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S.M.A.R.T. GOALS: How to set smart goals.

January is characterized by setting goals and being motivated for the upcoming year. Nonetheless, how many of these goals are finally achieved? It is a fact that many people do not succeed in achieving their goals and this may lead to feelings of frustration and anxiety. However, it is very important to set goals in the right way in order to experience a sense of meaning, motivation and concentration. Research has shown that when a goal is “S.M.A.R. T” is more likely to be implemented and lead to an increased sense of self-efficacy.

What are the S.M.A.R.T. goals and how can they contribute to a better everyday life?

Goal setting, like other behavioral aspects, comes first to the Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, whose philosophies express that “action can be enhanced by purpose” (George, 1972). Additionally, Locke (1968) studied the relationship between motivation and goal setting and he explained that employees had higher levels of motivation when they had set clear goals and when they had received feedback on their progress. Nevertheless, Doran (1981) was the first to publish the S.M.A.R.T method.

Today this method is considered to be the basis for creating achievable and effective goals (Bjerke & Renger, 2016). The acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” includes the following features for a goal:

  • S pecific (simple, logical, important). A goal must be reshaped from abstract and general to clear and specific so that the steps needed can be more easily defined. For example, an abstract goal might be one’s desire to become better at his job. In this example, he can make clear the job areas in which he aims to become better at and for what reasons. The following questions may help you set specific goals:

What exactly do I want to achieve?

Why is this goal important to me?

Who else is involved in achieving this goal?

  • M easurable (significant). In order for a goal to be specific it has to be measurable as well. This will facilitate the assessment of the progress. The following questions can be answered:

Which will be the signs that will show me that the goal was achieved?

What will change in my life after achieving the goal?

How much and what means are needed to achieve the goal?

  • A chievable An achievable goal is one that can be achieved considering the available resources (Chen, 2015). For this, it is helpful to make an assessment based on objective criteria regarding how realistic is the goal before the effort begins. A question that can help is:

“How can I achieve this goal?” If the answer to this question involves ways to achieve the goal, the individual can proceed with the implementation of the goal.

  • R elevant (logical). The goal must be important for the individual in order for the high motivation to be maintained during the process. Try to answer the following questions:

How important is this goal to me?

How will I feel after achieving this goal?

Is it the right time?

  • T ime bound (chronologically determined). This feature is very important as if there is a time limit for the achievement of the goal, the goal becomes more specific and the whole effort is based on a plan. The questions are:

What can I do 6 months from now?

What can I do 6 weeks from now?

What can I do today?

Over time, the “S.M.A.R.T.” method evolved as it proved to be very effective and became “S.M.A.R.T.E.R” (Lawlor & Hornyak, 2012). The two elements that were added were the ability to be evaluated (Evaluated) and the ability to be revised as well as to be adapted to new possible needs (Reviewed).

Thus, with the right planning and following the above technique, the chances of reaching your goals are increased. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – the author of the famous book “The Little Prince” – said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.

We wish you a Happy and Creative New Year.

Spyros Tzeranis, Manager and Scientific Director of the Clinic.

Eleni Theofili, Clinical Psychologist MSc.

1 Pentelis Ave., Nea Penteli
210 8044332/210 8047624



Bjerke, M. B., & Renger, R. (2016). Being smart about writing smart objectives. Evaluation and Program Planning, 61, 125-127. doi:10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.12.009

George, C. S. (1972). The history of management thought. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc

Chen., H. (2015). Theory-driven outcome evaluation. Practical Program Evaluation, 230-265. doi:10.4135/9781412985444.n10

Lawlor, K.B., & Hornyak., J. (2012). Smart Goals: How the Application of Smart Goals Can Contribute to Achievement of Student Learning Outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, Volume 29.

Locke, E. A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and Incentives. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3(2), 157-189. doi:10.1016/0030-5073(68)90004-4



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