SMART goals pay off

How to be more successful at achieving your personal goals and ambitions.

lesson outcome

Complete this lesson and you’ll be equipped to set both ambitious and achievable goals for yourself, help your colleagues do the same and also help your clients see the value in goal setting too.
This lesson will provide a personal-to-you look at goals and help you be more successful in your role (and life!).

The SMART goals knowledge will also provide you with the core skills for the following lesson about goal setting for client meetings.

A quick check-in

Answer the question below by ticking the statement that best describes your approach to personal goals:

Either way you should know your brain is hard-wired to go back to doing what you always did and not complete your goal or your New Year resolutions!
Your brain hard-wires your behaviours because the MYELIN in your brain helps you get better and faster. You can use this brain insight to help you achieve your goals...

key fact

How Your Brain Helps you Get Better Faster

MYELIN is a whitish insulating sheath which forms around your brain fibres each and every time you do something.
Each time you do something another insulating myelin sheath forms round the brain fibres used and speeds up the brain signal (by up to 300 times faster) without you ever realising! It’s the multiple myelin wrappings (over time) that eventually makes doing new things easier and faster.
Knowing the way myelin works explains why we’re rubbish at doing a new task initially and why we get better as you practice it or do it more.


As you work through this course you'll be directed to your own personal goals workbook. This is a document that you download and record your own information in. It's personal to you. Throughout the lesson when you see the green workbook icon like the one below - that is your prompt to access your workbook.

WORKBOOk exercise

First job is to download/access the workbook - click the resources open button just below and you'll gain access to a read-only version of the workbook.  Save a copy of the workbook and it's then yours to keep and edit/amend/update as you work through the lesson.


Resource 1

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1. Open the workbook using the link above

2. Save a copy of it to your own secure document storage system 

3. Fill in the first page of your personal online workbook with your own details and return to the personal goals lesson to get started

"The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals."

seth Godin

Author and former dot com business executive

SEtting the scene

One study shows that by the 14th January, at least 50% of New Year resolutions (goals) have failed.
Because, we as humans are good at doing what we've always done, it's SO easy for new goals to be derailed by existing behaviours and habits.
Is it any wonder people give up on goal setting or New Year resolutions?
It’s these goal setting challenges that make it so important to put the hard-science of goal setting to work, so that you become more successful, however you define your success.

And there can be little doubt that goals work in all sports, games and personal development too!

In a nutshell

Ignore the science of goal setting and you’ll achieve less than you could. Use goals to give yourself focus and guide your actions so that you achieve greater success, a greater sense of achievement and a greater sense of self-worth.

the simplicity of goals

A goal in hockey or football or any game is an obvious and essential part of playing the game – you can see the goals at both ends. You can often see the scoreboard too. You can also clearly see the progress up the pitch and the near misses too.
But a personal or business goal is often much less obvious, less visible, less tangible.

All you need to do is write down your personal goals in a way that is clear and understandable and have them be visible like they are in a game of hockey or football.

Now let's make goal setting personal to you!


Work Out Your Personal Goals – your goals wheel...

Click here to see the example goals Wheel

In this example (not you) you can see Finances plus Community have been scored at 8 – close to their ideal. Family & friendships and Health and fitness need some work because they scored 5 and 6 respectively.  And it looks like Wellbeing & spirituality scoring 2 and Work & Career scoring 3 need some real attention.

To make this personal to you, how would you score yourself against these 6 areas?

Which one of the following areas of your life do you want to see a real change?

Here’s a question that helps you work out more meaningful SMART goals.

It requires a little possibility thinking...

What COULD you change to achieve a higher goals wheel score?

Answering this question results in possible decisions and actions to help you achieve more in the goal area(s) you want to see change and better results.


WORKBOOk exercise

Go to SECTION A in your workbook and use the blank goals wheel provided to focus on what area matters most to you.

Complete your goals wheel on page 3 of the workbook and remember to save your workings.

NB If you haven't already downloaded your workbook, you can find it here.


Resource 1

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Set your own SMART goals

The next step is to CHOOSE the personal goal area you've identified in your workbook and put the SMART goals framework to work for you. 

In a moment you'll be recording your in-depth SMART answers in your workbook but first of all here are the steps you'll be thinking through.

To begin with, lets get SPECIFIC 

Click here to learn how

Let’s say you choose health and fitness as the area you want to set a goal.

