We’ve covered how you can find C.L.A.R.I.T.Y. in your career path. But once you have that clarity and have a long-term goal in mind, the next step is to set up shorter-term goals. Why? Because shorter-term goals give you direction and a sense of accomplishment along the way. They become your plan to accomplish the long-term goals you have. So let’s spend a moment to walk through how you can make excellent goal-setting part of your arsenal. Once again, there’s an acronym to help you remember what matters: you need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

The first step is to make your goals Specific.

Thinking of your long-term goal, what specific steps do you need to implement to get there? For example, if your long-term goal is to own your own business, you need particular steps—specific short-term goals—that you can target and accomplish along the way. Think about the Who, What, Where, When, and Why for your goal. Let’s say one of your early short-term goals is to test your product or service. Who are you trying it with? What will the test be, and where and when will you run it? Finally, why are you doing the test? What is it you want to learn—specifically? Be as detailed as possible so that there is no doubt about what the step entails and what you will accomplish.

Next, make it Measurable.

You need to be able to measure or determine when the goal is met. Using the above example, make sure you can quantify when you have tested your product or service. If you can’t, be more specific. Maybe the goal becomes “test my product offering by asking 500 potential consumers on ____ platform whether or not they would pay the price I suggest for what I have to offer.” By being specific and measurable, you will know for sure whether and when you achieve your goal.

Next, make sure the goal is Achievable.

Are you able, at this stage, to connect with 500 potential consumers? Perhaps you are, using social media or an alternative audience that you have access to. But if you aren’t, don’t make the goal unattainable. Make sure you can achieve it—albeit with some effort.

Similarly, but not redundantly, your goal should be Realistic.

This may sound like the same thing as achievable, but there is a nuance here. Would you say it is feasible to reach out to 500,000 potential consumers to test your business model? Most ambitious entrepreneurs would say, “Absolutely! It is Achievable.” But that doesn’t mean it is realistic to spend your time doing that, especially initially, you have other business and life goals, and perhaps even a family and healthy pursuits to tend to. Does the extravagant effort involved in obtaining 500,000 data points at the onset of your business get you so much more information that it is worth the effort?

In most cases, the answer is likely not. This is where being realistic is essential. Set goals that are both achievable and realistic. There will be opportunities to take on more considerable achievements as you go down the path.

Finally, be Timely in your goal setting.

When do you plan to start this particular goal? When do you want to see it completed? What must be done in advance, and how does this goal connect to future plans? Remember that goals with urgency and importance are those that get accomplished first. The squeaky wheel gets fixed.

Once you have fine-tuned the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting process, you will see that setting and achieving goals is not only more accessible but also essential to achieving your long-term goals. Your short-term goals become building blocks, and if set up correctly, they can become the “wind behind your sail”—your reminder of the progress you’ve made and the fuel you need for the exciting path you have ahead.

Now that we’ve explored S.M.A.R.T. goals and how and why you should be making them let’s create some urgency so that you start to realize the benefits right now. What can you set as a S.M.A.R.T. goal this week that sends you on a path to accomplish your most important long-term aspiration? If you think you can wait until next week, then I ask you why?

Now, Go Forth and Conquer!