How to Create SMART Goals

Are you happy?  Does happiness seem elusive with an here-today-gone-tomorrow appearance in your life?  The truth is that searching for happiness is a pointless quest.  It’s simply not out there.  But, don’t let that dissuade you from your desire to be happy!  The good news is that you can create happiness.  It’s within the ability of everyone to be happy*.  In my series Creating Happiness, I will show you how.

How to Create SMART Goals

If you have been following my guide to creating happiness, you are already practicing mindfulness and waving your magic wand.  I understand that both of those practices seem rather intangible.  Having a calm mind and a safe place to dream are important, but taking action is also required if you want to make lasting changes and create happiness.  Today I’ll show you how to get started on the real work of making happiness yours!

Unless you have access to a genie, you are going to have to go out and get what you want.  Simply saying you want something doesn’t make it happen.  The first step in taking action to get what you want is to set goals.  Not just any goals, but SMART goals!

What are SMART goals?  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.  Let’s talk about what all of those things mean.  We’ll use weight loss as a goal example, but the SMART system of creating goals can be used for any goal you are trying to reach.

  1. Specific:  When setting a goal, the more narrow and specific, the better.  For instance, setting a broad goal of weight loss is not helpful.  Instead think of one thing you could do that would eventually lead to weight loss either by itself or combined with another specific goal.  
  2. Measurable:   It’s important to set a goal that can be measured.  How will you know when you’ve reached the goal? Whether the goal leads to the bigger desired result (weight loss) or not doesn’t matter for now.  We just want to be able to tell when we’ve reached the goal.
  3. Attainable:  This is a very important part of goal setting.  If you set your sights too high or too broad, you are setting yourself up for failure.  The smaller and more easily attained your goal is, the better the chances that you will reach it before burning out or giving up.
  4. Realistic:  In my opinion, this is attainable all over again.  It’s just that important!  Your goal must be realistic or you WILL fail.  If your goal is to lose 100 pounds in two months, you have set an unrealistic goal.  For some people setting a goal to lose 5 pounds in two months isn’t realistic.  Don’t attempt to do what isn’t feasible for you at this time.  As you achieve more goals, you can set the bar higher and higher, but don’t set the bar out of reach–ever!
  5. Timely:  Set a goal that can be measured and attained within a reasonable amount of time.  Don’t set a goal to lose 100 pounds in a year.  Set a goal that can be realistically attained and measured this week or even on a day-to-day basis.

Since we’re using weight loss as an example goal here, let’s talk about some weight loss goals that are SMART and some that are not.


  • My goal is to lose weight.  This goal is probably measurable, attainable and realistic, but it is not specific enough nor is it timely.
  • I want to lose 100 pounds.  This goal is measurable and specific, possibly attainable and maybe realistic, but it is not timely.
  • I want to lose 10 pounds in two weeks.  This goal is measurable, specific and timely, but not safely attainable or realistic for most people.


  • I want to exercise three days per week for 20 minutes per day for the next two weeks.  This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
  • I want to replace the refined sugar in my morning coffee with a natural sweetener.  This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
  • I want to pack a healthy lunch from home to bring to work every day for the next week.  This goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Do you see the difference?  No matter what you thought of when you waved your magic wand; no matter what you believe it will take to make you happy, you have it within your power to accomplish that thing.  But it will require you to set goals and do the work.

Remember that you will be building your momentum a little at a time.  Don’t try to do too much too soon or you will fizzle out from too much hard work or fail at your goal and give up altogether.  One small step at a time is the best approach.  Make your steps SMART!

  *Creating Happiness posts are not a replacement professional advice.  (Disclaimer)  Please visit AAMFT for a list of licensed therapists in your area.

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