How to Reach Your Goals

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, November 2018

Many of the individuals who contact me are frustrated and discouraged about achieving their goals. Some have been trying for 18 months or more to reach an objective. Typically, the person needs to learn or develop certain skills, use some new strategies, or find resources. Sometimes, however, the problem is the goal itself. See if you can tell what is wrong with these examples: “Improve my communication skills at work;” “find a job;” “manage my time better.”  

All of these goals are important and worthwhile. They are also very general, which makes them difficult to act upon. Improving communication skills, for example, can mean understanding expectations, participating in meetings, getting along with co-workers and more. If a specific outcome is not clear, it becomes very difficult to plan an effective strategy.

One tool that can help is the SMART Goal Planner. “SMART” is a process for defining a specific goal and determining whether it is realistic. It is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-oriented.

There are five steps to creating a SMART goal:

Step #1: Make the goal Specific

Step #2: Make success Measurable

Step #3: Select a goal that you can Achieve

Step #4: Check that your goal is Reasonable

Step #5: Make it Time-oriented

The following is an example of how Jason applied the SMART goals process to his job search. He was seeking a data analyst position.

Step #1: Specific goal. Get hired as an entry-level data analyst at a mid-size organization within the high technology sector within 6 months.

This goal is specific and actionable.

Step #2: How success will be measured. When I am offered employment.

This step defines how you will know that you have reached your goal. For job seeker Jason, this was straight forward. In contrast, success for someone seeking to better manage their time could be completing assignments without staying late; having time to pursue hobbies; or lowered stress levels.

Step #3: Verify that the goal is achievable. Yes, as I have the education and skills that employers list in job posts, and am learning how to improve my interviewing skills.

This step is an important “reality check” to determine whether you have the skills, ability and resources to meet your objective. If you discover during this step that your goal is not attainable, do not despair. You may need to take an intermediate step, such as acquiring a particular skill. Or, you might need to adjust your goal.

Step 4: Verify that the goal is reasonable. Yes, because there are many job openings advertised, I am averaging 3 to 4 interviews per month, and am actively working on my interview skills.

This step sounds similar to Step 3, but they are not the same. Step 3 asks whether your goal is possible to achieve. Step 4 asks whether it is realistic given your circumstances. For Jason, 6 months is a reasonable time frame to find a data analyst job. If he wanted to earn a living as an actor, it would be unreasonable, because the field is so competitive. Unreasonable goals lead to frustration and should be avoided.

Step #5: Goal is time-oriented. Yes, it is 6 months from now.

Setting a (reasonable!) time frame for reaching a goal helps you to stay focused and motivated. Establishing an end date allows you to work backward and create a timeline for taking various actions. You can also monitor your progress as time goes on. If one strategy isn’t working, discontinue it and try something else instead.

If you would like to receive a SMART Goals Planner, write to me at and I will email you a copy.

Copyright 2018, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching