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Set SMART Goals for Success

Set SMART Goals for Success

By Wendy Moltrup, MS, CHES

Staying motivated and achieving change is easier when you set SMART goals — goals that are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-based1.

For example, instead of the goal “I’ll exercise more,” we’ll turn this into a SMART goal.


Be specific about what you will achieve and why:

My goal is to take a Spinning® class on Tuesdays to improve my fitness.


Identify how you will track your progress and define success — how will you know you have achieved your goal?

For our sample goal of a taking a Spinning class every week, you could track your progress on a calendar and mark every day you ride with a star.


Identify what steps or actions you need to take to achieve your goal:

I’ll wake up 10 minutes earlier and have my gear laid out on Tuesday mornings to be on time for the 7:00am Spinning class.


Set a goal that’s physically possible, affordable and convenient for your schedule and location. Realistic goals also help prevent your goals from becoming a source of stress.

The Spinning studio that’s close to my house offers a discount for local residents. I can attend the Tuesday morning Spinning class and still arrive for work on time.


Time-based can apply to the goal itself, a time period during which you practice your goal or a deadline for achieving your goal. For instance, you may gradually work up from riding your bike for 20 minutes to 60 minutes.

For our example of riding in a Spinning class:

I’ll take at least one Spinning class each week for the next three months.

Stay SMART to Achieve Success

Setting short- and long-term goals also makes it easier to achieve permanent lifestyle changes that positively affect your health and wellbeing. Break down a long-term goal into smaller or shorter goals. Our SMART goal example could be the first step towards a long-term goal of riding in a Spinning class twice a week.

Plan to Reach Your SMART Goals

Remember that change is a process and stay motivated by focusing on the benefits of change. Think about a goal as you would anything new — it takes time and practice.

  • Consider obstacles and how you will overcome them. We cannot control everything that happens, be we can often control how we respond.
  • Social support is also important. Sometimes you may have to be a role model for others — invite them to class. In a Spinning class, you’ll find a community of people who will support you, including your instructor.
  • Plan for the possibility that you cannot make it to class. Sometimes illness or a scheduling conflict will require a break from your routine. If you are unable to make it to class, consider replacing that class with another activity, such as going for a walk. Get back on the bike when it’s possible.
  • Reflect on what worked to help you achieve your goal. If things did not go as you planned, write down or record what to do next time. You always learn something by trying something new.
  • And how will you celebrate your accomplishment? Find a positive way to reward your hard work. A pair of new bike shorts would be a great way to celebrate and keep that ride comfortable.

Get Ready. Get Set. Ride!

Sample SMART Goal Setting Worksheet
Measurable (How I will track my progress and define success)
Action Plan (What steps I will take to achieve my goal)
Rewards (How I will celebrate my goal)
Time-based (When will I achieve this goal)


[1] Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Define Your Goals. Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Nutrition. February 24, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/motivation/define.html (accessed January 24, 2014).
[2] Prochaska, James, Colleen Redding, and Kerry Evers. “The Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change.” In Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research and Practice, edited by Karen Glanz, Barbara Rimer and Frances Marcus Lewis, 99-120. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 2002.

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