Make it SPECIFIC. I want to be fitter and healthier is too vague to work.

Instead of saying “I’d like to lose some weight” say “I intend to lose 2.5 kilos so that I can get into my favourite jeans again”

M - Make your goal MEASURABLE

Click here to learn how

2.5 kilos is measurable.
Going to the gym 3 times a week is measurable.
20 minutes of yoga every day is measurable.

A - Make your goal AMBITIOUS or ACHIEVABLE

Click here to learn how

Whether you go for an achievable or ambitious goal depends on the limits on your time, money, resources and energy at your disposal.

The tighter the limits, the more important it is for you to go for an ACHIEVABLE goal so that your chosen goal feels ACHIEVABLE, you believe you can get to your goal.

Losing 2.5 kilos in a single week might feel way too AMBITIOUS but 13 weeks makes it feel ACHIEVABLE, possible, and believable.

R - Make your goal RELEVANT

Click here to learn how

Describe the reasons your goal is IMPORTANT and RELEVANT to you and your life.
Here you’re capturing why your goal really matters to you - it helps to drive your behaviour if the reason why is strong enough.

“By losing 2.5 kilos of weight I will prove to myself I can be fitter and healthier so that I can then exercise more and start to play netball in the garden with my kids and have a longer healthier life”

IMPORTANT: If you stop taking action towards your goal, because life gets in the way, a clear reason why can help you quickly get back to doing what needs to be done.

T - Make your goal TIMEBOUND 

Click here to learn how

Make the timeframe for your goal crystal clear.
2.5 kilos weight loss so you fit into your favourite jeans in 13 weeks time has a clearly timed deadline.

In a nutshell

When you capture, share, re-read regularly your SMART – SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT and TIMEBOUND goals you’re putting the science of SMART goals to work for you. You’ve improved your chances of success according to the many studies into goal setting.

WORKBOOk exercise

Your turn - go to SECTION B in your workbook on page 6 and set your own SMART goals


Sense-check your SMART goal using the HAVE, DO and BE goals:

When considering goal setting what often happens is a focus on HAVE goals.

The problem with an exclusively HAVE focus on the outcome you seek, is that you ignore the behavioural (DO) and character (BE) aspects that are most often needed to achieve your outcome (HAVE) goal.

For example: I want to have a great relationship with my mum (HAVE). I’ll call my mum every week when I’m in the car (DO). I’ll make sure I have a cuppa with mum every week (DO). I’ll (BE) genuinely curious about her week and also ask about and encourage plans for the future week/month/holidays/etc. 

Another example: You can’t have a new car if your timeliness (DO) at work is holding you back from a promotion and greater income (HAVE). Timeliness at work is hard to achieve if you’re not wholehearted (BE) about the work you do.

to HAVE - possession

examples: car, watch, house, phone, kitchen, holiday

to DO - activity

examples: climbing, meditating, dieting, exercising, timeliness

to BE - character (intent)

examples: authentically caring, loving, respectful, curious, committed

HAVE, DO and BE goals as a single question:

To put these 3 elements (have; do; be) to work in your goal setting it’s worth thinking about this question:

“Who are you being when you’re doing what you’re doing to get what you want?”.

This question is suggesting, quite rightly, to get the things you want, you’ll have to do things differently or do different things, behave in a different way with different intentions.

The SMART goals exercise will have you consider what you want to HAVE in the goal area you’re focusing on for now – because it’s relevant to you. Hopefully you can see by making your goal specific and measurable you can decide on the actions and measurements that support you DOING what needs to be done. The BE element of goals has you challenge your self-image.

key fact

Your self-image powers behaviour change and helps achieve your goals...

Psychologists suggest that challenging my self-image – ‘I’m just someone who eats biscuits everyday’ – is the route to BECOMING different, DOING different and HAVING what I want.

Example: To increase your chances of achieving your health and fitness goal (HAVE), maybe you first need to challenge the self-image (BE) you have around exercise.
NB Language patterns often signpost the self-image that could be holding us back.
Language patterns point to self image like this -" if there are biscuits in the house, I'll eat them".

