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How To Use the SMART Coaching Model in Life Coaching

Last updated on February 6, 2024

If you dive into research about goal-setting, the SMART model is bound to come up. SMART goals are practical. They push you away from mere envisioning and encourage you to take real, attainable, and specific steps needed to achieve your goals. That kind of motivation and practicality can be very useful in life coaching.

Would you like to put this model to use and discover its benefits? Join us as we delve into the SMART coaching model, from what it stands for and how it works to its application in coaching. We’ll even share templates you can use. 

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What Is the SMART Model?

First of all, let’s decode the SMART acronym. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. The SMART model is a goal-setting framework that sets specific criteria to guide the setting of clear and achievable objectives. It has been around for quite some time, since it was first introduced in 1981 by George Doran.

The SMART model is applicable in various fields, including life coaching. Life coaches often rely on this tool because it provides a structured and systematic approach to setting goals with clients, and thus increases the likelihood of successful goal achievement.

Now, let’s break down what each component of the SMART model stands for:

  • Specific – Goals should be clearly defined and focused. A specific goal answers questions like what needs to be accomplished, why that is important, who is involved, where it will happen, and what resources are required.
  • Measurable – Goals should include quantifiable criteria to track progress and determine when the goal has been achieved. It answers the question of how you will measure progress or know when the goal is reached. 
  • Actionable – Goals should be manageable and within your possibilities. This component refers to defining achievable actions that will take you toward the goal. Questions that can shape actionable goals are what specific steps can you take to make progress toward this goal and are the actions required to achieve this goal within your current capabilities and resources.
  • Realistic – Goals should be realistic and attainable. It’s good to aim high, but unattainable goals can demotivate you. The purpose of this component is to remind you that goals are challenging but possible with effort and commitment. The questions that can help are given your current circumstances, is this goal realistically achievable? How does this goal contribute to your overall success and fulfillment?
  • Timebound – Goals should have a specific timeframe for completion. This adds a sense of urgency and helps prevent goals from being open-ended. It answers the question of when will the goal be achieved.

Why Should You Apply the SMART Model in Coaching?

Using the SMART model in coaching ensures that goals are well-defined, possible, and aligned with broader objectives. The specificity of the model will provide the clients with a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish and how so that their actions are focused.

With the help of measurable criteria, progress becomes more tangible and trackable, which will boost clients’ motivation. The focus on attainable and realistic actions encourages clients to set goals that are within their capabilities. 

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By consistently integrating the SMART coaching model into life coaching sessions, you create a structured and goal-focused approach. This methodology improves the client’s clarity and motivation and provides a systematic way to navigate the challenges of life and personal development.

Lastly, this structured and practical framework also helps you as a coach to support clients in setting goals that they can truly achieve, leading to successful collaborations.

How To Use the SMART Coaching Model 

To apply the SMART coaching model in your life coaching sessions or programs, follow these steps:

  • Collaborate with the client to define specific and clear goals. Ensure a mutual understanding of what success looks like for each objective.
  • Set measurable criteria to track progress. That means that you should define metrics that objectively demonstrate movement toward goal achievement. 
  • Break down each goal into actionable and manageable steps. Then, identify specific actions the client can take to move closer to their objectives.
  • Evaluate whether the goal is attainable. Make sure that the goals align with the client’s capabilities, resources, and values. 
  • Set specific timeframes for goal completion, including deadlines and milestones, to create a sense of urgency and prevent endless goal pursuit.
  • Schedule regular check-ins to monitor progress. During these sessions, you should evaluate achievements, setbacks, and adjustments required to keep the client on track. Be open to adapting to goals as circumstances evolve. 

The SMART model can transform a general desire into a specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goal that provides clarity and a concrete plan for the client. Here’s an example of how general goals for better work-life balance differ from SMART goals:

  • Specific:
    • General: I want a better work-life balance.
    • Specific: I will limit work-related activities to 40 hours per week and dedicate at least two evenings per week to personal activities.
  • Measurable:
    • General: I will spend more time on personal activities.
    • Measurable: I will track my work hours weekly and ensure they don’t exceed 40 hours. I will also keep a log of personal activities on designated evenings.
  • Actionable:
    • General: I will find a way to balance work and personal life.
    • Actionable: I will create a weekly schedule blocking off specific time for work tasks and personal activities. I will communicate boundaries with colleagues.
  • Realistic:
    • General: I will completely eliminate work stress.
    • Realistic: I will aim to reduce work stress by setting realistic expectations and boundaries.
  • Timebound:
    • General: I will achieve a better work-life balance soon.
    • Timebound: I will implement the new schedule starting next week and assess its effectiveness in achieving improved balance within the next three months.

If you want smart goals for instructional coaches with examples, we’ve got you covered. You can use the SMART coaching PDF template to guide your clients and simplify the process. Here are available resources online for setting SMART goals in life coaching:


The SMART model works well for coaches and clients alike. Coaches can use them for their own goals while also applying the framework to guide clients to their objectives. 

Clients’ successes are your successes as they prove that your coaching approach inspires results. This is one of the many reasons why using a practical tool such as the SMART model is a wise move.

To make the process of defining SMART goals for your clients even more straightforward, you can use done-for-you templates like the SMART Goals Coaching Tool, Free SMART Action Recording Coaching Template, or Weekly and Daily Planner of SMART Actions.

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