Be SMART and Set Goals

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
October 26, 2022

We often set goals to improve something in our lives. Goal setting is the process of planning for the future which requires us to think about what we want to achieve and how we can get there. Setting and working towards well-defined personal goals of any kind have been shown to have many positive outcomes.

  • Goal setting is linked to higher motivation. When you set a well-defined goal, it creates a level of expectation and accountability that can help spark action, increase focus on what’s important, and grow confidence in decision making. People who set and work towards achieving goals often experience more success in their performance throughout life. 
  • The capacity to set goals and plan allows you to feel more in control of your life. It promotes the development of an internal locus of control (when you attribute success to your own efforts and abilities) and creates a general “can do” attitude. Studies have shown that individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to actively use coping strategies focused on solving problems and experience increased levels of happiness..
  • Goal setting provides valuable learning experiences, including lessons on independence, resilience, competition, forgiveness, and kindness. 
  • Individuals who achieve set goals often report higher levels of personal satisfaction, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-determination, and better overall mental health and life satisfaction.

The SMART Approach

No matter if your goals are large or small, the SMART approach to goal setting is a widely accepted strategy that increases the likelihood of achieving your desired outcome. Check that your goals meet the SMART criteria below to increase your chances for reaching success.

  • S - Specific (Does your goal answer who, what, when, where, why, or which?)
    • Goals should be narrow and defined in clear terms. This allows you to better strategize how to reach it. WHO is involved? WHAT do I want to accomplish? Identify WHERE will it be done. Recognize the specific reasons WHY I want to achieve this goal. WHICH restrictions or limits are important to consider?
  • M - Measurable (Does your goal include how much or how many?)
    • A measurable goal will allow you to track your progress and know when it is accomplished.
  • A - Achievable (Is your goal reachable?)
    • Goals should be challenging, but attainable. When a goal is overly difficult it can be become discouraging and cause you to give up.
  • R - Relevant (Is your goal worthwhile?)
    • The goal should seem important and beneficial to you.
  • T - Time-bound (Does your goal answer when?)
    • Set a timeframe and have an endpoint. Deadlines can help keep you motivated.

More Information

Check out SMART Goals & Mental Health by the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities National Training Center.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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