How to Set HARD Goals vs SMART Goals Right Now

Taking Your Goals And Goal Setting To The Next Level

This article is about the HARD goals setting system. Plus, how do HARD goals compare to SMART goals?

Including an example of why combining the two methods may be the best approach to goal setting.

HARD Goals Vs SMART Goals: Key Takeaways

First of all, both of these goal-setting systems provide a structured method for establishing your objectives. Intended to improve your odds of success in achieving them.

In my opinion, HARD goals work best with transformative long-term goals of a personal nature. For example, achieving a big accomplishment in your career.

On the other hand, SMART goals can be just as effective. However, the method works better with more tactical goals. And goals where you have less of a personal attachment to their success.

For example, implementing productivity improvements for your employer’s business.

Furthermore, for best results, the two goal-setting processes can be combined. Thus, they are complementary.

Finally, any process is better than no process. When it comes to goal setting.

So, choose the method that you like the best. And makes the most sense for your situation.

Then get to work! Doing whatever is necessary to achieve your goals.

Next, let’s dig into the details about HARD goals vs SMART goals. So you can decide for yourself. Which process is best for you.

setting HARD goals vs SMART goalsPin

Disclosure: At no cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

What Are HARD Goals?

HARD stands for the following.

  • Heartfelt
  • Animated
  • Required
  • Difficult

Next, let’s define these elements. Then I think you will start to see that HARD goals are where dreamers operate.

It is a process where one’s thoughts are not allowed to limit the possibilities.


A heartfelt goal is something you care about. Because when you care about something, chances are you can make it happen.


This element means bringing your goals to life in your mind. So, can you envision what your life will be like when you achieve a goal?

Because if you can create a vivid image in your mind. You are more likely to succeed

So, do you daydream about the future state? And often think about what it would be like to accomplish the goal?

If yes, you are bringing the goal to life. Establishing your vision of the future. And doing so by making it animated.


When you feel that accomplishing a goal is a requirement. Once again your chances of success are improved.

So, set goals where you are convinced. That success is required.


True life transformation starts by accomplishing difficult goals. Not easy ones.

So, make your goals difficult, but possible. Not, on the other hand, impossibly difficult.

Only you can make this decision. On exactly how far you can stretch yourself.

Next, let’s discuss SMART Goals…

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART stands for the characteristics below. Work through these things about setting SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

In my opinion, this is where necessary things get done. In pursuit of goals.

A much more practical process to turn dreams into realities.


A specific goal is rooted in the details. Just itemizing and writing down exactly what is to be accomplished makes a goal more specific.


A measurable goal is one where it is clear when it has been achieved. And there is a way to account for the accomplishment.


This is most similar to the balancing act of making difficult goals. But not going so far as setting yourself up for failure. By setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.


A relevant goal makes sense for your current situation. It is realistic and you have the resources and skills to accomplish what you are setting out to do.


Every goal should have a deadline for when it is to be achieved. Because setting a due date builds commitment and urgency.

Now that we know the elements of each of these 2 goal-setting systems. Let’s contrast…

HARD Goals Vs SMART Goals

To me, HARD goals are emotionally driven. They represent something that is so much a part of you that it’s impossible to let them go.

Perfect, for identifying and setting long-term personal development goals. For example, changing careers. Or, achieving a high-ranking political office.

On the other hand, SMART goals are results-driven. They are specific, clearly measurable, and have a set deadline.

For example, creating the perfect resume.

Or, for setting goals as an employee at work. For example, reducing costs by 10%. Improving manufacturing productivity by 5%.

Things like that.

I mean unless you are setting goals as the owner of a small business. Can an attempt to reduce expenses by 10% be heartfelt when you are an employee?

I doubt it. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. Or, you are not committed to achieving the result. Not at all.

So, think of HARD goals as truly transformative life events. Perfect for your long-term personnel development.

And think of SMART goals as more tactical. Great for stretching yourself in more clearly defined terms.

Either in your personal life. Or, at work.

