Vision without action is a daydream.

Action without vision is a nightmare

– Chinese proverb

If you are going to accomplish anything of measure in your education, life, business, family, career or church, you must start with smart goal setting. Simply being busy will leave you exhausted and lost. Thinking about doing something, but never taking action will leave you confused and frustrated. What is involved in smart goal setting? How can you start making smart goals? How can you see your goals to completion?

Smart goal setting starts with planning

An individual to want to build anything, a house, a desk, a sandbox for the kids, must first sit down and calculate or measure the project. No wise man ever grabbed his hammer, a few nails and a couple boards and expected to build a house. Though he may be excited about completing his project, jumping straight to the building, instead of taking the steps to setting smart goals, will surely make for problems and possibly even failure.

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The same is true with smart goal setting. You cannot jump to action. While you may be excited about your destination, you must first sit down with a map (or create a map if you don’t have one), measure the distance you must travel, what roadblocks might get in the way (road construction, closed highways, winter travel etc) and decide on a mode of transportation (bike, car, scooter, skateboard, airplace, boat etc). In measuring these things you will get an idea of what the scope of work needed to accomplish your goal, or reach your destination.

Smart goal setting means baby steps

Often during the measuring phase you learn new insights about your goals and begin to understand what smaller steps lead to bigger accomplishments and finally achievement. Think of this as turn by turn directions. You might say, “My goal is to go to the grocery store.” In researching this goal, you’ll need to break it down into smaller goals, which we might not even consciously realize since most of us reach this goal on a regular basis. Making small steps steps such as:

  1. Put your shoes on
  2. Get your car keys
  3. Get out of the driveway
  4. Turn left at the end of the street
  5. Go 6 blocks and the grocery store in on your left

will make this bigger goal more achievable. There are days when achieving even the smallest tasks can be challenging, so it isn’t unreasonable to expect at least the same from larger goals.

Smart goal setting includes tracking progress

Part of smart goal settings is putting in place checkpoints or the ability to track progress. It’s safe to say you’re likely not reading this blog to see how to achieve small things like load the dishwasher, but rather bigger things that might take days, months or even years to accomplish. As such you absolutely cannot achieve your goals without first keeping track of your progress.

Set a timeline for your goal that seems reasonable based on where you’re trying to go, what mode of transportation you’ll be using and roadblocks you’ve identified. Then set checkpoints to see how the journey is measuring up to your plan. For example, you might say, “I’m going to drive From Orlando to Cincinnati in 3 days and I’m going to take Interstate 93 in my station wagon to get there.” You might want to right down the destination for each evening, say “Atlanta the first night, Philadelphia the second and Cincinnati the final night.” Then each evening when you stop to rest you can measure how your progress compares to the plan. Its worth noting that such a goal with walking as a mode of transportation would not be achievable, which would become obvious during the planning step.

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Planning for change is part of smart goal setting

There’s a reason you’re setting goals or in another word, creating a plan of action. If you know for a fact it would happen, you would simply get to work and it would be a success and this blog post would be a waste of time. Since on a journey of any length there are so many opportunities for unexpected roadblocks, you must PLAN on change. This means you need to leave room for extra time, extra resources, back tracking (digressing), redirection (finding a different path) or simply putting the plan on hold until the timing is right.

Organization is key to smart goal setting

Now that you have an idea about where you are going (objective), what path you’ll take to get there (steps) and what roadblocks (variables) might arise, you can write your goals down.

Smart Goal Setting Template / Worksheet (Example: Exercise to lose weight)

My goal (objective) is:




(Example Goal: My main goal is to be able to spend 30 minutes, 3 times per week  exercising over the next 3 months so that I can lose 15 lbs, feel better and look better.)


  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________

(Example Steps)

  1. Set a consistent time on specific days each week that I will exercise

  2. Write down a plan for each exercise day on a monthly calendar on the 3rd week of each month

  3. I will keep my exercise calendar on my mobile phone so that it is easy to access and I will set reminders to pop of for each exercise day so that I don’t forget

  4. I will track my activity each day and review it weekly and monthly

Identify and resolve roadblocks

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________
  5. _______________________________________________________________

(Example roadblocks)

  1.  TV SHOWS: I will make sure that I set the DVR to record my favorite TV show so that I don’t give up my routine because I’m afraid I’m missing my favorite TV Show.

  2. STINKY CLOTHES: I will make sure that the morning after each exercise day I was my workout clothes and fold them that evening so they are always fresh and clean.

  3. DISTRACTIONS: I will always check my calendar before agreeing to any extracurricular activities to ensure they don’t overlap an exercise day or time of day

  4. MOTIVATION/REWARD: I will always reward myself for each week that I complete all my workouts as planned with a free meal day where I can eat whatever my body wants (usually better food than you might crave normally)

  5. SUSTAINABILITY: I will document my progress each time I workout so that I can see how I am progressing

Create checkpoints

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________________
  5. _______________________________________________________________

(Example checkpoints)

  1. Every workout: Write down my start time, my stop time, my current weight, what exercises I did, how I felt before and after and anything that tried to prevent me from doing my workout (tiredness, friends, traffic, soreness, lack of motivation).

  2. One week: Check how the previous week went and ask myself if I feel my routine is sustainable, think about what things came up that kept me from completing my goal last week and what I can do to either change my routine (time of day or perhaps day of week) to keep them from interrupting or take action to keep those distractions from coming up (Let my friends know that I am not available from 5 to 5:30pm on Tue, Thurs and Saturdays). Track your weight progress as a total time spent and total change in weight, or weight lost.

  3. Two weeks: See how the changes I made last week worked out and if I should keep the changes or if they made things worse and I should be looking for a better way (Changed to different days because you thought it would be easier and as it turns out the old way was better, though it had its challenges).

  4. One month: Review all your workout notes for the previous month and see if any small changes can be made to make the coming month easier or have a higher success rate. Implement those changes and start the process above over again.

Take some time to complete this worksheet, don’t forget to bookmark this page.

Once you have your goals in writing, come back here and lets talk about getting started and accountability.

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