Specific goals are goals that have clear and well-defined goals.
The search showsthat if you make your goals more concrete, you are three times more likely to achieve your goals. It's an even greater indicator of success thanintrinsischMotivation.
To make your goals more concrete, write down what it will look like when you reach your goal. You can comment features like:
- Wasthe goal looks as if it has been achieved
- Ifis achieved
- Woyou will get it
- IfYou will get there
- WeilYou want to achieve this goal
This is also the case in the study cited above, survey participants were asked to write the following:
"Over the next week, I will be doing at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]."
Specific Goals and the SMART Framework
Being specific is fundamental to the SMART Goals Framework. It's the first of five key points you need to articulate in order to achieve your goal. The five points of the SMART acronym are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Why is it important for goals to be specific?
Goals need to be specific so we can start to see what the path to get there will be like.
Often our goal is a general statement like “be more motivated”, “stay resilient” and “strive for excellence”.
When we write themparticularitiesof our goals, we can go beyond a general statement about our desires. Instead, we can write down tangible things that show what success will look like.
Examples of specific goals
1. Apply for 5 jobs in 10 days
Meta:"I will apply for 5 positions in 20 days."
Why is it specific:This goal adds specific details such as:how manyJobs you apply for anddie Deadlinein which it is achieved. To be more specific, tell me exactly what these 5 jobs are. For example, you might say, “I will be applying to Costco on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., Target on Friday at 4:00 p.m., Walmart on Sunday at 4:00 p.m., Safeway on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m and the following Thursday at Trader Joe's at 4 p.m.."
|Specific||I am applying for 5 jobs in 10 days. I'll be checking in at Costco on Wednesday at 4pm, Target at 4pm on Friday, Walmart at 4pm on Sunday, Safeway at 4pm on Tuesday and 4pm the following Thursday Apply to Trader Joe's.|
|Measurable||On each of the above days, I can check at 4:00 p.m. whether I have applied or not.|
|Reachable||I have a resume ready so I know I can take it. I just have to prepare the cover letters and find the right email address to send the application.|
|Relevant||Getting a job will help me pay my bills and get my college degree.|
|time limit||I will reach this goal in 10 days. The closing date for entries is Thursday at 4 p.m. next week.|
2. Get a score of at least 80% on my exam
Meta:"I'm aiming for an 80% or better on my psychology exam, which I'll be taking on May 25."
Why is it specific:The goal states exactly what grade you want in exactly which exam. To be more specific you can explain how you will study to make sure you reach your goal.
|Specific||I'm aiming for a grade of 80% or better on my psychology exam, which I'll be taking on May 25th. To achieve this goal, I will use flashcards to memorize important points for the exam every day between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.|
|Measurable||The measure of success is 80% of the exam.|
|Reachable||I got a 77% on my previous psychology exam. I'm at almost 80% and this extra effort will help me get there.|
|Relevant||Getting 80% will help me keep my GPA high so I can better position myself to graduate and get a job in psychology.|
|time limit||My goal has to be reached by May 25th when I'll take my exam.|
3. Run the July city marathon in under 5.5 hours
Meta:"I will run the city marathon, which takes place in July, in less than 5.5 hours."
Why is it specific:This goal specifies what marathon you will run, the date you will run it, and the time you must beat. More specifically, you can explain how you will train to ensure you reach your goal.
|Specific||I will run the city marathon, which takes place in July, in less than 5.5 hours. To achieve this goal, I will run a 15K every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon.|
|Measurable||The measure of success is to complete the marathon in under 5.5 hours.|
|Reachable||I ran my last marathon in 5 hours and 45 minutes. This is an incremental step.|
|Relevant||Running the marathon in less than 5.5 hours is the culmination of 18 months of physical training.|
|time limit||The city marathon takes place on July 15th.|
4. Complete a 15-slide presentation on goal setting strategies
Meta:"I'll be completing a 15-slide presentation on goal setting strategies for my team at work on the 15th of this month."