Finally, the two systems can complement each other. Especially as you pursue your long-term personal development.

Here’s an example drawing from my personal experiences…

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HARD Goals Examples

The goal…

For a long time, I wanted to leave the stress and workload of my business career as a finance and accounting professional. And become a college teacher.

The result…

At age 50, I taught my first college class. After having left my past, professional work life behind.

Thinking back here’s how my transformative goal fits into the HARD and SMART systems.

Heartfelt. I cared deeply about changing careers. And believed doing so would lead to a much more happy and balanced lifestyle.

Animated. I envisioned myself as a teacher for a long time. And imagined what my life and day-to-day activities would be like once it was reality.

Required. I was getting stressed out and burned out from my career. My health was declining.

I know a change was required for better health. And a more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle.

Difficult. Never having taught before. And not having been in a classroom or academic setting for nearly 30 years. This represented a dramatic and difficult change for me. Way outside my comfort zone.

So, there is an example of setting a HARD goal. As I said earlier, these types of goals are where big dreamers operate.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

However, next is how the SMART system can take a HARD goal to the next level…

Taking A HARD Goal Example And Making It SMART

To make my HARD goal of becoming a college professor SMART, this is how my goal looked…

Specific. I will teach college-level accounting and business courses at a local university. To meet the minimum academic requirements for most teaching assignments, I must first get a master’s degree in business.

Measurable. Interim success will be measured by making steady progress on the master’s degree. And by setting up a job search process focused on colleges and universities in my area.

My final success will be measured by getting hired to teach a class. Then building out my course load from there.

Achievable. The goal represented a difficult transition, but an achievable one. I knew of others who had transitioned into successful teaching careers.

Relevant. The transition was relevant and logical. Applying my education and experience in the classroom. Still working, but in an entirely different capacity from my past.

Furthermore, my wife and I had saved enough to be able to handle financially the transition to lower-paid, but more fulfilling work. Thus, we had put the financial resources in place.

Time-bound.  From my resignation date, I set a goal to complete a master’s degree in 18 months. And have my first teaching assignment immediately upon graduation.

So, through that example. I hope you can see how HARD goals and SMART goals can complement each other.

By moving from heartfelt emotion. To tactical steps required for ultimate success.

Now, if you are looking to set some good goals. I’d like to provide a shortlist. To get your creative thought processes flowing…

List Of Hard Goals Examples And Goal Categories

Thus, here are some more possible examples of HARD goals for your goal-setting consideration

Personal Goals

  • Find your perfect life partner
  • Relocate to a foreign country
  • Retire in an exotic location

Career And Business Goals

  • Get an advanced degree
  • Land your dream job
  • Start a business

Financial Goals

  • Become a millionaire
  • Achieve financial independence
  • Invest in a rental property

For help with your financial goals, be sure to check out the tools and resources at Goalry.

Specifically, for targeting your unique financial needs. And the goals you should have to meet them.

Fitness Goals

  • Maintain your ideal weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Run a marathon

Okay. Before we wrap up. Just remember to…

Think big. And not be limited by your thoughts. As you develop and set your goals.

And for more information…

HARD Goals Book By Mark Murphy

You can get more in-depth information about this topic. By reading the book:

HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

It was written by Mark Murphy. An author and specialist in organization leadership and employee engagement.

HARD Goals: Summary

Make your goals HARD.

  • Heartfelt
  • Animated
  • Required
  • Difficult

Then make them SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For the perfect complement of long-term strategic vision for transformative change. Also, the tactical steps to achieve your vision.

More Reading About Goals And Goal Setting

For anyone interested we have a large…

Group of Articles About Goals

…for digging deeper into different types of goals. And setting them for success.

Author Bio: Tom Scott founded the consulting and coaching firm Dividends Diversify, LLC. He leverages his expertise and decades of experience in goal setting, relocation assistance, and investing for long-term wealth to help clients reach their full potential.

The conclusion is written on a whiteboard

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Finding The Perfect Balance Between HARD Goals Vs SMART Goals