The Art Of S.M.A.R.T a Beginning…

As I continue to prepare for my upcoming class I am reminded of the building blocks to success

Although the emphasis on the course is learning and how to go about learning in the best way possible, I am reminded that although learning for its own sake is unmeasurably valuable, learning with a plan or goal in mind is of the utmost importance in regards to learning and retention of that learning.

For example, if I were reading an article in the course of a pleasurable respite, I might come across tidbits of information that I believe might be useful to me in the future.  I might turn down the page or even possibly tear out the page to place in my “save for later” file.  Possibly, if a pen or a highlighter were handy, I might notate my new found information.  But more than not neither a pen nor a highlighter is handy nor as I am comfy in my relaxed reading spot am I not too likely to stop and retrieve these items.  I might tell myself, I will come back to it later after I am done and take notes. But we know better, even if I retrieve the information later and place it in a “safe” place (folder etc.)  I probably will not go back and retrieve that information, much less incorporate it into my personal body of knowledge.

On the other hand, if I have a problem, a question, or a concern and go online or to the library to access that particular piece of information since I have a goal in mind, I am much more apt to prepare for the retrieval of the information by providing a pen and paper in advance.  I would probably take notes and even follow-up with further sources.  Having a specific goal in mind, searching for an answer to a specific problem, question or concern helped to prepare me and further to cement the information.

In my journey to prepare my students for my new class I have only began to scratch the surface of the many facets that will lead my students to a more successful journey.  These skills are applicable to us all as lifelong learners.  The author of the Keys to Community College Success, Carol Carter and Sarah Kravits, coined the “SMART Goal – Achievement Plan”. The acronym SMART stands for a tool used to set goals; one of the key elements to successful learning.  

The S stands for specific, M stands for measurable, A for achievable, R for realistic, and T for time frame.  The acronym serves to guide us as learners, advocating that in order to succeed one must set a specific goal.  This can serve as a guide for short term and long term goals. It can work in an educational setting as well as in our personal lives. 

To begin, the goal must be measurable.  From actual time measurement; hour to hour, day to day, month to month or something more ambiguous like, am I feeling stronger than before, healthier, happier, more satisfied, less stressed etc.?  Depending on the goal one would monitor measurable progress over time.

The A in SMART is for Achievable, which helps to set limits on the goal, helping to break it up into something manageable. For example I might wish to compete in a marathon but haven’t run in years.  So for now the achievable goal will be to start by running half a mile. 

The R in SMART, for realistic, might seem at first to be the same as achievable but realistic pertains more to the logistics of the goal.  For example, do I have the time, the resources and the circumstances in my daily life to make this a realistic goal and if I do not what am I willing or able to change to make the goal realistic?

Finally, the T in SMART is for time frame; this is the part where a very specific time line needs to be created in order to identify the steps for working toward the goal.  As in the case of the marathon; setting a time frame for achieving the first half mile of running, the second and so on. Setting a six month time line with daily activities from stretching to running, adding distance and time; this will help in the management of that often seemingly unattainable goal.

I am hopeful this tool will encourage my students as well as my readers in their quest for setting and securing some or all of their many goals!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC