I remember the first time I had really heard of a SMART goal. I was sitting in a grad school class and it was being discussed. My naive self thought, ‘Oh just be “smart” about writing your therapy goal.’ (Cue eye roll emoji) I quickly figured out and was taught specifically what these SMART goals were. SMART goals were developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in their 1981 article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives”.  This method has been used in various work, school, and healthcare settings.

Physical therapists are trained to be goal-oriented. Specifically, goals should be focused on our patients and clients and should be meaningful to them. Goals like  “walk better” need to be a lot more specific, and actionable, and detail the tasks associated with them.

After years of it being drilled into my head in school, and then countless continuing education for most companies I’ve worked for, I am finding SMART goals applicable to other areas of my life.  Using a SMART goal can be a great way to set actual actionable tasks for our New Year’s resolutions.

Think about something you want to work on for 2023, and let’s break down what a SMART goal actually entails.

Specific: Many of us make generalized goals, i.e. “get healthy”, but that is too broad. Break down what getting healthy means to you. Does that mean sleeping better, drinking more water, eating enough protein, or exercising? The more specific you are in breaking down a goal, the more attainable it can be.

Measurable: If your same goal is to “get healthy”, how will you be able to measure your progress? How will you know when you have reached your goal? Adding some type of value to your goal will help this. I.e. “Sleep 8 hours” “Run 10-15 min, 5 days per week” “increase muscle mass by 5%”.

Attainable: Whether you’re setting a long or short-term goal, make it something realistic for you to achieve. You know yourself best! If you are not a runner, maybe making a goal to run a marathon is not the most attainable and starting with a 5K might be better. You want to challenge yourself, but not set yourself up for failure. You want your goal to be something you can stick with.

Relevant: Setting a goal is important, but it has to be important to you and where you are in life. Making a goal based on someone else’s expectations for you is not a realistic goal for YOU. If you are happy with your weight, then a goal relating to your health should not be centered around weight loss.

Time- bound: Having a final endpoint is important. Whether it’s a short-term or long-term goal, having a time restriction helps you get motivated to start, and also to stay with it.


I will schedule a PT appointment at Rebalance before the end of March 2023 to address my low back pain that is keeping me from being able to run.

I will download and use my CALM app 3 days a week for the next 3 months to improve mindfulness and help regulate my nervous system.

I will perform my PT exercises and mobility work 3 days per week for the next 2 months to better manage my pelvic floor pain in order to be able to sit through a lunch date with my friend. 

What are your SMART goals for 2023?

Written by Katelyn Brady, PT, DPT

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