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3. Go

In this activity…

Students learn the SMART goal setting framework and practice identifying SMART goals. They then evaluate their previous goal using the SMART framework and write a better goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

And the point is…

Some students will already be familiar with the SMART goal setting framework, while others will not. Either way, it is essential to practice identifying and writing SMART goals to feel comfortable applying this technique in real-time.

Materials: Projector for the slideshow, paper, writing supplies


Ask students to read their previously identified goal and to raise their hand in the air. As you explain the five characteristics of SMART goals, ask students to assess whether or not their goal meets the criteria. For each characteristic their goal does not address, students will put down one finger. Students who have all five fingers “standing” at the end of your explanation would have written a SMART goal (there will likely be no students with all five fingers up).

Use the slide deck to help students follow along as you read the SMART goals criteria. Alternatively, you can play students the “Setting SMART Goals – Students” video, which explains each letter of the acronym.

After going through each characteristic individually, ask students to consider how many fingers they put down and reflect on which parts of the SMART framework their goal does not address. Then, summarize the information by succinctly reviewing that SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

As a class, work through the examples for each SMART characteristic in the slide deck, and identify a better goal that accounts for that individual characteristic. For the last example, challenge students to bring all the information together to create a SMART goal (i.e. encompass all five characteristics).

Finally, give students 10 minutes to complete the SMART goals worksheet. This worksheet will help students update their original goal to make it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. If you have time, explain that another helpful strategy to increase the odds of achieving goals is to share your goals with a friend, family member, or support group. Let students know that sharing their goals makes their goals more real and means that other people can help to hold them accountable to their goal. Other people can also provide moral support and encouragement when students might feel like giving up. In light of this information, ask if any student would like to share their goal so that class members can help them achieve their goals. Encourage students who do not want to share in front of the class to tell a friend or family member privately at a later time.

SMART Goals Worksheet available in this page's download section.


How many SMART goals should I have at a time?

How many goals you set for yourself depends on how big your goals are and how much time you have. Try setting one SMART goal for every major area of your life. What this means is that you might have one goal related to your relationships (ex. a specific way to become a better friend or sibling), one goal related to school (ex. improving your grades in a certain subject), and one goal related to your extra-curricular activities (ex. practicing a musical instrument more or playing sports). In this way, you are striving towards a goal no matter what you are engaged in. Make sure that you don’t set too many goals for yourself. When you have too many goals, it becomes harder and harder to focus your attention and effort on achieving a single outcome and you will likely find yourself distracted, overwhelmed, and unmotivated. Therefore, it’s better to set one or two really good SMART goals than it is to set five or six simple, non-SMART goals.

What happens if something stops me from reaching my goal right away?

Sometimes, unexpected obstacles, roadblocks, or challenges will make it difficult to accomplish your goal. When this happens, take time to reflect on your goal and what has gotten in the way. You have a couple of options and, before you make a decision, it’s important that you are aware of how much you are willing to sacrifice (in terms of time, energy, effort, etc.) to achieve the goal. In many cases, an obstacle or challenge will make it more difficult to achieve your goal, but not impossible. When this happens, you may choose to persevere and overcome the obstacle, or you may decide that the outcome of the goal is not worth the extra time, energy and effort that you would now have to invest into accomplishing it. Remember that your willingness and ability to invest time, effort and energy into a specific goal changes from moment to moment. In other words, you might decide that, right now, you can’t focus on achieving the goal, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t revisit the goal next week, next month, or even next year. If the goal is something that you are incredibly passionate about and which you are determined to accomplish, then you may decide to persevere and “stick with it”, regardless of any obstacles or challenges that arise. In this case, it’s necessary to revisit your SMART goal plan and modify any expectations that you had set for yourself or change the path you were planning on taking to achieve that goal. For example, you might have to extend your timeline, or break down your steps into even smaller ones.

I don’t have time to set goals for all the things that I want to improve in my life like becoming a better writer, soccer player, and friend. What should I do?

You will never have time to do everything you want to do in life. To navigate this dilemma, you need to set priorities. Start by making a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Then, create three categories: (1) Things I need to do, (2) Things I want to do, (3) Things that would be nice to do, but it wouldn’t bother me to do without. Try sorting the entire list into these three categories and focus on setting SMART goals for the first category. When you are setting priorities for yourself, think about your values and your best self. What activities or goals move you closer to who you want to become or where you want to be in five years from now? What brings you the most joy, satisfaction and fulfillment? What goal outcome will have the biggest impact on your happiness and health? These are just a couple of questions to ask yourself when you’re deciding on the goals you want to set.