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The Art of SMART: Goal Setting and Habit Stacking

mental health counseling, SMART goal setting, habit stacking, mental health tips, Westchester therapy

Are you ever overwhelmed by all the things on your to-do list and feel like you'll never get it done? We've all been there, especially if goal setting seems overwhelming. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. By breaking down big goals into smaller tasks and stacking healthy habits, you can make larger strides in achieving the things that are most important to you without feeling discouraged or burned out. Let's explore how goal setting and stacking healthy habits could be a powerful tool in helping you stay on track with whatever goal(s) inspire you.

Setting SMART goals has numerous advantages when it comes to anxiety, stress, and overall mental health. Just like exercise helps strengthen the body, setting SMART goals helps keep the brain healthy by organizing thoughts and creating a better framework for success. Whether you are someone who struggles with anxiety or ADHD, creating achievable goals can help manage your symptoms more effectively.

The acronym ‘SMART' stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely - all vital components of goal-setting that provide structure and direction in our lives. Taking the time to clearly outline your unique SMART goals not only creates an environment for success but also improves mental clarity which is especially important now more than ever before.


To be Specific, one should ask themselves questions such as: What outcome am I hoping to reach? Who else is involved in helping me achieve this goal? What steps do I need to take in order to reach my goal? Answering these questions can help one become clear on the purpose and direction of their goals.


To be Measurable, one must ask themselves questions like: How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal? Can I set milestones or mini-goals throughout my journey? What data points will I use to measure progress? Answering these questions can help one stay motivated and track their progress along the way.


To be Achievable, one should ask: Is this goal realistic for me at this time? Do I have the necessary skills or resources to make it happen? Can I break down larger goals into smaller chunks that are more manageable? Understanding your limits and being honest with yourself is key here.


Being Relevant requires asking: Does this goal fit within my larger vision and purpose in life? Will achieving this goal bring me closer to my ultimate aspirations or dreams? If not, what actionable steps can I take to ensure that it does? This step helps keep you on track with whatever it is you are working towards.


Finally, to be Timely, one should ask: What timeline do I have in mind for completing this goal? Are there any deadlines associated with this goal? Do I need to create a backup plan in case the original timeline doesn’t work out? Setting realistic timelines will help move your goals from ideas and plans into actionable items.

Stacking Habits Yields Huge Results

Stacking small habits for big results is an effective and simple way to achieve your goals. This tactic involves combining multiple small tasks, or habits, into a single routine that can produce significant results in the long run. For example, if your goal is to improve your physical health, you could combine three or four simple habits into one daily routine. That could include a few minutes of stretching each day, going for short walks in the morning and afternoon, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Together, these habits add up to significant improvements in your overall health. Similarly, if you’re trying to improve your career, you could create a routine that includes reading industry news each day, attending related events or conferences, and writing down ideas for creative projects. Stacking small habits is also an extremely effective way to manage stress. You could combine positive habits such as journaling, exercising, and listening to calming music into a single stress management routine. This simple combination of activities can provide you with the tools to manage your stress levels effectively.

So there you have it - If your goal is to be less stressed and more motivated, setting SMART goals and stacking small habits are two scientifically-proven methods to help get you there. And although they may seem like opposite approaches – one “big picture” and the other “little steps” – they actually work together synergistically to increase your chances of success. So go out and set some SMART goals for yourself, and start stacking those small habits today. You’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more productive life much quicker than originally expected.


trauma therapist, mental health counseling, Westchester, New York therapy, Scarsdale, ny

Sean O'Connor is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling in Scarsdale, NY.

Sean specializes in sports psychology and trauma informed counseling to helps adults and athletes overcome anger, depression, anxiety, PTSD and stress.





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