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Use the SMART acronym to nail down the perfect personal challenge and set yourself up for success.

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • Scrap paper

This activity is the perfect way to set challenges for the Personal Challenge Award ­– but you could also use it to set targets for loads of other reasons. It could be useful for people working towards their Chief Scout’s Gold or Platinum Awards, Queen’s Scout Award, or Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

  1. The person leading the activity should ask people what makes a good challenge or target.
  1. The person leading the activity should introduce the ‘SMART’ acronym and ask if anyone knows what the letters stand for and what they mean. Everyone should talk through the acronym.
  1. Everyone should take a few scraps of paper and think about ways in which they’d like to challenge themselves. It’s OK to be vague at this stage. They should jot one idea on each piece of scrap paper.
  1. Everyone should try to make their ideas a little more specific – ‘learn more skills’ could become ‘develop my cooking skills’, or ‘be helpful at home’ could become ‘do the washing up without being asked’.
  2. Everyone should split into pairs or threes. They should help each other figure out how they could measure their goals. For example, ‘you say you want to read more – roughly how much do you want to read each day or week?’ or ‘you say you want to be able to run further – how far can you run now? What’s a sensible target?’.
  1. Once everyone has a few specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic goals, the small groups should merge to form larger groups of about four to six people.
  2. Everyone should look at each other’s challenge ideas and work out how to make sure they’re timely. Does it need a deadline or time limit (for example, ‘in a month’s time I’ll be able to make three new recipes’), or is it something the person will do for a certain amount of time before stopping (for example, ‘I won’t use social media after 5pm for two weeks’)?
  3. Everyone should split into the same number of groups as there are adult helpers, so one adult can join each group.
  4. Everyone should spread their ideas in front of them. They should take a moment on their own to consider which they’d like to try.
  5. The adults in each group should talk to everyone in turn. Are the challenges they’re leaning towards smart, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely?
  6. Everyone should choose one challenge to take on. The adult should choose another challenge for each person to take on – they could choose from the remaining scraps of paper, or they may have something else in mind.
  1. Everyone should decide how they’ll keep in touch about their progress. They could make a calendar to keep track of key dates, or put some time aside for everyone to catch up.


This activity was a chance to try new things. A good challenge pushes people to find something different and give it a go. Had anyone used the ‘SMART’ acronym before this activity? Was it useful to think about challenges in a new way? Can anyone think of an example of when they’ve taken on a new challenge and succeeded?

This activity also needed everyone to be ready to stick at it. Did people plan super-easy challenges that they could complete in a few seconds? Hopefully not – people should have thought about something that’s a bit trickier and needs them to try their best. What will people do if they hit a setback during their challenge? Hopefully they’ll be able to pick themselves up and try again – people may think about who they could check in with to keep them on track. Has anyone ever pushed themselves to finish something tricky before? What helped them to carry on?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.