Ep 086 -- SMART Goals

At an event I recently attended, there was a presentation on creating SMART goals, assigning roles/responsibilities, and balancing concepts of urgent vs important, among other things.

With a background in corporate life, and especially in the marketing field, I thought, "Why are we spending time on such basic and 'obvious' concepts?" And yet, the hundred+ folks in attendance were enthusiastic and soaking it all up as they could see how these new concepts could transform their working lives.

I took a couple things from the experience.

First, it's an ongoing reminder that not everyone has the same experience that I do. Smart people have different backgrounds. Things obvious to me are not obvious to others, and things that are obvious to others are not obvious to me. And sharing basic knowledge across areas of experience is valuable for everyone -- especially in the stroke space.

In fact, it's one reason I started this show -- to share not only stories but to also breakdown some the barriers to sharing knowledge across silos of neurology, physiatry, rehab, care givers, industry professionals, and survivors. Still, it's a lesson I (and many other) need to frequently relearn.

Second, there's value in talking about SMART goals. While we talk about them a lot in the corporate world, they also make a lot of sense in the rehab world.


SMART Goals are Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.


The goal needs to be simple to explain. If it's too tough to explain quickly and easily, developing the plan to achieve it, and then executing that plan is even harder.

Note: some definitions say the "S" should stand for "specific" rather than "simple." I've heard it both ways, and there's value in either approach. Personally, I think the other elements of the SMART goals framework encompass the elements of specificity.


A quantifiable metric is important to evaluating whether or not you accomplish a goal. "Feeling better" may be something we want. It may be a direction we go. But it's not really a goal. There's not a concrete measure of whether or not we've accomplished it. While there's value in pursuing objectives purely for ourselves, developing one with outside, specific measurement helps with accountability to ourselves and others. It also makes it easier for others to help us pursue our goals.

Additionally, measurable goals can be important to continue to be eligible to have insurance pay for therapy in the US or to remain in therapy elsewhere. Measurable goals are how we evaluate progress.


The goal doesn't need to be easy to achieve. It can be a stretch. It can seem to be impossible at first. But it still needs to be achievable. It needs to be something that makes sense. If there's no conceivable plan to get there, then It's not really a goal we'll be able to develop a plan to achieve. And if we can't develop the plan, then it's a lot harder to work to achieve it.


The goal should be part of your life. I could set a goal to do ballet moves as part of my recovery. But for the most part that has nothing to do with my life. It's not relevant. It's not something I care about. And if I don't care, I'm really not going to be motivated to pursue it. There are only so many hours in the day, and living with disabilities means our time is even more limited. Spending precious time on irrelevant goals is not likely to lead to success.


Goals without deadlines are dreams. And that's fine, but let's not mix the two up. A SMART goal has a deadline -- a date at which you can define whether or not you have achieved the goal. It also means you can build a work back schedule. That's a plan based in the individual steps you need to complete in order to complete the larger goal within the schedule.

If we don't have a schedule and a deadline, we'll keep pushing it out as other things come up.

An example of a SMART goal would be:

I will run 100 meters in 60 second by the end of July 2020.

It's easy to understand, it has a concrete measurement, It's something that I can accomplish (I think) with enough work, it's related to recovery mobility, and it has a deadline.

So work on making your goals SMART Goals.

Hack of the week

When I spoke with Debra Myerson and husband Steve a couple weeks ago, they shared the idea of leaving the "Dis" off of "Disability."

Focus less on what you can't do yet and more one what you can do. Sure that's hard to sometimes, but the more we focus on the things we are able to do, the more we can accomplish today.

You can hear more from Debra and Steve here.

Where do we go from here?

Strokecast is the stroke podcast where a Gen X stroke survivor explores rehab, recovery, the frontiers of neuroscience and one-handed banana peeling by helping stroke survivors, caregivers, medical providers and stroke industry affiliates connect and share their stories.

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

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