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 ambitious and achievable goals for yourself, to enable your colleagues to do the same and to help your clients see the value in goal-setting as well.

This lesson will provide a personalised look at goals and will help you be more successful in your role (and life!).

What you learn about SMART goals will also provide you with the core skills for the following lesson, which is 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:

No matter which option you chose, you should know that your brain is hard-wired to go back to doing what you always did or, in other words, NOT completing your goal!

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, speeding up the brain signal (by up to 300 times).  It's the multiple myelin wrappings, over time, that eventually makes doing new things easier and faster.

Knowing the way myelin works help us to understand why we're rubbish at doing a new task initially and why we get better as we practice it or do it more often.


As you work through this course, you'll be directed to interactive exercises, each of which will generate a summary of your responses.

They will be available immediately for you to download and save as you go and/or they can also be emailed to you as pdfs.

These documents are a timestamped record for your own information. They are personal to you and will form a helpful set of resources for reference in the future, as an aide memoire or as a benchmark if you are revisiting this lesson at some other time.

When you see the green workbook icon like the one below, that is the prompt to let you know that we will be asking you to do some work!

"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 & former dot com business executive

SEtting the scene

One study shows that by the 14th of January in any given year, at least 50% of people have failed to stick to their New Year resolutions (goals) SOURCE

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?

These goal-setting challenges make it so important to put the complex science of goal-setting to work so that you become more successful. However you define your success.

And there can be little doubt that setting goals works in all sports and games and personal development.

In a nutshell

Embrace the science of goal-setting, and you’ll achieve more. Use goals to give yourself focus and guide your actions so that you achieve a greater sense of achievement and self-worth, which will contribute to your future success.

the simplicity of goals

A goal is an obvious and essential part of playing hockey or football. You can see the goals at both ends. You can often see the scoreboard. You can also clearly see the progress up the pitch and the near misses.

But a personal or a business goal is often much less noticeable, less visible, and less tangible.

All you need to do is write down your personal goals clearly and understandably and make them as visible as they would be 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 you can see that Finances and Community have been scored at 8 – close to their ideal. Family & Friendships and Health & Fitness need some work, as they scored 5 and 6, respectively.  And it looks like Wellbeing & Spirituality (2) and Work & Career (3) need some real attention.

How would you score yourself against these 6 areas?

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

Here’s a question that can help you work out more meaningful goals.

It requires a little 'possibility thinking'...

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

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



Instead of this one below

Personal Goals Assessment

The next step allows you to delve into the significance of your chosen goal area as you start to refine and understand the motivations for setting this particular goal.  


In a moment, you'll be recording your in-depth SMART answers 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 in which you want to set a goal.

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

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 ambitious or achievable goal depends on the limits on the 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 you believe you can actually attain 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. This 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, 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 the video below you'll see Paul Shrimpling describing two SMART goals that are important to him (one simple and one more complex) and how they fit into the SMART goal framework...

In a nutshell

When you capture, share and regularly re-read 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.

Now it's your turn!


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

When considering goal-setting, what often happens is that there is a predominant focus on HAVE goals.

The problem with an exclusively HAVE focus 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, that to get the things you want, you’ll have to do things differently or do different things, or 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 that 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 one's self-image – "I’m just someone who eats biscuits every day" – 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 when it comes to 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 beer and biscuits. Only drink non-alcoholic 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 started 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 hard-wiring this habit in your brain every time you do it. (Facebook and Instagram know this as well, 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 that we’re on week 10. We’ve been enjoying a good chat, the occasional moan and a good giggle as well (rewards).

A busy parent may want to change that feeling of being overwhelmed that comes from being constantly at the beck and call of family, friends and work colleagues. They need to BECOME (see themselves as) somebody who can and does say no to the many demands on their time. They then should work out scripted sentences (DOING) that make it easier to say no when needed. The outcome is that they will then feel less overwhelmed.

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.


‘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 plan.

Patients who followed their 13-week recovery plans were getting in and out of chairs, unassisted, almost three 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 to 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 raincoat 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 foster straight-thinking! And you could ask: ‘Can an older leopard change its spots?’ It would be easy to assume that 68-year-olds could be somewhat set in their ways!

And it's important to keep in mind that, when a patient is recovering, even the smallest movements (shifting in bed or flexing a joint) can be excruciatingly painful.

For a good recovery, 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 can be extreme. It’s not unusual for people to skip out on rehab sessions, especially a group that have been experiencing pain for an extended period of time already.  If anyone in real pain can achieve their SMART goals, can't we all?


In a nutshell

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