It’s Time to Set SMARTER Goals

Almost exactly 23 years ago, I wrote down my goals for the first time in my life. You can read more about the details and how that worked for me in this blog from 2013. In short, that was a life-changing experience through which I earned a lot of power in my life. Not to mention that it has brought me tons of joy and purpose. (Disclaimer: your results may vary. Encouragement: your results may be even better!)

The SMART Goal System

I learned the SMART system for creating goals. George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham developed this system in 1981. The way I remember it, the SMART acronym stands for: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-table. Despite this goal system working phenomenally for me, frankly, I have had some hesitancy about some of the words in the acronym.

For example, aren’t achievable and realistic basically the same thing? I recommend that my mentees use “achievable” to focus on whether they can attain the goal in their timeframe, and “realistic” to think, “Can this actually be done?” But I’ve always been careful about how I frame that concept. If inventors of the past thought too much about whether their inventions could actually be made, we might not have radio, electricity, or a lot of things.   

I usually mention that a goal of flying around the room without a jetpack or similar item may not be realistic. But if you get stuck in the negative about something not being a realistic goal, you can easily talk yourself out of anything. Your aspirations should make you stretch. They should be something you have not achieved before. If you haven’t done it, how do you know if it’s realistic or achievable for yourself?

The SMARTER Goal System

For the A, I prefer to use actionable. If you can take action on your aspiration, that will make the goal you set more powerful. What I like for the first R is Relevant. But relevancy is completely up to the person setting the goal. Relevant to what? Considering whether a goal is relevant might make us stretch to find goals that we think are important.

In more recent years, the SMART goal acronym has evolved to be SMARTER. I’m excited about SMARTER goals and the additional concepts. What do the new letters stand for? E is for evaluate and the R at the end is for revise.

At East Valley Martial Arts, when we set goals as part of karate training, we have always encouraged regular evaluating and revising. We encourage students to do these things throughout the year after they fill out their goal sheets. We mark off each goal or step when we achieve it, and fill out a completely new sheet as needed. After all, your goals are your very own. After some time, as you learn more about what it takes to achieve an aspiration, you may change your priorities and no longer want a goal you wrote. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you are honest with yourself.

I love the E and the R making our SMART goals SMARTER. Because this will remind us to consistently evaluate and revise. Smarter goals, here we come!

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger


Jenifer Tull-Gauger knows what it’s like to be an “old soul” and a painfully quiet kid struggling to fit in. Her journey to 7th degree black belt is a testament of how she found inner strength through traditional karate. Now in leadership for the international U.R.K.A., she heads up a private dojo with her husband.

Jenifer combined her passions for art and writing, with what she’s learned from 23-plus years of teaching karate, to create a children’s character-building picture book series. The Dojo Kun Character Books help children to find their own power in their lives.

Leave a Comment