Setting Goals


Setting Goals

Learning Objective

To help students understand what a goal is and the criteria for a SMART goal

Materials Needed

Handouts: “About Setting Goals,” “Setting SMART Goals,” and “SMART Goal Worksheet”


goal, criteria, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely


Thinking Skills: Reasoning ; Seeing things in the mind’s eye

Information: Interprets and communicates information

Instructions for Conducting the Activity

In the class as a whole, students read and discuss the “About Goal Setting” handout.

Write three goals on the board, one short-term, one long-term, and one more general. For example:

  • “I want to score 95% on my next English test.”
  • “I want to complete my class here and go to the community college.”
  • “I want to make a better life in the United States.”

Ask the students to identify which are short-term goals and which are long-term goals.

Then distribute the “Setting SMART Goals” handout. Review the vocabulary as needed with the students. Then using the first goal, “I want to score a 95% on my next English test,” review the SMART criteria to establish whether or not it is a SMART goal. Do the same with the other two examples. Have students explain why the first two goals meet the SMART criteria and why the last one does not.

Ask students to reflect back on the goals they set for themselves in the classroom and to write at least two of them down. Then in small groups, students discuss the classroom goals, and help each other evaluate those goals – are they SMART ?

For the ones that are not, ask students to write them again to make them into SMART goals.

Have students revisit these written goals to develop a Career and Education Planning Worksheet.

Extension Activities

  1. Have students write a long-term goal and then break it down into 4–5 short-term goals.
  2. Have students write about a goal they had set for themselves and met in the past. How did they go about achieving the goal? Was the goal SMART ?

Adapted from “Getting There: A Curriculum for People Moving into Employment,” The Center for Literacy Studies, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1996 and from Office Arrow at

About Setting Goals

What is a goal?

  • A goal is something we set for ourselves.
  • A goal is something we aim for.
  • A goal is important for achieving success.
  • A goal can help us measure our progress, to see if what we are doing is moving us closer to or further from our ultimate ambition.
  • A goal can be small: “I will wash my car Saturday morning.”
  • A goal can be big: “I will become a nurse in the next three years.”
  • The big goals can be broken up into smaller ones:

o “I will increase my English by one level by the fall.”

o “I will pass my GED test by this summer.”

o “I will enroll in a CNA program by next spring.”

Tips to help you set goals:

  • Keep it simple – just a few sentences for each goal will be plenty.
  • Write your goals down! “The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” (Lee Iacocca)
  • Make a commitment to review your goals regularly.
  • Allow your goals to reflect your values. Let your sense of “inner purpose” guide you.
  • Visualize achieving your goal. See it, taste it, smell it. Feel your goal before it happens.
  • Use motivating, positive language.
  • Make your goals emotional. Use words that have an impact on you – energizing, compelling, Inspiring words.
  • Share your goals with others and ask for their support.
  • Reward yourself along the way. Even small achievements deserve recognition.
  • Create goals for different increments of time (one week, one month, three months, one year, five years, ten years, etc.).
  • Make sure your goals are yours – not just what others expect of you.
  • Be sure to track your progress along the way.

Setting goals is an ongoing process

  • You need to practice setting goals to learn how and to get better at it.
  • Keep reviewing your goals and the steps you’re taking to reach them.
  • Are your actions moving you closer towards your goal or further from it?
  • If your actions aren’t moving you closer towards your goal you need to look again at the goal you’ve set and the steps you need to take to get there.


Tips written by Chrissy Scivicque. Reprinted with permission from Office Arrow at 2_id/78/p142_dis/3.





Author: Dennis Hickey

There are no limits to success to those who never stop learning. Learning will nourish your personal growth. I hope you enjoy this website and visit often so you keep learning and growing too!

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