We all set goals. We set personal goals such as losing weight, or saving more money, or getting a new job. We set business goals or they are set for us by our boss — goals such as increasing sales, increasing productivity, or cutting costs.

Frequently, however, these goals are not achieved and that’s because they are not sufficiently concrete. Vague goals are more an aspiration than a goal — they are a desire or a wish that does not have concrete expression.

However, there are those who do set goals and nearly always achieve them. People like Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, for example — when they set goals, they do so in a compelling way that motivates them and others to achieve them.

So what is the difference betweengoals set by people like Branson and those goals that are not achieved? The difference is positively and concretely stated“smart” goals and starting with the end in mind.

Many people have heard of smart goals, but unless you understand how to make them concrete, compelling and motivating, they still may not be achieved. So we have to make goals smarter than just smart by making them concrete and positively stated, and using SMART as a guide.

S is for specific, simple and sensory-based. An achievable goal needs to be defined as precisely as possible — what exactly is it you want.

Write it out in simple terms and in terms of who, what, where, when and how. It should be stated in the positive as something you want rather than as something you don’t want. If your goal is something you don’t want, ask yourself what you want instead. A goal is sensory-based when it is expressed in terms of what you can see, hear and/or feel.

M is for measurable. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? Expressing your goal specifically, simply and in sensory terms (as above) will greatly help with this.

When you have achieved your goal, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will you hear? How will you know you are half way to achieving it? How will you know you are a quarter or three-quarters way to achieving it? What measures will you put in place?

A is for achievable and action. Is your goal achievable? Is it within the realms of possibility? If the achievement of the goal is not completely within your control and you need others to do something, concentrate on what you need to do to get them to respond in the way you want (this may be a separate goal to pursue simultaneously or prior to your original goal).

Also, if your goal is too big, it may need to be split into smaller goals to achieve it. For any goal to be achieved, action must be taken (more on this below under “T”).

R is for realistic and resources. A realistic goal is “do-able” and within your skill-set and available resources. Do you have the resources to achieve it? These resources may be internal or external to self. If you require other resources first, attaining them becomes a prior goal. One way to check for the required resources is to ask yourself what is stopping you from achieving it right now?

T is for timed and take action. An achievable goal must be timed — it must have a deadline. When do you want it? When will it be achieved by? When a goal is timed, it adds a sense of urgency to it.

Most importantly, to achieve a goal, you must take action. Remember the old Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step? Well, to achieve your goal, you must take action — you must take the first step to achieving it.

Start with the end in mind

Making your goals smarter will make them more compelling and will build the motivation required to achieve them. Developing a smart goal enables you to begin moving towards achieving that goal while bearing the achieved goal in mind.

Starting with the end in mind not only keeps you focused and motivated, but will also open your mind to all opportunities that may assist in the achievement of your goal.

So if your life goals are still dreams, if your career goals are just not happening, or if business goals are not being achieved, restate them in a smarter way and start with the end in mind. Then take the necessary first step. Go for it!