SMART goals are SpecificThe anatomy of a SMART goal

We hear all the time that to improve our chances of reaching our goals, we should write it down.  We tell the same thing to our teens, as we encourage them to start thinking about the future.  But when you write down a goal, how do you know if your goal is specific enough to define what you really want to achieve?

Is any description of a goal good enough to keep you focused, stay motivated, and actually improve your chances of reaching your goals?  The first step is to make sure your goal is specific.

There are many variations about writing goals, especially recently that have been challenging the idea of the SMART goal.  I’ve recently learned of FAST (frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent) goals and HARD (heartfelt, animated, required, difficult) goals.  And even SMART goals get defined in different ways.  

So why SMART Goals?

When we started working on our process designed specifically for teens, we wanted to focus on 5 steps that would be easy to define.  And while FAST goals and HARD goals talk about elements that are important, like your goal should be a stretch goal, they were missing the big parts that teens need to learn first.  With our app and templates, we want to teach teens not just to define a goal, but to create a plan with specific actions and deadlines to follow. And so here is how we define our version of SMART goals: 

  • Specific: Write down what you want to achieve 
  • Measurable:  Define how you will track daily or weekly progress 
  • Actionable: What manageable steps will you take every day or every week to achieve your goal 
  • Relevant: Notice I didn’t say “Realistic”, which is the most common R used in SMART goals. We want teens to define and work for goals that inspire them, that come from their passions and interests. 
  • Time-bound: Decide what your target date is for achieving your goal. 

I realize that most adults are not exposed to this level of goal setting in their business or personal lives. But the SMART goals methodology has been proven time and time again to be the key that guides the user to define a goal in a way that they can increase their chances of achieving it by 42%!

Somehow our teens are growing up in a world that expects much more out of them before college than it did from us, and yet few get guidance to develop the critical executive function skills they need (planning and prioritizing, task initiation, self-monitoring, and organization).  

Is your teen’s goal specific enough to make a difference in their success? 

When teens learn to write down their goals, they too can improve their chances of success by 42%. The first step of a SMART goal is to make it Specific. So how do you do that?

At first glance, you can probably see the different between:  


I want to get better grades in school 


I want to have an A in Math 


It is important not just to write down a general statement, but to define a goal that is specific.  But sometimes, especially for teens who are just learning how to plan and prioritize, it is helpful to have a better idea of what exactly makes a goal specific.

I find it easier to think about a goal  when it:

  • Makes it easy to visualize achievement
  • Give you direction in what needs to happen to make progress
  • Tells you exactly where you want to end up 

You can also think about the questions that your Specific goal should answer, like: 

  • What exactly do you want to achieve? 
  • Who is responsible for it (is it just you, or a team effort?)

Examples of Specific Goals

So with those guidelines in mind, here’s a couple more examples: 


I want to be a better tennis player  


I want to get 70% of my first serves in 



I want to learn Spanish 


I want to be able to have a conversation in Spanish with my grandparents. 



I want to do well in my audition  


I want to get the role of Mary Poppins in my school’s 8th grade production 


Helpful Tools for SMART Goals 

We were inspired by the SMART Goals process, and our own kids’ need to learn to set these types of goals, in creating an app.  That’s why in our Teen SMART Goals app we ask set up the SMART goal process so that you can: 

  • Give your goal a title, so you can quickly look at it and remember what you’re working for 
  • Write a more detailed description to describe exactly what you want to achieve 
  • Upload a photo that inspires you to work on your goal and reminds you of what you’re working on at a glance

If you’re more of a paper and pen person, you can use one of our SMART Goals worksheets as a starting point, or create your own.   

Whether on your phone or using paper, the key to success is to follow a simple process that helps define a plan that your teen actually wants to follow!   

More about SMART Goals

We’ve covered the Specific in SMART goals, but the rest of the elements are just as important. You can see 5 examples of SMART goals for teens that can also help to inspire your teen or give them something to mimic so they can get started on the right track. 

We keep building examples of SMART goals for our Facebook community, My SMART Teen.  Join us and let us know what goals your teen is working on, and we can help you and your teen achieve success!


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