Why is it specific:The goal specifies how many slides the presentation will have, what it will be about, and when it will be presented.
|Specific||I will be giving a 15 slide presentation on goal setting strategies for my team at work on the 15th of this month. The strategies discussed in the presentation are theSMART target frameit is atSWOT-AnalyseStructure.|
|Measurable||Measures of success are: 15-slide presentation, presenting to my boss's requirements, and answering all post-presentation questions.|
|Reachable||I have good public speaking skills, so I can do this.|
|Relevant||The presentation will help me demonstrate my skills at my job and may help me get a promotion.|
|time limit||The presentation will take place on the 15th of this month.|
5. Memorize 50 language flashcards in 7 days
Meta:“I will memorize 50 language flashcards in 7 days. The words on the flashcards will be the 50 most important verbs in Spanish.”
Why is it specific:The learning objective states how many flashcards are to be memorized and which words are on the flashcards.
|Specific||I will memorize 50 language flashcards in 7 days. The words on the flashcards are the 50 most important verbs in Spanish.|
|Measurable||I can ask a friend to test me at the end of the 7 days to measure my score out of 50.|
|Reachable||That works out to less than 10 new words a day, which I think is possible.|
|Relevant||Learning these verbs is necessary to pass Spanish exams.|
|time limit||The goal will be reached in 7 days.|
6. Grow my business to make $10,000 a month by December
Meta:"I will grow my business to make $10,000 a month by December of this year."
Why is it specific:I found a specific financial goal and date. However, I could be more specific by describing exactly how I will get there.
|Specific||I will grow my business to make $10,000 a month by December of this year. I will do this work in the late afternoon to be able to serve 5 more customers per month.|
|Measurable||I can measure this by looking at my income for the month of December.|
|Reachable||As I've added more hours to my work week, I think I can achieve that.|
|Relevant||Earning more money can help me and my family live more comfortably.|
|time limit||The target will be reached by December 31st.|
7. Write 700 words a day in my memoir
Meta:"I'm going to write my memoir 700 words a day for 100 days to get to 70,000 words in the first draft."
Why is it specific:
|Specific||I specifically gave an exact number of words to write per day.|
|Measurable||I can use a job counter in Google Docs to measure my word count.|
|Reachable||For 700 words it usually takes me 1 hour to write them and I will take 1 hour every day between 8pm and 9pm to write these words.|
|Relevant||I want my memoir to be ready by the end of the year and that will help me achieve that broader goal.|
|time limit||The goal will be reached in exactly 100 days.|
8. Read a book every month for 12 months
Meta:"I'm going to read a book every month for 12 months."
Why is it specific:I have given an exact number of books to read. More precisely, I could name which book I read every month.
|Specific||I will read a book every month for 12 months. The first seven books will be the Harry Potter books in order, followed by the three Lord of the Rings books, then The Hobbit, and in the final month I will be reading the first book in the Hunger Games series.|
|Measurable||I can assess my progress at the end of each month.|
|Reachable||I will have to read an average of 15 pages a day. I could read this in 20 minutes every night before bed, that's possible.|
|Relevant||Reading these books will help me improve my reading skills, which has been a long term goal of mine.|
|time limit||The goal will be reached in exactly 12 months.|
9. Do 30 push-ups daily for 30 days
Meta:"I'm going to do 30 push-ups a day for 30 days."
Why is it specific:I wrote down exactly what I'm going to do and for how long. I could be more specific about when I would do them each day.
|Specific||I'm going to do 30 push-ups a day for 30 days. I'll be doing the push-ups at 8am, right after I've had my morning smoothie.|
|Measurable||I can measure my success every day as well as at the end of the 30 days.|
|Reachable||I have the time and nuclear power to get started.|
|Relevant||This will help me develop more strength, which will achieve my training goal.|
|time limit||The goal will be reached in exactly 30 days.|
10. Save $5,000 in 8 months
Meta:"I will save $5,000 in 8 months."
