Crafting SMART Goals: Goals for Academic, Athletic, and Life Achievements


Crafting SMART Goals for Academic, Athletic, and Life Achievements

Most of us realize that to achieve great things in life we need to put in the hard work. However, in far too many cases we invest our time, energy, resources, and passion in pursuit of a goal but end up falling short. Often, the reason for failure isn’t lack of dedication or effort but the result of insufficient planning.  

Setting goals is like plotting a course to climb a mountain. Imagine if you said to yourself, I want to climb Mount Everest and then showed up with only a backpack, a map and some snacks? No matter how much determination you have, you won’t reach the summit without a much more robust plan. SMART goals can help break down a seemingly impossible task into manageable pieces similar to waypoints on a map. Here we share a common framework for how to think about taking a big bold ambitious dream and create a clear plan for working towards that goal, whether it be academic, athletic, or another of life’s pursuits.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This is a common way for people to plan for and tackle a big dream. In our earlier example, we talked about climbing a mountain. What’s your big goal? It might be to get better grades, make the varsity team, or earn a college scholarship. Goals are important but without a concrete plan, it’s a lot more difficult to make consistent progress towards that desired outcome. 

It’s worth noting that most big goals involve a lot of inputs. Consider the example of earning college acceptance. In order to achieve that, you must have strong grades, write a compelling essay, and demonstrate passion for learning. This is where the SMART part comes in handy! You can take that bigger goal and break it down into smaller pieces and have a plan for success.

These criteria serve as your roadmap, ensuring your goals are clear, practical, and geared towards success. Each letter in SMART signifies a crucial aspect that transforms an ambitious dream into an actionable plan. Being Specific ensures clarity, Measurable allows us to track progress, Achievable makes our goals realistic, Relevant keeps them meaningful, and Time-bound sets a deadline for success.

SMART CriteriaQuestions to Ask Yourself
Specific: Your goal should be clear and focused. Instead of saying, “I want to do better in school,” you can make it specific by saying, “I want to improve my science grade to an A by the end of the semester.”What do I want to accomplish?Why is this goal important?
Measurable: Your goal should be something you can measure so you know when you’ve achieved it. For example, if your goal is to read more, you can make it measurable by saying, “I want to read one book for pleasure per month.”How will I measure success? What are some milestones I can track to monitor my progress?
Achievable: Your goal should be something you can realistically accomplish. Setting high goals is great, but they should still be possible. If you’re not great at basketball now, a more achievable goal might be to practice shooting hoops for 15 minutes every day.What will I do in order to achieve my goal? How will I go about accomplishing this goal?
Relevant: Your goal should be important to you and make sense in your life. If you love art, a relevant goal might be, “I want to improve my drawing skills by practicing for 20 minutes every day.”Is this goal worthwhile? Does this goal align with my other goals? Is this the right time to focus on this goal?
Time-bound: Your goal should have a set time limit for when you want to achieve your goal. Instead of saying, “I want to learn a new song on the guitar,” you can make it time-bound by saying, “I want to learn a new song on the guitar within the next two weeks.”By when do I need to have this goal accomplished? How long will I give myself to complete this goal?

Imagine SMART goals as the secret sauce for academic excellence, athletic performance, and personal growth. Let’s explore examples of how these criteria can elevate your performance in every aspect of your life. 

Five Examples of SMART Goals

Academic Goal

  • Specific: Achieve an A grade in algebra by the end of the semester.
  • Measurable: Score at least 90% on each algebra quiz and complete all homework assignments.
  • Achievable: Attend additional math tutoring sessions twice a week to reinforce understanding.
  • Relevant: Improving algebra skills is crucial for pursuing a career in science or engineering.
  • Time-bound: Reach this goal by the end of the current semester.

Extracurricular Goal (Sports)

  • Specific: Increase my basketball free throw percentage from 70% to 85%.
  • Measurable: Practice free throws for 30 minutes every day after school.
  • Achievable: Seek guidance from the basketball coach to improve shooting technique.
  • Relevant: Enhancing free throw skills contributes to overall basketball performance.
  • Time-bound: Achieve the 85% free throw percentage within the next two months.

Extracurricular Goal (Clubs/Organizations)

  • Specific: Take on a leadership role in the school’s environmental club.
  • Measurable: Organize and lead at least two eco-friendly initiatives or events.
  • Achievable: Attend regular club meetings, contribute ideas, and collaborate with fellow members.
  • Relevant: Demonstrates leadership skills and passion for environmental sustainability.
  • Time-bound: Assume the leadership role by the beginning of the next school semester.

Personal Development Goal

  • Specific: Improve public speaking skills by delivering a five-minute speech without notes.
  • Measurable: Practice speaking in front of a mirror and receive feedback from peers.
  • Achievable: Attend a public speaking workshop or join the school debate club.
  • Relevant: Enhancing communication skills is valuable for future academic and professional endeavors.
  • Time-bound: Successfully deliver the speech at the upcoming school assembly.

Health and Wellness Goal

  • Specific: Adopt a healthier lifestyle by incorporating 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week.
  • Measurable: Keep a weekly exercise log and monitor progress over time.
  • Achievable: Explore different physical activities that can be done in a variety of settings such as jogging, cycling, or team sports.
  • Relevant: Promoting overall well-being and stress management during the busy school year.
  • Time-bound: Establish the routine and maintain it throughout the entire school year.

Tips for Success

Creating a SMART goal is the first step to achieving your desired outcome. However,  many people still fall short by failing to fully follow through on their plan. Here are five tips for success as you turn your SMART goal into action. 

  • Break Down Larger Goal: Divide bigger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. This approach makes your journey more achievable and less overwhelming.
  • Create a Timeline: Develop a timeline with short-term and long-term milestones. This visual representation helps you stay organized and focused.
  • Be Flexible: Adapt your goals as circumstances change. Flexibility ensures you can navigate challenges while staying committed to your larger goal.
  • Seek Support: Be proactive in seeking guidance from mentors, teachers, or coaches. Support from others can provide valuable insights and motivation. You can also share your goal with a friend as form an “accountabilibuddy” for inspiration.
  • Celebrate Achievements: No matter how small, celebrate your achievements. Recognizing your progress reinforces your commitment to success. 

SMART goals serve as our compass for navigating the vast world of options. They help us stay the course and point us towards our desired destination. Set your sights high, create a SMART goal for how to get there, and make it happen! 

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About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT and SAT test preparation and extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.

Winward Academy’s unmatched reputation is wholly attributable to our students’ exceptional success and to the trust earned among students, parents, and schools around the world.

Thomas O'Brien

Thomas O’Brien (Vice President of Success & Engagement) – Before joining Winward Academy, Mr. O’Brien was a nationally award-winning high school principal and math teacher. As an educator, he participated in the National Education Policy Fellowship through America Achieves. As a school leader, he participated in the Uncommon Schools Instructional Fellowship, the National Principal Academy Fellowship and Inclusive School Leadership Institute through the Relay Graduate School of Education, the Math For America School Leader Fellowship, and the Compass-in-Leadership Fellowship with Valor Collegiate Schools. Mr. O’Brien supports teachers and school leaders with ongoing data analyses, reports, intervention strategies, and engagement activities.