Building Your 2021 by Using SMART Goals

If you are like me, you are anxiously looking for the end of 2020 and the start of the new year. A new year gives us the opportunity to re-focus, re-energize. and re-engage. It provides us with a brand-new start and a clean slate.

  • Didn’t lose that 20 pounds you wanted? Start over!
  • Didn’t finish that book you wanted to read? Finish it in 2021!
  • Didn’t take that class that looked interesting? Why not do it in 2021?

Look at the new year as an opportunity to begin again. This time though, why not use a tool to help you increase the likelihood of success? A great way to do that is through the use of SMART goals. In our recently launched StartFresh program for Goodwill associates, we include a module on SMART Goals and how they can help you achieve your aspirations both personally and professionally. SMART is an acronym commonly used for setting goals – it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s take a moment to talk about each of these:


As you set your goal it is important to be as clear and concise as possible with what you want to achieve:

To make a goal specific, some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved or needs to be involved?
  • Where is this goal going to be achieved?
  • When do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Why is this goal important to me?


How will you measure success? How will you know if you made progress or completed your goal? Being able to measure the goal (even if it is “yes I achieved it” or “no I didn’t”) ultimately will be very helpful. In addition, for big goals (like achieving a degree), breaking down the larger goals into smaller goals can be very motivational.


Can I really accomplish the goal? Just because I make a goal doesn’t mean it is attainable. For example, I am never going to be an Olympic swimmer no matter how many goals I write, but I can improve my individual times or improve upon the distance that I swim. Making sure the goal is realistic (but with a degree of stretch) will significantly increase the likelihood of success.


Does this goal matter? Is it really an important goal? Is this something you care about and connect to other goals? Making sure that the goal truly matters and is in alignment with other goals is critically important. For example, if your goal is be a Goodwill store manager, taking a course in auto mechanics may not be relevant. Now…if you want to learn auto mechanics to build your own repair business, then it would absolutely be relevant.


Every race has an end. Every sporting event has a final outcome. The same hold true for goals. Establishing a timeframe helps you to “put a stake in the ground” as to when you are going to accomplish the goal. It may be next week, next month, or next year, but it is important to be specific as to when you are going to accomplish the goal.

SMART Example:

So let’s say I aspire to achieve a Six Sigma Black Belt. I feel it would be a benefit to me in both my current position and potential future positions. I write the following goal:

Achieve Six Sigma Green Belt.

Is this SMART? No. It does not measure up to all the components of a SMART goal. So…I need to rewrite it so that it does.

Achieve a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification through the successful completion of the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) course and exam by December 31, 2021.

Is this SMART? Let’s test it:

  • Specific? Yes. Achieve Black Belt through ASQ by December 31, 2021
  • Measurable? Yes. I can measure it by asking “did I do it or not.”
  • Achievable? Yes. After looking at my schedule, I have the time to accomplish this goal and balance my other priorities.
  • Relevant? A Black Belt is always helpful to individuals who run projects and can help a person to implementing new innovations.
  • Time-bound? Achieved by December 31, 2021.

So…Yes…this passes the SMART test.

Using SMART goals has helped many people to achieve their personal and professional aspirations. If you have trouble accomplishing your goals, writing them using the SMART criteria could help you to become more organized, motivated, and successful.

Give it a try and make 2021 your most successful year yet!

Mark Heinlein
VP, Workforce Development