar to meaningful, but the two are quite different. Meaningful is an internal judgment. Relevant is an external one. We judge whether things are relevant by how useful they are in relation to the matter at hand. Things can be very meaningful without being relevant and vise-versa. Goals need to be prioritized by their relevance to the moment and to the sequence in which events need to unfold to realize the overall goal.

Reasonable requires a lot of reality checking and soul searching. Many people have ambitions that they cannot reasonably achieve. Most people cannot go from broke to multimillionaire in a year, for example, though many people dream of doing that. It does happen on rare occasions, but for most people that is an unreasonable expectation. Most people are aware that such an expectation is not reasonable, but there are other less obvious ways that we can set unreasonable goals. You may love singing, for example, and want to become a rock star, but if you are tone deaf and can’t carry a tune that is an unreasonable goal. Or you may want to build a real estate empire but not have the time, money or talent for it.  

Rewarding seems obvious, but there is more to this than meets the eye too. For most goals to be realized we need the help and cooperation of others and there has to be some reward for them to help. Remember, we all do everything we do to move away from pain or toward pleasure. We all operate on the “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) frequency and, if there is no reward for helping, people won’t continue to help. There are many ways to reward people; from sharing profits or paying them money to feeding their soul with authentic compliments and genuinely expressed gratitude. Most people want to help and are more than willing to where there is some reward—either tangible or intangible.

Results-oriented goals begin with the end in mind, but to reach the end goal, each goal step should also have a defined result. You need to know what your results will be as you lay out a series of goal steps. When “A” is done, for example you know it is time to go to “B”, and when “B” is done you know to move to “C”.  Although keeping the end in mind is an important part of the process, monitoring results is important from beginning to end.

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