Motivation Goal Setting

The act of deciding upon and setting a goal is a big step toward making a change in your life. A firm decision to set a goal can be very motivating.

However, the initial surge of motivation that comes from setting goals quickly wanes in the face of the nitty-gritty details of accomplishing them. Fortunately, certain approaches to goal setting may help you keep your motivation high all the way to the finish-line.

S.M.A.R.T Goals

Strategic planning expert George T. Doran first coined the term “S.M.A.R.T Goals” in 1981. Since then, the acronym has been widely used to help people achieve their goals. The theory encourages setting goals that are:

  • Specific: Instead of aiming to lose weight, consider setting a goal to lose 15 pounds through exercise and diet. Instead of trying to publish a short story, set a goal to write 1,000 great words and submit it to three literary magazines. Vague goals tend not to be very motivating, whereas specific goals conjure concrete images in your mind that will keep you focused.
  • Measurable: How will you measure your success? Sure, lost weight will be noticeable and your published story obvious, but what about progress toward your goal? Breaking goals down into smaller steps increases their measurability. For instance, after setting a goal to lose one pound per week, the weekly act of measuring your weight loss can reveal that you are in fact progressing toward your goal. Setting a goal to write 500 words of your story per week, then using your word processor’s word count tool to see your progress will be motivating in itself.
  • Attainable: Should you try to publish your first short story in The New Yorker? Should you try to reduce your body fat percentage to 1 percent? Probably not. While you may eventually be published in highly regarded magazines or become supremely trim, these things take time and practice and will likely not be accomplished on your first try. Set your sights a little lower to avoid discouraging yourself with overly lofty goals.
  • Reachable: The idea of reachable goals is very similar to the idea of attainable goals. Make sure the goals you set are do-able. Is it even possible for a human being to have only one percent body fat? Nope. So don’t try. Another way to make goals seem more reachable is to break them into smaller steps. The amount of weight you need to lose may be overwhelming and seem unreachable, but not if you focus on losing a small amount per week.
  • Timely: To stay motivated after setting goals, you need to taste success along the way. Again, breaking larger goals into bite-sized pieces is a great way to make them timely. If you set a goal to lose 30 pounds, it might take you five months to do it. That time can seem very far away and make you feel like you shouldn’t even bother. However, you can easily lose two pounds per week, so make that your goal. Each tiny success will renew your motivation to continue your weight loss program.

Following these approaches to goal setting will help you accomplish things you may have thought yourself incapable of accomplishing. Remember to set deadlines and to reward yourself for small successes along the way. In the quest to stay motivated, every little bit helps.


Wright State University. Motivating others through goals and rewards. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from

Goal Setting Guide Web site. SMART goal setting: A surefire way to achieve your goals. Retrieved September 27, 2010 from