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Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life 

  • Writer's pictureTerri K. Lankford, LPCS

The How-To of Holistic SMART Goals: Intellectual Goals

In our last blog post of 2023, we talked about holistic SMART goals. As a reminder, we talked about how SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed. We discussed how the SMART goal format sets us up for success rather than confusion. Then, we saw 24 examples of SMART goals that aligned with the Wellness Wheel (review our blog series on the Wellness Wheel here).

Over the next few months, we’ll be discussing the “how-tos” of holistic SMART goals, showing you how to (1) identify your values in a given area, (2) examples of SMART goals in that same area, and (3) how to put your plan in action. Last time, we talked about physical goals. Today’s topic is intellectual goals. 

Let’s be real - for most of us, intellectual goals are one of the last goals we’re setting. After all, who comes home from a long workday, makes dinner for themselves and potentially their family, cleans up, and then wants to do something to stimulate the brain?! Most of us would rather veg out and watch our favorite TV show, or lay sideways and stare at our phones. (No judgment here - burnout is real!)

However, intellectual goals can be great for our holistic wellness. Setting intellectual goals is crucial for personal growth and fulfillment; research shows that staying mentally stimulated can reduce the risk of cognitive decline by up to 32%. While quick dopamine fixes of watching TV or playing on our phones can feel good in the moment, we know from research that never stimulating our brain isn’t particularly good for us.

Want to set some holistic SMART goals for intellectual wellness? The counselors at Rise and Thrive Counseling are here to help with three easy steps below!

Step #1: Identify Your Values

Intellectual wellness encompasses the pursuit of knowledge, critical thinking, and lifelong learning to enhance cognitive abilities and foster a well-rounded understanding of the world.

To determine your values in this area, consider these reflection prompts:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it for you to set intellectual goals? Name why you’ve picked the number you did and not a lower number.

  2. Consider your hobbies. Are you happy with them, are you unhappy, or do they simply not exist?

  3. Sit with your body to determine your emotional and physical capacity to set an intellectual goal. Are you too burnt out from life to focus on hobbies and learning? Or do you feel able to incorporate intellectual goals into your daily life?

  4. Do you actively seek out opportunities for expanding my knowledge and understanding? If not, is this something you’d like to do?

  5. How do you (or would you) balance intellectual pursuits with other aspects of your well-being, such as physical health and emotional fulfillment? Do you feel this is something you could do successfully?

Hopefully, these reflection questions help determine (1) if this should even be a goal for you, and (2) the beginnings of a goal of what intellectual wellness could look like.

Step #2: Set a SMART Goal

Use the answers to step one to determine what your goal should look like. Here are some examples to help inspire you:

  1. As part of my bedtime routine, I will read for twenty minutes nightly about a non-fiction topic I find interesting.

  2. Once a week, I will read a blog post about a topic I genuinely enjoy learning about.

  3. Once a month for the next six months, I will try to learn a new skill or try a new hobby.

  4. As part of my morning routine, I will spend ten minutes solving a puzzle or playing a brain teaser game (like Wordle).

  5. Once a month for the next six months, I will watch a webinar online about a topic I’d like to learn more about.

Step #3: Your Plan in Action

After you form a SMART goal based on your values and intentions, it's time to put that goal into action. Based on the examples above, here are some ways to move towards your goal:

Goal 1: working towards this goal may look like finding a topic you’d be interested in learning about, researching books that cover this topic, buying or borrowing a book that piques your interest, picking a time each night for reading, and setting a timer so you remember when its time to wind down with your book.

Goal 2: working towards this goal may look like finding a topic you’d be interested in learning about, researching blogs that commonly cover this topic, bookmarking the blog or otherwise making it easy to access, picking a time to do your weekly blog reading, and setting an alarm or carving out your calendar for this time.

Goal 3: working towards this goal may look like researching common hobbies, picking a few hobbies that you believe you’d like to engage in, finding ways to learn this hobby or skill (like YouTube videos or taking a class/course), picking a good time once a month to dedicate to this hobby or skill, and setting aside time to actually attempt the hobby or skill.

Goal 4: working towards this goal may look like researching brain teasers or other puzzles you believe you’d enjoy doing, purchasing or bookmarking these puzzles, waking up early enough to incorporate puzzle solving into your morning routine, and giving yourself compassion if you can’t figure it out!

Goal 5:  working towards this goal may look like finding a topic you’d be interested in learning about, researching institutions or content creators that discuss this topic, finding a schedule for upcoming webinars, purchasing a ticket or otherwise enrolling in the course, putting it on your calendar, and attending the course.

We hope this blog post helps you reflect on, set, and execute holistic intellectual SMART goals in 2024! If you want more holistic help, look no further than Rise and Thrive Counseling. Our holistic counselors can help address all areas of life. Reach out today to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!




Welcome to Embrace | Overcome | Create Your Life.


I’m Terri Kiser Lankford, owner of the Rise & Thrive Counseling Practice, a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (in NC), and the host here at Rise & Thrive Counseling, PLLC and the Embrace| Overcome|CreateYourLife Blog.


I’m also an entrepreneur, Syltherin, foodie on a fitness journey, complete book nerd, photography novice who happens to think music is life. 


Warning! This site is about motivation, health & wellness, and self love.  but its also about various mental health issues and may talk about subjects such as suicide, self-harm and other touchy subjects at some point. This site is not intended for youth and may be “too much” to some.


Nothing on this site should be considered a medical recommendation. I am not a doctor. Anything of interest should be discussed with your doctor or therapist, or me (in person) if you are my current client.  No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. (Sorry, I have to say that.)


All writing and mental health information here are accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication. However, keep in mind my opinion, and available information, changes over time.

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