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SMART Goals for Special Ops Recruits / Candidates

Stew smith

Goal Achievement is a Process of Preparation and Progression: S.M.A.R.T. is Goal Setting 101

You have a goal: to make it to and through special ops selection and come out the other side with a successful outcome - aka graduate. You know that it won’t be easy, but you’ve done the research and you’re ready to take the challenge head on. The key to success is preparation with progress and trusting the process — physical, mental, and emotional. Here’s how to get yourself ready to hit the ground running - be SMART.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the Spec Ops goals you want to achieve? You should - otherwise what is the point of having a challenging goal? It's hard to stay motivated when it feels like you have a mountain of things to do, but it's possible to stay on track by setting SMART goals and getting organized with your thoughts and actions.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timeline. This is goal setting 101 and applies to any goal, I am specifically using this method for the aspiring / struggling spec ops candidate thinking about starting the process of preparing themselves for the challenge which will be one of the toughest things you have done so far - I promise. So - take your preparation and trust the process of turning weaknesses into strengths and maintaining your current strengths so become a well rounded and durable tactical athlete if you want to graduate. 

SPECIFIC - Start by being specific about the goals you want to achieve. Don't just say "I want to be successful", state what success actually looks like to you. There are specifics to get both accepted INTO the training (crush the PST) as well as getting THROUGH (endure selection) the most challenging training phases. What skills do you need to improve or even learn? What kind of training program are you on?  If your training is not specifically addressing the requirements of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Tactical Fitness you may be wasting your time. There are standards you will have to meet in both phases - exceeding the standard IS the standard

MEASURABLE - Assessing your abilities is critical during the preparation process. How do you stack up to others who have gone before you? One of the first steps you have to take is measure your strengths and weaknesses and that will largely drive how you train from here on out. Once you've identified the specific goals you want to achieve, make sure you are not neglecting a weakness by focusing too much on your strengths. Doing things we are not good at doing is a taste of humble pie every day until we see progress. How will you know when you've achieved your goal? What metrics will you use to track your progress? Navy PST, Ranger / SF PFT / CFT, Air Force IFT / OFT, USMC PFT / CFT / RECON Screener / MarSOC Assessment are just the first steps to get TO the training. You also need to measure many of the training / testing events of your actual selection too (longer runs, rucks, swims with fins, log PT prep, load bearing / equipment carry prep and more). 
ATTAINABLE - First of all, there is nothing impossible about Special Ops training. Many people have gone before you and have become members of the most elite teams in our military every year. These type of goals are definitely attainable, it is largely dependent on your desire to serve in this capacity as well as your relentless preparation. Once you have identified your performance goals and how you will measure them, make sure you have enough time to attain them - this is where most people go wrong. Any special ops goal is ambitious and maybe unrealistic at first, but if you give yourself enough time to prepare, you can set yourself up for greater success.  Fail to prepare properly and you'll only set yourself up for failure. 

REALISTIC - Achieving a standard that is exceeding the standard takes time. Most people who fail, did not take the time to really prepare for the grind that will be the selection process and endure the long days in the grind learning the skills you need to do your job. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting a goal that is impossible to achieve because you decided to enlist immediately when you could. Just because you can enlist does not mean you should or are actually ready mentally, physically or emotionally. Ask yourself if the goal of getting TO and THROUGH Special Ops selection is realistic and achievable within the given timeframe you are currently considering.

(This takes time to build...)

TIMELINE - Finally, instead of setting a timeline for your goals, how about you set a performance starting line. The timeline should be tied into your performance 100%. If you have been training hard and achieving all of the competitive scores (above the standards) and feel good with other skills in the water, longer runs / rucks, and other load bearing activities, you maybe ready to go. Setting a timeline will help keep you motivated, build some discipline with training but let your performance drive your timeline.

Be SMART with your goal setting system as you need ALL THE ABOVE to be a well-rounded candidate. The better these skills are developed you can be more confident that your dreams become a reality. So take a few minutes to plan out your goals and make sure that they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Then take months or years even to fully prepare yourself if needed. This will keep you focused on the prize. You’ll be glad you did!

If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!

Training is What We Do: 

Need Programming for Fitness Tests and Beyond?  We are all about getting you TO and THROUGH your future training program.  See how that works.  

There is More To than a You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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