How to Set a Smart Goal
“SMART” stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timed. SMART goals are often featured in a Veteran’s Personal Health Plan (PHP). To write one, begin by focusing on a goal that is important to a Veteran. This goal should tie in to what really matters to them and closely rates to their Mission, Aspiration, Purpose (MAP).
After you have a general goal in mind, apply the principles of SMART goals to focus in on how to reach it. These are featured in the table below. As you help someone set a goal, remember the following:
- It is better to break a general goal down into smaller goals that are easier to reach, in order to increase the odds of success.
- The more detail the better. “I will exercise more” is very vague. “Starting on Monday, July 1, I will walk in the mall for 20 minutes and keep doing that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday” is more detailed and incorporates all of the SMART elements.
- Make sure both you and the Veteran agree (at least to some degree) about the goal. Shared goal setting is a powerful process. Explain your reasoning.
- Don’t forget to follow up later to see how it is going with reaching the goal. If they are stalled out, is it best to change goals, or simplify it somehow?
- The section below is designed to help you take a Veteran through this process.
Putting the SMART in Goal Setting
- Be very clear and detailed about what you want to do and why.
- What is required? What are the challenges?
- What are your assets and resources?
- How much time will you spend?
- How often (daily, weekly, monthly)?
- How will you know you are making progress?
- How will you know you have reached your goal?
- What actions are needed to achieve the goal?
- Describe the ones you will be taking.
- Is this goal worth it?
- Does the goal line up with your values?
- Is the timing right?
- Do you have what you need to reach the goal?
- Is it really doable?
- How long do you need?
- Are there any deadlines you have to meet?
- When will you start?
Write Your Goal Below:
This exercise was adapted from: Rollnick S, Miller W, Butler C. Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior. New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2008.
Once you finish this exercise, ask yourself the following:
- How do you make the person setting the goal more accountable? Can you call them, or have a team member do so? Is there a way to involve a friend or family member to help them?
- How can you or your team help them to succeed?
- Is it possible to involve a Whole Health Coach or Peer Partner who can support them?
“How to Set a SMART Goal” was written by J. Adam Rindfleisch, MPhil, MD, (2014, updated 2017).
This Whole Health tool was made possible through a collaborative effort between the University of Wisconsin Integrative Health Program, VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, and Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.