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SMART goals are structured goals we set for ourselves. These kinds of goals are often talked about at work during performance reviews and evaluations. However, SMART goals can be helpful in therapy and mental health. SMART is an acronym which stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

How are SMART Goals Helpful?

SMART goals are helpful for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are:

  • They help us identify solutions or steps needed to achieve goals.
  • When we break things up, it becomes less overwhelming and more manageable for us.
  • They can help us prioritize our responsibilities.
  • They can increase our confidence and motivation in completing goals


Specificity with SMART goals refers to how specific the goal is. When goals are not specific, it becomes difficult to feel motivated or confident in completing the goals. For example, someone might say they want to feel better about themselves. While this is a nice goal to have, it is not specific enough. Instead, try a goal like: “I want to speak and think about myself more kindly.


Measurement of a SMART goal refers to the barometer we are using to record and track progress. When a goal is not measurable, it is hard to gauge where we started and how much progress we have made towards that goal. For example, someone might say they want to incorporate more physical activity in their week. This is not measurable because we don’t know what “more” means. Instead, try saying something like: “I would like to work out three times a week for at least 30 minutes.”


Achieving in regards to SMART goals refers to how realistic the goal is. Sometimes we set goals for ourselves that are not realistic and we end up setting ourselves up for failure. Even if we have previously achieved the goal, maybe we’re not there anymore. That’s okay! This also doesn’t mean you will never achieve the ideal goal.

For example, many people worked fully in-person prior to the pandemic. However, it may not be realistic anymore to go from fully remote to fully in-person. Instead, try thinking of something that’s more realistic or manageable, such as: “I would like to start working in person twice a week for now, but ultimately will like to work in-person everyday.”


Relevance refers to to uniqueness of the goal to each indiviual person. This means understanding why this goal is important to you and your wellbeing. When a goal is not relevant, it becomes difficult to be motivated to complete it. For example, if someone sets a goal to start setting better boundaries at work, but they already have healthy boundaries, the goal may not be relevant. Perhaps, try identifying ways to reinforce and maintain boundaries or identifying relationships that would benefit from better boundaries.


Time refers to the constraints we are applying to the goals. When we have a due date or “deadline,” it can help us remain motivated and engaged to complete the goals. When we do not have time constraints, it makes it less likely that we will remain engaged enough to complete the goal. For example, saying “I am going to start reading more soon” does not have time constraints, so it makes it less motivating to complete the goal. Instead, try saying something like: “I am going to start reading this new book tomorrow. I am going to finish it by the end of the month.”

Putting It All Together

Let’s put it all together to see what a SMART goal can look like: Specific: I would like to practice self-care more routinely. I am going to make sure I read more. Measurable: I am going to read two chapters everyday. Achievable: I used to read six chapters a day, but two chapters a day feels more realistic for me right now. Relevance: This is important to me because I really enjoy reading and I want to get back into it. Time-bound: I will start reading tonight, and will finish this book in two weeks.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.