Smart Goals & Social Work: How They Work and Why You Need Them

As a social worker, setting up a goal is vital to provide a sense of direction and motivation.

However, some of us give up on our dreams because we set unattainable goals.

What is important to realise is that although writing goals and objectives is a crucial step to succeed, making sure that those goals are reachable is even more vital.


In my view, setting smart goals is as important in my personal life as it is in my social work career.

However, I feel a very important thing to have in pursuit of any smart goal is motivation.

In addition, being grateful for what you have already achieved in life is important.

Smart Goals & Social Work: How They Work and Why You Need Them

Roy Bennett reminds us we should

“be grateful for what we already have while we pursue our goals.

If we aren’t grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we would be happy with more.”

smart goals social work

How many times have you made a list of all the things you wanted to achieve before the year ended, and by the end of the year, you went back to read that list and laughed out loud because you achieved one goal out of the ten goals you wrote?

As a social worker, have you ever sat in front of a laptop with high hopes of completing all your pending assessments, only to realise that after 4 hours, you have only completed a telephone review and updated a few case notes.

Certainly, the review and the case notes are equally important, especially the latter. However, your goal for the day was to complete all your pending assessments.

You may even go on for days or weeks and not feel you have done anything productive.

It is an awful feeling!

I hope in this his article, I will guide you on how to set SMART goals and crush them!

To set and achieve your SMART goals, cultivate the habit of motivating yourself. Sometimes, when the motivation is missing and you may need to find a reason to keep going.

Perhaps you can start a

Ultimately, you want to create better habits.

This is because habits grow, and with time, they become automatic.

They become who you are and allow you to reach your goals.

When you develop your activities into habits, they become second nature and can replace motivation.

So be sure you have the right habits and create systems to create better habits.

goal setting in social work

What are examples of measurable goals?

Writing in your journal something like “getting rich” sets the bar high and the time frame is unknown.

What you should say instead is “getting wealthy and being able to afford whatever I want and review my progress in 6 months’ time.”

By using the words “getting rich,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. You have not set yourself any target, time frame, or why or what you really want to be rich for.

Do you want to become rich so you can change the lives of others?

Do you want to afford the little things in life without constantly having to budget?

Or perhaps you are not setting a time frame or making it realistic because of negative thoughts creeping into your mind constantly.

Remember that negative thoughts affect our mind and affects on our energy.

Are you constantly asking these questions? Can I? Could I? Will I be able? What if?

Squash those negative thoughts as soon as they tiptoe into your mind.

Don’t dwell on it!

Remind yourself that you can and have the self belief to achieve those set goals.

What are smart goals in social work?

The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

In my research, I also realise that SMART could also be

S – significant, stretching

M – meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, action-oriented

R – reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-bound, trackable

setting smart goals in social work


What is goal setting in social work?

In social work career, goal setting helps to create a road map for you to follow.

When you have a road map, it helps you stay focused, remain accountable, and it can improve your life.

As social workers, we can also follow goal setting to support service users or clients we support in the community to achieve their own goals and specific and smart outcomes.


How do you write a smart outcome?

SMART outcomes

Specific – The goal you want to achieve must be targeted toward something specific.

Measurable – Goals that get measured gets managed.

Achievable – You need to set an outcome or goal which can be reached successfully.

Realistic – You need to set outcomes that are within your reach.

Time bound – The goal or task is measured or restricted by time.

What is the ultimate goal of social work?

Social work aims to improve lives and support people to reach their full potential.

When people reach their full potential, they can strive towards self-actualisation.

Ultimately, social work aims to maximise the development of individuals. And also working to achieve social justice through social development and social change.

How do you ensure your goals are SMART?

Ask yourself the following questions.


  • Are my goals well-defined?
  • Are they clear to anyone who has basic knowledge of the subject area or is a layperson?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your goal is specific.


  • Do you know whether your goals are attainable, and when you are likely to achieve it?
  • Would you know when you have achieved your goals?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your goal is measurable.


  • Do you think you can reach the specific goal given the time frame?
  • Is it a goal you or the service user/client wants?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your goal is achievable.


  • Are your goals within the availability of resources, knowledge and time at your disposal?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your goal is realistic.


  • Ask yourself, do you have enough time to achieve the goal?
  • If you do not have enough time, it can affect your ability to achieve the goals you have set.

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your goal is timely.

smart goals in social work practice

What are the 6 social work values?

Six core values of the social work profession

  1. Non judgmental attitude – this means acceptance and being self-aware of our own unconscious biases.
  2. Respect – valuing people for who they are.
  3. Dignity and worth of the person – identify individual capacity to improve and be autonomous in the society.
  4. Ability to build positive human relationships – ability to facilitate human relationships which can help create awareness and self-confidence.
  5. Integrity – having strong moral principles and being honest.
  6. Competence – having the required skills and knowledge in your social work role.

What are examples of professional values?

  • Honesty
  • Dependability
  • Adaptability
  • Reliability
  • Self-confidence
  • Integrity
  • Self-motivated

Smart goals in social work

So, how can you improve your goals and turn them into SMART goals? The secret is in how you use your words!

What if you’re now dealing with a person who struggles with drug misuse?

How will you help them if your instinctual goal is to “be sober by Christmas Eve”?

Your service user or client will eventually fail because you didn’t set up a specific and achievable time frame, and above all, the goal isn’t detailed enough.

Instead, you set goals such as

John has agreed to cut back on his alcohol intake weekly for the next 52 weeks.

This is because of a recent hospital report showing poor liver function.

John consumes alcohol mostly on Friday nights.

He will join the local football club and play on Friday.

We will review this goal every 4 weeks.

By the end of the 52 weeks, John will be sober

Setting up SMART goals is a skill that needs to be practiced; day by day.

Try setting up SMART goals for yourself.

It is a win-win situation.

You improve a skill and help others to reach their goals at the same time.


Smart goal setting in social work is achievable.

By practicing repeatedly, your SMART goals will be specific and relevant.

Read next

Social Work Got You Losing Your Mind?

Download Your Free Mental Capacity Assessment Sample Now

Leave a Comment