Embracing Change – SMART Objectives

Extracted from Marion’s Book (pages 68-86)

Piloting your career rather than sitting in the passenger seat…


The transitions that have just been described are not like the steps of a staircase that you have to climb. A spring made up of spirals is a more appropriate image. You can slide up from one spiral to the next or slide back down to the previous one… You might stay put on one spiral for a while or move quickly up several spirals at a time.

Everyone drives along at his or her own speed. You might adopt a determined attitude and head straight for your destination. Alternatively, you might take things more slowly because you haven’t quite decided where you want to go. You can either take hold of the steering wheel yourself and decide on the different stopping points on your journey, or you can be a passenger and wait for other people to tell you where to go.

Think about your behaviour patterns. If a change is about to occur in your life, how do you react?

Do you put off making decisions until later, tomorrow, next week or next month? Are you constantly asking yourself, “What if I can’t manage?” If so, your dreams will always remain out of reach and will never come true.

In the past, you have attempted to change, but without success. You have tried setting yourself targets before, but somehow gave up before you had reached them. Perhaps your goals were too ambitious or too vague? The result was a complete disaster! You won’t get caught out again – you are about to create a SMART way of coping with change!

SMART Objectives

We are not talking about the car but about goals to be reached.

Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.

Instead of pursuing utopian dreams or just wishing that things would happen, the SMART program allows you to set yourself concrete objectives so that you know exactly where you stand. This methodology is being adopted by more and more coaches and is widely used in the business world. Here is a short description of each objective.

Specific: A vague objective has a good chance of evaporating into thin air! Be precise about the targets you want to meet. Don’t say, “I would like to improve my performance”, but instead, “This year, I need to improve sales by 20 % compared to last year. To achieve this, I need to improve my IT skills, so I will take the IT course my employer is offering.”

Measurable: You need to know where you stand at all times. How much further is it to the finish line? You need to have benchmarks along the way. “In six months’ time, my IT skills need to be up to scratch. In two months’ time, I will be taking an IT test. I will work hard to pass it so that I can move up to a higher level afterwards.”

Attainable and Acceptable: You need to be realistic about the industry you work in. A butcher cannot suddenly turn himself into a hotel manager! You must make sure that your objectives are always compatible with your ethics, your points of reference and with “collective moral responsibility”. Trying to sell a product by deceiving a potential purchaser and relying on his or her gullibility is not “acceptable”.

Realistic: This is not the opposite of ambitious! It is important to know how far you can go with the resources available to you. If you have never swum more than 25 meters before, don’t attempt to swim across the Channel!

Timely: It is vital to set yourself deadlines. “We should meet up” does not have the same impact as “We should meet up, so let’s set a date and write it in our agendas.”

Your objectives can be short term, for example by this evening or tomorrow, medium term, for example in a fortnight, or long term, for example in a few months. Now it is your turn to do some work! Using the example given below, fill in your objectives in the appropriate boxes. Keeping a written record is important because it helps you to measure your progress.

If you are looking for a job, you will no doubt be answering job adverts. This is your first objective. To start off with, it is difficult to know how long it will take to select the jobs you want to apply for, to write an accompanying letter and send it… And what about the replies? It takes time to analyse the responses you receive in return (or the lack of responses!) This is an important stage which enables you to adapt and perfect your job hunting strategy. More often than not a person’s objective is global. It is definitely not specific, measurable or timely. It may not even be attainable or realistic. No wonder he or she can’t reach it!

On the other hand, if you decide that you are going to answer at least twenty job offers each week, you will soon realise just how much time and effort this involves. You will easily be able to calculate how many hours per week you need to set aside to work on applications. Your objective immediately becomes more precise.

SMART objective Examples

My short term goalsDeadline: one week

  • Examine my financial situation in detail
    • Make decisions about my investments
    • See my banker


My medium term goals – Deadline: four weeks

  • Outline a precise job hunting calendar
  • Draw up my profile
    • Decide on and define my professional projects.
    • Write my resume.


My long term goals – Deadline: six months / one year

  • Sign up for a course and ask for recognition of my qualifications
  • Learn how to use Excel and obtain recognised certification
  • Take French lessons and pass level 1