Knowledge & Understanding (Oh!)

The SMARTEST Way to Set and Achieve Goals – Part 5

by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.

This is part five 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 first “T” component – Time-based, Timely, Tangible, Trackable

The components of the SMARTEST formula are:

S – Specific, 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 

Without a time frame, “goals” are not goals. They are just future plans or hopes or wishes. Setting a specific amount of time within which to accomplish a particular set of objectives gives goals the structure they need to be successful.

Most of us don’t like the term “deadline” because it sounds so… final. That is exactly the point and why the term continues to be used. Let’s go back to the faithful subconscious mind and a further exploration of how it works. The word “deadline” conjures up a picture of finality past a certain point.  We all know what dead looks like and we can all visualize a line. The combined elements create a picture that the subconscious mind sees as something painful occurring beyond the line we have drawn. Pictures and story lines that call up positive or negative emotions are what triggers the subconscious mind and sets us in action. Without an end date there is no sense of urgency, no reason to take any action now. Having a specific time frame gives you the impetus to get started and helps you monitor your progress.

When we draw that “line”, represented by a date on a calendar, the subconscious mind has something tangible to connect to. The more aware we are of the deadline and the greater the perceived pain if we fail to meet it, the greater the urgency to act gets as the deadline draws nearer. For example, meeting a deadline where others know we are supposed to perform and are depending on us to come through becomes far more urgent as the deadline approaches than a goal that impacts only us. You can use this fact to your advantage by building a team, declaring your goals and making them such that failure to meet them will impact the entire team. 

Timely refers to events occurring at the right time, as opposed to within a specific time-frame. Timing is important for all goal-setting to some degree. Obviously we can’t set a goal to go snow skiing in Colorado in July because there is no snow in July. But not all timing factors are so obvious. Goals frequently fail because the timing was off. Investing in tech stocks at the end of the dot-com era is an example of bad timing that was not obvious to those who did it, but was obvious to economists that kept warning that the bubble was about to burst. Many goals fell apart when that happened. Had those investors done their homework or listened to others who had, the losses could have been diverted. To set timely goals, both opportunities and limitations must be examined and factored in.

There is no such thing as an intangible goal. The minute it is defined and set as a goal it is tangible. Tangible means “real capable of being appraised” and anything that remains in the realm of unreal or that cannot be appraised cannot be set as a goal. Desires and daydreams can be intangible, and usually are, but not goals. If what you think is a goal cannot be appraised, keep working on it because it isn’t really a goal yet.

For goals to be trackable each of the interim steps must be defined. We need to know what must be done on a daily basis. We need to know how many steps must be completed by the end of the day, the week, the month and so on. We need to know how many steps achievement of the goal will take and at what point in time each one needs to be completed. Only then can we know with any certainty whether we need to pick up the pace in order to meet a deadline or can take it easy and still reach our goal. This is where the first component, specific, helps. The more specific we are in setting a goal, the more we know what steps are required and the more trackable it them becomes.  Setting goals is more than deciding what you want to do.

It involves figuring out exactly what you need to do to get where you want to go and how long it will take you to get there. You do that by setting time-lines and tracking progress. 


Dr. Sherry Buffington is the originator and co-developer of the CORE Multidimensional Awareness Profile (CORE MAP), a powerfully effective coaching tool for establishing an authentic coaching baseline that gets results fast!  It is unrivaled in the coaching industry for helping coaches get exceptional results with their clients.  Learn more at

Sherry is also the developer of the block busting Rapidly Accelerated Mind Patterning process (RAMP) that is revolutionizing coaching results by helping clients remove blocks instantly and permanently.  

CORE MAP and RAMP are two of three tools that make up the Quantum Leap3 Coaching program that is revolutionizing coaching, propelling coaches to the top of the coaching industry, and adding six-figure incomes while allowing coaches to serve more clients better and in less time. The third tool is called Success-GPS which is a tool that provides clarity around actions clients are taking that either lead to success or prevent it. To learn more about the Quantum Leap3 coaching program, go to

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