Goal setting can be a daunting exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on to learn how combining the ‘SMART’ model of goal-setting with mind mapping can supercharge your next goal-setting session.

Drawing a blank

It isn’t easy to come with new ideas when facing a blank page. Zero as a multiplier reduces everything to nothing, and an empty page can have a similar effect on your mind. Thinking about Goals provides a particular challenge, because they impact every aspect of your life, and do not easily fit on a single sheet of paper.

A common approach to focusing your Goals is to use the acronym SMART for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible. Well over 1 million sites on the Internet refer to SMART Goals. Many of them are slight variations of the same content. While the acronym is useful, it will not take you far if you read it as a linear checklist.

Thinking with a template

The same information presented in radial form on a mind map frees your mind to take on the issues in any order. It enables you recognize connections between the branches that might be very significant in the context, but not obvious in the linear text. Truly SMART Goals take in the forest and the trees at the same time

One article I found particularly useful is Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals at Top Achievement, from Paul J. Meyers’ Attitude is Everything. I created a Mind Map with MindManager X5 based on that article that can be used as a template for creating your own SMART Goals. You might be tempted to read it clockwise like a radial checklist, but as a template to jumpstart your thinking, it is better to let your eye wander and settle on the key words and relationships between the branches.

Flypaper for the mind

Free from the tyranny of the text format, your mind will naturally recognize what is important for you and your project at this point in time. The template acts like flypaper to capture good ideas that otherwise might escape in the buzz of thinking. Unlike flypaper, it provides a meaningful structure to organize the thoughts as they come in.

Print out the Mind Map on Creating SMART GOALS, or create your own with Mind Mapping Software. To give yourself more room to fill out the ideas for your particular Goals, you may wish to create 5 new Mind Maps, centered now on the Key Words from each branch: SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC, and TANGIBLE. The template is a beginning, not an end in itself. Once your goals are clear and you can begin setting things in motion and getting results, until it is time to evaluate your progress or rethink your goals.


  • It is difficult to think about Goals in a vacuum. Use a template.
  • You are more likely to be successful and happy with your Goals if they are SMART.
  • See the whole picture, and think globally about your Goals.
  • Capture and organize your ideas on paper. Set them in motion with your hands and feet.

Mind Maps are a tool for thinking and action. The rest is up to you. In the words of Dr. Seuss:

“With a brain in your head and feet in your shoes, You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

William Reed is the founder of B-SMART Systems, which helps businesses apply Mind Mapping to creative thinking and innovative marketing. He is the author of two free monthly newsletters, Mind Mapping STRATEGIES and Guerrilla Marketing GENIUS.