Why is it specific:It has an exact amount of money and an exact deadline. I can break that down to $625 per month, which can be achieved by saving 20% of my monthly income.
|Specific||I will save $5000 in 8 months by saving 20% of my monthly income every month.|
|Measurable||I can track the progress monthly (in dollar amounts) as well as at the end of the 8 month period.|
|Reachable||For this I have to save 20% of my income. After looking at my expenses, I believe I can do it.|
|Relevant||Saving this money will help me pay my college bills.|
|time limit||The term is 8 months.|
11. Paint my bedroom walls baby blue in 12 hours
Meta:"In 12 hours I'll be painting my bedroom walls baby blue."
Why is it specific:This goal spells out exactly what I'm going to do, what color I'm going to use, the space, and the deadline.
|Specific||I'm going to be painting my bedroom walls baby blue in 12 hours.|
|Measurable||I can track progress hour by hour and note how far I've traveled in space.|
|Reachable||I have paint, roller and brush, and I've cleaned the room before.|
|Relevant||The room needs to be painted before I have a child.|
|time limit||The goal will be reached at the end of the day.|
12. Walk 10,000 steps a day
Meta:"I will walk 10,000 steps a day for the next 30 days."
Why is it specific:It tells me how many steps I will take to measure success. I also have to say how I'm going to do it.
|Specific||I will walk 10,000 steps a day for the next 30 days. To achieve this goal I will add a 1 hour commute home from work instead of taking the bus.|
|Measurable||I will use a pedometer to count the number of steps I take.|
|Reachable||If I come home from work every day, I should come to this.|
|Relevant||This will help improve my overall physical condition, which is a goal my doctor has set for me.|
|time limit||The target will be evaluated in exactly 30 days.|
13. Wake up at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday
Meta:"I'll be waking up at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday for the entire month of January."
Why is it specific:I have a specific time and days when I need to wake up.
|Specific||I will be waking up at 5am Monday through Friday for the entire month of January.|
|Measurable||I can measure that every morning with a yes/no check.|
|Reachable||I have an alarm clock that will help me with this.|
|Relevant||If I get up early, I have more time to study what I need to do.|
|time limit||The goal ends and is counted as a success or failure on January 31st.|
14. I will write 3 blog posts per week for 12 weeks
Meta:"I will blog 3 posts per week for 12 weeks to increase my blog traffic."
Why is it specific:I said exactly how many blog posts I'm going to write. I could improve this by creating a content calendar so I know exactly what I'm going to write each week.
|Specific||I will be writing 3 blog posts per week for 12 weeks to increase my blog traffic. I will be writing a blog post on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and each blog post will be 1500 words.|
|Measurable||I can measure success on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday by looking at the number of jobs and seeing if I click the publish button.|
|Reachable||I take my time on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons to achieve this goal.|
|Relevant||I need to do this to grow my blog.|
|time limit||This goal will be reached in 12 weeks (36 blog posts).|
15. I will hike 7 mountains by the end of summer
Meta:"By the end of the summer I will climb seven mountains, one mountain every Saturday."
Why is it specific:I have already indicated how many mountains I will climb and what days I will do it while it is completed. I could, however, quote the hikes to add more detail.
|Specific||I will climb seven mountains by the end of the summer, one mountain every Saturday.|
|Measurable||I can mark these mountains one by one.|
|Reachable||I have a basic level of fitness and all the hiking gear I need. I can also drive my 4x4 to the base of any mountain.|
|Relevant||This fulfills my New Year's resolution to enjoy my summer!|
|time limit||The target will be reached in 7 weeks on Saturday.|
Research shows that setting specific goals makes you 3x more likely to achieve your goals. Specific goals are also the core feature of the SMART goal framework. In fact, the following metrics (measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) are simpleadd more detailsto your SMART goal!
Milne, S., Orbell, S., and Sheeran, P. (2002). Combination of motivational and voluntary interventions to promote participation Exercise: Protection motivation theory and implementation intentions,British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(2): 163–184. Doi:https://doi.org/10.1348/135910702169420
Chris Drew (PhD)
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Physician Chris Drew is the founder of Helpful Teacher. He holds a PhD in Education and has published over 20 articles in academic journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.