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Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting SMART goals

An excerpt from Mental Preparation Program

By Jayson Patino


What if you could achieve anything in the world you wanted to? THAT is the power of goal setting. Making a plan to achieve what is most important to you. Setting goals is critical for developing perseverance and making a plan to achieve what we want from life. People really struggle with following through with their goals, though. Studies show that only about 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions! This can most likely be attributed to people making more of a wish, than writing down a detailed plan to achieve their goals.

A Harvard study on goals found:

  1. We must change inside before we can change our outside world.
  2. Goals give us reasons/motivation to change and move toward wholeness.
  3. Specific, effective goal writers have the winning edge because they sense specifically what is missing in their lives to make them more whole. In addition, they have made what is missing abundantly clear and crystallized it objectively to themselves by writing these goals down.

Harvard goal study results:
25% of the people who had no goals, had sprinkled results

72% of the people who had sporadic goals were successful 40% of the time.

3% of the people had concrete, written and dated goals and were successful 89% of the time.

I have personally used these strategies for years to work towards my goals. Specifically, my 3 main life goals in 2008 were:

  1. Win a World Championship
  2. Earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  3. Own my own BJJ/MMA academy.


I wrote out all the steps listed here. I refocused and dedicated my life to achieving those goals. I knew it would require several years of consistent hard work and commitment. Most importantly, it would require a sound plan. In 2012 I achieved my life goal of owning my own academy. In 2013, I earned my black belt. And in 2014 I won a World Championship. This system works if you commit fully to your plan. Don’t sell yourself short.


Here is the step by step system to help you properly set, plan, work towards, and achieve your goals.

Step 1: Choose your “Big Goal”

If you have a real desire to reach your goal, you’re far more likely to be motivated, driven, and ultimately successful. What do you truly want to accomplish or achieve this year?

Ask questions like:

  • What’s something you wish you could achieve?
  • What’s a challenge you would feel very proud to overcome?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?


BRAINSTORM! Make sure the goal is specific, measurable, and trackable. It’s usually good to set an easier goal first. Then once you’ve reached that goal, you can set a harder goal to achieve. Goals need to be flexible. The more specific and clear your goals are, the better your performance will be. There’s a scientific approach to goal setting that can help you increase your chances of reaching your goal. The key to success is developing a S.M.A.R.T. goal. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; and Time-bound.

A goal is an outcome, something that will make a difference as a result of achieving it. It can’t be too hard to be out of reach, but also not so simple that it does not challenge. A goal has to be realistic with a stretch, requiring effort and focus to achieve it. That’s why goals need timeframes and measurable steps along the way so that you can keep track of progress and make adjustments as necessary. Avoid vague goals like, “I want to get better.” There’s no clear way to know when or if this goal has been achieved.

Step 2: Discuss the Purpose of Your Goal

In order for you to be truly motivated to reach your goal, you must understand your “WHY.” Why do you want to achieve this goal? Why does it matter? What is your purpose? When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you; this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

Step 3: Break the Big Goal into Smaller Steps

“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.” –Lao Tzu

An effective goal must be reasonably within reach. It should be neither too challenging nor too easy. You must be able to sustain your motivation for an extended period of time. One way to achieve this is to break your big, long-term goal into more manageable short-term steps. People often fail to reach their goals because the goals they have set are too massive and unrealistic. These people focus too much on the outcome and not enough on the process. It’s important for you to understand that you may not reach your long-term goal right away. As long as you’re making progress and completing short-term goals, you’re still climbing the ladder to success and shouldn’t get discouraged.

Step 4: Brainstorm Potential Obstacles

If you don’t plan in advance for potential obstacles, an unforeseen challenge or difficulty could derail your motivation.

The KEY to successfully reaching goals lies in two strategies:

(1) Visualizing yourself achieving a goal

(2) Planning a method for overcoming obstacles beforehand.

As you plan for potential obstacles, talk about bad habits or negative thoughts, including a desire to give up. Ask yourself “If I feel like giving up, what will I do instead?” It is very likely that you will encounter some form of failure or loss along your journey to achieve your long term goals. The key is view these situations as learning experiences to grow and improve. Do not view a loss as a defeat that defines you. If you focus on the fact that you can learn from your mistakes, then a short term failure can actually be viewed as an improvement for the future. This positive perspective is critical to developing the perseverance to push through the difficult situations that will arise. Achieving long term goals is hard and bumps along the way are to be anticipated. Do not put pressure on yourself to win. The people closest to you in your inner circle will be there supporting you every step of the way, win or lose. When you try your best to prepare and execute you can rest easy with no regrets regardless of the result.

Use our goal-setting worksheets to write down all the information discussed. By simply writing down your goals, you’re 42% more likely to achieve them. Telling a friend or family member increases this rate to 72%. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate success.  When a goal is achieved, celebrate!

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