You’ve probably heard of the 5-part smart goals formula, because it’s one of the most well-known and enduring methods for setting goals.

S.M.A.R.T., of course, is an acronym representing each of the 5 steps.

I should point out that there are quite a few variations on this formula and I’m not saying one is right and the rest are wrong. However, the 5 steps you see below represent the best version I have ever used, and it’s the formula I recommend the most.

smart goals made smarter

However, many people have tried this classic formula, especially when setting goals for the new year, and they say it either didn’t work, or things went well for a while, but it wasn’t long before they slipped back into their old ways.

Is the smart goals formula broken? Is this whole goal setting thing just self-help tripe?

I don’t think so. I think this is a darn good formula. It contains some of the key steps that any good psychologist or peak performance coach would agree are vital for getting the most out of your goal setting.

This formula has also proven effective for countless people for many years, in the real world.

So what goes wrong for everyone else? Why do so many people still struggle to achieve the goals they’ve actually taken the time to set?

I pondered that question many times.  One thing I learned is that almost everyone sets New Year’s resolutions, but very few people set goals for the whole year or even think ahead to what’s next.  Thinking one goal ahead makes all the difference.

I also realized that while the smart goals formula is good, it could be even better if it were more complete. So, I added 2 more steps – the missing pieces of the SMART formula.

Here is the improved 7-step S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals formula.

1. Specific.

Set goals with clarity. Your mind does not respond well to vague generalities. If you say your goal is to lose weight and then you lose one pound, you’ve reached your goal. But is that what you really wanted? Get specific. Be precise. And do it in writing because things remain vague when they’re just ideas in your head. When you think about a goal, it’s a still only a fantasy. When you put it on paper and attach a plan to it, it’s real.

2. Measurable.

Set goals that can be quantified in measurable units such as pounds, body fat percentage, lean body mass, inches and clothing sizes. Quantifiable health goals include metrics like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Lifting performance goals can include sets, reps, weight lifted, scheduled workouts completed. Cardio and endurance goals can include time, speed, distance, elevation, and more. Daily and weekly performance goals are an incredible source of motivation, and keep you focused on the process instead of the outcome alone. Reaching specific training and fitness goals can also help keep you motivated on weeks when the scale doesn’t move.

3. Accountable.

Set goals you can be held accountable to. First be accountable to yourself by using a weekly progress chart, a daily nutrition diary and a training journal. Then double your motivation with external accountability and send your results and journals to someone else who will hold you to your commitments.

4. Realistic.

Set goals that are realistic and physically achievable. For longer-term goals, don’t be afraid to set big goals that challenge you, and even scare you. Big goals are motivating. Most people only rise as high as the bar is set, and when you set the bar high, you usually rise to the occasion. The right sized goal should make you stretch and feel uncomfortable. But you should feel optimistic that you can achieve it, and your deadlines must be realistic for the size of your goal. Realistically optimistic goals are the key.

5. Time Bound.

Set goals with deadlines. Time limits are motivating. With no time limit, there’s no urgency. Set daily goals for nutrition and training, set weekly goals for weight and body composition and set 12-week goals for weight, body fat or measurements. Set long term goals as well for at least one year and even beyond. Also, “set your goals in ink and your deadlines in pencil.” If you don’t meet your initial deadline, you didn’t fail, you simply under-estimated the time frame for your goal’s achievement. Keep the goal and set a new deadline, with your better understanding of your typical rate of progress.

And now, here are the 2 missing pieces that turn S.M.A.R.T. goals into even S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals:

6. Emotional.

Goals give you a direction, but strong emotions are the propulsion system that drives you in that direction. Build up a burning desire by identifying and then focusing on the emotional reasons why you want to achieve your goal. What do you value, and how can you connect your goals to your values? What’s most important to you about reaching your goal? If you reach 9% body fat, or whatever is your target, what will that do for you? What will your life look like then? What will it allow you to do? How will it make you feel?

7. Reviewed often.

One of the reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is because they are casually set once at the beginning of the year and easily forgotten. Stay laser-focused by re-writing and re-reading your goals every day. Repetition is one of the keys to re-programming your mental computer for success. Use the goal card technique. Write your single most important body or fitness goal on a small card, then carry it with you every where you go, reading it several times a day.

“A goal that is casually set and lightly taken will be freely abandoned at the first obstacle.” – Zig Ziglar, Motivational Speaker

As you think about your new goals for the new year, don’t forget to make your goals smarter… and make this your most successful year ever!

Tom Venuto,
Founder & CEO,
Burn The Fat Inner Circle
Author, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

PS. FREE GIFT: Download a free Burn the Fat Goal Card: (CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD)

PPS. There is still time to enter our 2021 Burn the Fat Body Transformation challenge, but you have to hurry – your entry must be date stamped no later than Friday, January 8th. Click here to learn more and sign up, free 


tomvenuto-blogAbout Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilding and fat loss expert. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and today works as a full-time fitness coach, writer, blogger, and author. In his spare time, he is an avid outdoor enthusiast, backpacker, and trail runner. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. The Body Fat Solution, Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 53,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details


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