Choose to BE someone who is willing to give up things that might sabotage your weight loss (in my own case beer and biscuits!). I need to see myself as someone who avoids biscuits and beer. Only drink non-alcohol beer during the week (DO). Don’t buy biscuits (DO). Instead of my old language pattern about beer and biscuits I practice (repeatedly) a new set of words – ‘I see myself as someone who doesn’t buy or eat biscuits, I eat fruit and nuts instead’

In other words, to lose weight it would help if you start to see yourself as BEING someone who can develop strategies to DO what it takes – maybe seeing yourself or hearing yourself say NO to that second helping - and YES to more exercise! The change in self-image plus the SMART goal and actions to support your new self-image means you’re likely to achieve the result you want. - the HAVE of the slim, fit body!

IMPORTANT: Understanding the power of habit is key to leading and managing change. Focus on DOING different things repeatedly and you can better BECOME the person you want to BE.


Repetition is your Best Friend

Study the science of habit and you’ll discover the habit wheel.
Your phone pings (trigger), you look at Instagram to see who has posted a pic (behaviour), you feel connected to your friend who posted the pic (reward).

Because you now know about MYELIN in your brain you realise that you’re hardwiring this habit in your brain every time you do it (BTW Facebook and Instagram know this too, which is why they encourage you to set up notifications!).

You can use the habit wheel to support your new goal by setting up triggers that prompt you to do what you want to do.

On Mondays at 5.15pm my phone alarm goes off (trigger) so that I down tools and go and pick Chris up on our way to the gym (behaviour), Chris and I are starting to see fitness improvements (reward) now we’re on week 10. We’ve been enjoying a good chat, the occasional moan and a good giggle too (rewards).

A busy parent may want to change the sense of overwhelm from being constantly at the beck and call of family and friends and work colleagues. This could be about BECOMING (seeing yourself as) somebody who can and does say no to the many demands on their time. And then working out scripted sentences (DOING) that make it easier to say no when needed. And so the outcome is less overwhelming.

Focus on the DOING and BEING and you’ll get what it is you want (to HAVE).

So who do you have to BE to DO what you need to do to HAVE the goal outcomes you want?

"I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday"

Eleanor Roosevelt

American political figure, diplomat, pacifist and activist

This outlook on goals means you zero-in on the activities needed to achieve your SMART goals.

WORKBOOk exercise

Your turn - go to SECTION C and re-assess your SMART goal against the HAVE, DO and BE framework

‘Stuff' just gets in the way and holds you back! - Here's what to do about it...


Follow the 68-year-old knee and hip patients’ example:

Imagine testing the science of goal setting with a group of (on average) 68-year-olds who are experiencing the agony of knee or hip replacement surgery!

key fact

68-Year-Olds crack The Code - Showing You The Way...

In a 1992 study inside two of Scotland’s busiest orthopaedic hospitals we see the stark evidence that goal setting science works...

In 13 weeks, patients who had written plans and followed them started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not followed any written plans.
Patients following their 13-week recovery plans were getting in and out of chairs, unassisted, almost 3-times as fast.

Having challenging SMART goals clearly worked for pain-riddled hip and knee replacement patients in Scotland. But they also added 2 other pieces in the success puzzle

  1. 1
    Set a SMART goal
  2. 2
    Work out what might stop you (challenge) achieving your SMART goal
  3. 3
    Decide in advance 1 or 2 things you can do to help overcome your anticipated challenge


  1. 1
    SMART goal – I will meet my wife at the bus stop at the end of our road at 3pm today
  2. 2
    Challenge – It might be raining; it might hurt too much
  3. 3
    Solution – I’ll take a rain coat and take more paracetamol

"Hip and knee surgery involved sawing through bones and severing joint-muscles!"

This is not an easy group to work with, pain does not sponsor straight-thinking! And you could ask: ‘can an older leopard change it’s spots?’ It would be easy to assume that 68-year-olds could be set in their ways somewhat!

Especially when you realise that, when recovering, even the smallest movements (shifting in bed or flexing a joint) can be excruciatingly painful.

To recover well, it’s essential that patients begin moving their legs and hips as soon as they wake from surgery – even though it really hurts!If they don’t quickly start stretching their muscles and skin, scar tissue will clog the joint, destroying flexibility forever.

But the agony is extreme. It’s not unusual for people to skip out on rehab sessions, especially a group that has been experiencing pain for an extended period of time already.  If anyone in real pain can achieve their SMART goals - can't we all?

WORKBOOk exercise

Your turn - go to SECTION D of your workbook to follow the 68-year-old knee and hip replacement patients' example and capture your challenges and how you're going to overcome them.

In a nutshell

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