SMART or PACT? Setting Your Goals in 2023

In Brief:

  • The start of a new year is a perfect time to set goals. From personal to professional, setting goals can give you greater direction, greater focus, increased productivity, and motivation.

  • There are numerous goal setting techniques, so we’re focusing on one of the most popular, SMART Goals, and a lesser known goal setting method, PACT, created by Anne-Laure Le Cunff with Ness Labs.

Blog Post

It’s a new year and the perfect time to set new goals! Whether you are aware if it or not, every day you are making some sort of progress. When you have goals in mind, you need a way to track your growth. There are numerous goal setting techniques, so we’re focusing on one of the most popular, SMART Goals, and a lesser known goal setting method, PACT, created by Anne-Laure Le Cunff with Ness Labs.


At some point or another, we have probably all used SMART goals. SMART is an acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) with each letter representing a step of setting your goal. When setting a goal, being more specific makes you more likely to achieve it as you know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish.

The elements of SMART Goals are:

  • Specific: Simple, sensible, and significant; ask yourself the 5 W’s of who, what, where, when, and why.
  • Measurable: Meaningful and motivating; ask yourself what determines your progress and how will you know when you achieve your goal?
  • Achievable: Agreed and attainable; ask yourself is your goal reachable and what resources do you have to achieve it?
  • Relevant: Reasonable, realistic, resourced, and results-based; ask yourself questions like can you get this done in a specific time frame, do you have the resources, and can you really commit to what you need to hit this goal?
  • Time bound: Time-based, time limited, time-sensitive; ask yourself if your timeline has clearly defined start and completion dates?

Each of the SMART components is needed in order for your goal to have clarity and focus. Clarity and focus are the driving force behind achieving your goal. Without clarity you wouldn’t know what to do; without focus, you wouldn’t have a reason to do it. When your goals don’t quite fit the SMART goal criteria, you can try another goal setting system, like PACT.


PACT, created by Ness Labs, is a goal setting technique which focuses on the output, whereas other methods, like SMART, focus on the outcome. It is also an acronym (Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, Trackable) which has you taking action, allows you to reassess your steps, and encourages continuous progress. When put together, the four elements of PACT can help you achieve your long-term goals.

The elements of PACT:

  • Purposeful: Meaningful, long-term, and aligns with your passion; ask yourself does this fit with your long-term goals?
  • Actionable: Based on outputs and the actions taken to achieve it; ask yourself would you rather take action today than over-plan tomorrow?
  • Continuous: Consistent actions, simple and repeatable; ask yourself what actions can you take that will help you achieve your goal?
  • Trackable: More of a “yes” or “no” approach, not measurable; ask yourself have you done the thing today? Yes or no? This makes your progress easy to track.

When using PACT, think of a personal or professional goal you’d like to achieve. Once you set your goal, list the actions you’ll need to take to the reach that goal. These actions should be easy to start right away and simple to complete. Use the “yes” or “no” approach and keep a daily list on how you are progressing. Remember it’s ok if you get off track and don’t quite accomplish what you want, when you want. You can always try again.

SMART vs. PACT Goals

While goal-setting methods come in many different forms, there is no one goal-setting technique that works for every person in every situation. Some people say SMART Goals are outdated and PACT goals are too ambitious, so if either of these methods aren’t for you, research some other strategies and try out a few until you find a good fit. Being able to set realistic, attainable goals is a very useful skill you should have as it’s a skill that can set you up for long-term success.

Author: Nelnet Campus Commerce

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