The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting

Michael Hyatt
 • 05:08 min read (1027 words)


Five Goal-Setting Principles for Getting Bigger, Better Results
When I 

speak publicly
, I often ask how many people believe in the power of written goals. Every hand shoots up. Yet when I ask how many of them have written goals for 
this year, very few hands go up.

This always surprises me, given the fact most people know intuitively (and 

research has proved
) that those who write their goals down accomplish 
significantly more than those who do not write their goals.

Some of this, I suppose, is just inertia. But from years as a corporate executive, business coach, and best-selling author on the topic of goal achievement, I know that most people have just never been taught 
how to write effective goals.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer a basic goal-setting primer. You can find plenty of advice online, but these are the five principles I follow in my own practice:


Productivity studies show that you really can’t focus on more than 5–7–10 items at any one time. And don’t try to cheat by including sections with several goals under each section. This is a recipe for losing focus and accomplishing very little. Instead, focus on a handful of goals that you can repeat almost from memory.


In 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company published a paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” Since that time, various teachers have used and modified this acronym in various ways, including me. In my SMARTER version, as outlined in my book, 

Your Best Year Ever

, goals must meet seven criteria. They must be:

Specific—your goals must identify exactly what you want to accomplish in as much specificity as you can muster.

Bad: Write a book.
Good: Write a book proposal for 
The Vision Driven Leader.

Measurable—as the old adage says, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If possible, try to quantify the result. You want to know absolutely, positively whether or not you hit the goal.

Bad: “Earn more this year than last.”
Good: “Earn $5,000 more this year than last.”
Actionable—every goal should start with an action verb (e.g., “quit,” “run,” “finish,” “eliminate,” etc.) rather than a to-be verb (e.g., “am,” “be,” “have,” etc.)

Bad: Be more consistent in blogging.
Good: Write two blog posts per week.
Risky—a good goal should stretch you, but not too much. I go right up to the edge of my comfort zone and then step over it. (If I am not out of my 

comfort zone
, I’m not thinking big enough.)

Bad: Increase sales by 2 percent.
Good: Increase sales by 10 percent.

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