How to Set Effective Goals


A poor process of setting an effective goal, or worse, the absence of a goal, are two of the main reasons programs fail.

In my goal-setting endeavours, I have found it useful to follow the SMART goal guidelines to set effective goals.

They are:

S Specific – clear and concise, one goal at a time

M Measurable – in time and quantity

A Achievable – realistic, but also a stretch

R Relevant – has direct significance and connection

T Trackable – allows monitoring of progress


Setting SMART Goals: An Illustration


Here’s a great example of the impact of setting an effective goal.

A group of dysfunctional young people was forced to attend a weekend camp. Following a series of high-energy, fun activities, my colleagues and I helped the young people set two SMART goals. In their own words, their most immediate goal was to ‘go back home,’ which, in time, we could promise would be achieved.

However, we worked with them to set a second goal – to have fun. This had all the hallmarks of a SMART goal – specific, easy to measure, was certainly achievable, and was trackable.

But the key to its success was the R, relevance – this goal mattered to the young people because the alternative was to endure a miserable couple of days before they could achieve their first goal. This second goal framed every interaction and conversation we had from that point on.

There is no doubt, that without this second goal, we would have been butting heads all weekend.

My book Serious Fun expands on the technology of SMART goals to explore a very powerful method for setting goals. This method expands on the R factor – Relevance – and will make all the difference to your group.


Browse Online Shop


This article about SMART Goals has been adapted from No Props No Problem: 150+ Outrageously Fun Group Games & Activities Using No Equipment and Serious Fun: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Leading Remarkably Fun Programs That Make a Difference.