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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Setting SMART goals

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It’s time to hit the reset button. When it comes to setting personal goals, let’s do it right this time.

Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based (SMART). Know where you are now, where you want to be and how to get there. As the saying goes: A goal without a plan is just a wish. Let’s quit wishing, and show everyone just what we can do.

When I teach students at the Kelley School of Business on IUPUI’s campus, we often discuss goal setting. We talk about short-term (one year or less) and long-term (three to five year) goals. In today’s rapidly changing environment, I encourage my students to focus more on their short-term goals rather than their long-term goals.

No matter which goal you set for yourself, you need a plan. If you work your plan, your plan will work for you. For example, if I want to lose 20 pounds, what is my step-by-step plan to achieve this goal? Losing 20 pounds by July is specific and measurable. Is it attainable? Yes, if I follow the plan I’ve laid out. I plan to exercise a minimum of 45 minutes, four days a week, on the treadmill before I go to work. I will reduce eating sweets from five days in a typical week to just two. (I don’t want to give it up all together!) Lastly, I will eat more fruits and vegetables and less meats. My goal is also relevant and time-based, in that I will achieve my goal by the end of 2019.

Whatever goals you decide to set for yourself, make sure you want to achieve them, and that you aren’t influenced by what others suggest you achieve. It is you, and you alone, who have a vested interest in accomplishing your goals.

Whether it is weekly or monthly, make it a habit to reflect on your goals. Remember, habits are hard to break, and that includes the good ones as well as the bad ones. If you want to succeed in life, you should set goals and review and reflect upon them periodically. Achieving goals you’ve set for yourself is hard work and seldom easy. It’s all about how effective your process is.

Below are five ways I set and achieve my own personal goals.


Motivation can come from two different places, extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from an outside source, while intrinsic motivation comes from within yourself. Try to determine where you get your motivation and use that knowledge. Because I am intrinsically motivated, I take pride performing a task and knowing that I have the ability and knowledge to succeed in completing that task. Motivation to achieve provides value for me in obtaining a particular goal.


No one can measure your heart when it comes to putting forth effort. If I am to achieve my goal, I must put forth the maximum effort I have to achieve it. I alone can put in the hard work and energy to attain that goal.


In a previous column, I shared that my grandparents didn’t go to college or even graduate from high school. Therefore, my grandparents have always inspired me to achieve any goal that I set. Taking advantage of the opportunities they never had is motivation for me to achieve my goals.


The ability to always maintain a positive attitude is important to me when striving to achieve goals. My state of mind has to be right, no matter how difficult or challenging a goal is, in order for me to conquer a task. Thinking and feeling that I can achieve my goal helps develop my positive attitude to succeed.

Write Down Your Goals

If you write down your goals and post them somewhere visible, you will consistently see them throughout the day, and they will become embedded in your brain. This makes achieving them more realistic. There’s power in the written word: See it; believe it.

Remember to evaluate your goals periodically, and make sure you stay on track daily. I think of the quote, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Let’s show everyone how tough we are, and how nothing is going to stop us from achieving our goals.

Darrell Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical associate professor of management and director of diversity at Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis.

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