How to set a goal that sticks

How to set a goal that sticks

Setting a goal is easy, but getting that goal that sticks can be an entirely different story. To help give yourself a better chance to reach your short and long-term goals, it’s important to set your goal in a way that is easy to follow, has tangible steps, and sets the time to get it done. It’s the ambiguity that often gets the best of our goals. 

Today we’ll follow the SMART format to set goals that are actionable and attainable. 


Your goal has to have a specific foundation to be built on. I am often critical of goals that are overly subjective and abstract (ex. I want to grow in my development) because you can’t hit something when you don’t even know you are shooting for it.

The specific subject can center around many things

  • A culminating event. ( I want to run the NY Marathon)
  • A time or efficiency (Do a task x% faster)
  • An achievement (accreditation,  an award, promotion)
  • An increase or decrease in number (weight, finances)

What specifically do you want to do or accomplish? Spell it out exactly to get a good start to the goal. 

M- Measurable

Now that you’ve got what you are shooting for in a goal, how are you going to measure its success? You need measurables in place to evaluate your progress and if you need to change or adapt things along the way.

In the NY marathon example, I need a qualifying time to get in. My measurable may be tracking my time as I try to hit my ultimate qualification time. In your professional career, it may be how many resumes and job applications you are going to complete a week. 

You should have some type of action attached to your goal and a way to measure the progress, if not, take time here to outline tangible ways to track your success. 

A- Achievable

You’ll want to take a realistic look to determine if the goal is reasonable enough to hit within your timeframe.  For your aspirational, long-term goals, build short-term goals that build and elevate you towards your ultimate goal. 

A stretch goal is perfectly fine to shoot for, just make sure it doesn’t stretch you so far that you break in the process. 

R- Relateable

Some goals you shouldn’t pursue! That’s not to say it’s a bad idea or a wrong endeavor to work towards. Maybe the timing is off. Perhaps you are already loaded up with other things. Sometimes a goal can take away from other important areas you need to master and win in first. 

Make sure that the goal or pursuit is timely, aligns with your current responsibilities and capabilities, and matches your personal values. Don’t waste your time on things that you shouldn’t be doing.  Your goal should contribute to your long-term aspirations in some way. 

T- Time-bound

No goal is complete without a time deadline to accomplish it. Set sometime around when you want to accomplish the task in order to stay motivated and focused on completing it. 

If you don’t hit your goal in the desired or set timeframe, it’s likely not the end of the world. Step back and assess why you didn’t make it and what you could do differently. Adjust, set a new goal, and get back at it. 

A few examples


  • I want to hit a 3:02 marathon time to qualify for the NY Marathon on Nov 3rd.
  • I want to lose 24lbs during the year and focus on 2lbs a month. 
  • I want to learn Morse Code and have the ability to pass the Morse Code interpretation test by June 30th. 


  • I want to earn a promotion in 18 months and take on 3 new responsibilities around operations and finance. 
  • I want to get a new job in 3 months. I’ll complete 4 applications a week and network with 5 new people a week. 
  • I want to earn my certification in my field in 12 months. I will join 2 study groups and the local chapter affiliation to help in my prep. 

Design goals that are clear, attainable, and have a set deadline to get it done. You’ll give your focus and motivation a boost while significantly raising the likelihood of meeting your goal. 

Make a better tomorrow.