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What are SMART Goals? And Why They Don’t Work.

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What are SMART goals? Can they help you be more productive or are they a waste of time?

why smart goals don't work

SMART goals commonly refer to goals that are:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time Bound

On the surface, setting goals using this framework seems to make sense.

But do you agree?

Personally, I don't think SMART Goals are all that they are cracked up to be.

Before we dig in – download the printable SMART Goals worksheet to follow along. Simply fill out the form below to grab the worksheet and subscribe to our newsletter:

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What does SMART Goals Stand For?

Let's look at the components of SMART Goals:

Specific

The MindTools website says that specific goals should answer the W questions – like who, what, when, where, and why.

Measurable

You should also have a way of measuring your goal – otherwise how will you know when you have actually achieved it?

Achievable

Aha! – of course, your SMART goal should be attainable. If it is too “pie in the sky” you would just give up, would you not?

Relevant

The thing that you want to accomplish – it should be relevant to where you are in life or work right now.

Time Bound

The magic of the deadline. If you don't give yourself a time limit, you will keep putting it off.

Do SMART Goals Work?

As you read through the above list – how did it make you feel?

Empowered? Pumped? Ready to jump in and take action?

I don't know about you but it left me feeling a little deflated.

If I had to put my finger on it – the SMART goals acronym doesn't really apply to my goals – it applies to my to-do list.

All the little actions that I need to take to accomplish my goals.

There is a BIG difference between the two.

In Michael Hyatt's book Your Best Year Ever – he takes the SMART acronym one step further.

His goals acronym is SMARTER – where the “E” stands for excite.

Your goals need to excite you.

The excitement is what gives you the motivation to get them done.

If you stick to the traditional SMART goals template then you will hold yourself back.

Setting achievable goals is setting the bar too low.

This article in Forbes goes as far as to say that people who set SMART goals are less likely to love their job.

The Whole is Greater Than The Sum Of It's Parts

I am sure you have heard this quote at some point in time.

When it comes to goals it is absolutely true.

You can take that big hairy goal – that one thing that you thought you could never accomplish in a million years – and break it down into small bite-sized steps.

In other words – create a to-do list.

Each step on that to-do list should follow the SMART goals framework.

Because those little bite-sized chunks are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound – you will slowly and steadily climb the mountain that is your big audacious goal.

Those steps – some will be easy and some will challenge you.

Some will be so boring that you will have to force yourself not to procrastinate.  But the prize – your goal – will motivate you to keep going.

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SMART Goals Examples or Non-Examples, If You Will

  • This couple paid off $10,000 in debt in 10 weeks. I bet that goal didn't seem very “achievable” at first!
  • Arthur Boorman was a disabled veteran who was told that he would never walk unassisted again. He could have set an achievable goal of working within the limits of his disability. Instead he set out to overcome it. He found success through hard work and guidance – and despite his best efforts, the outcome could have been different, but he would not have known if he didn't try.

But here's the thing. You don't have to have massive goals like “end world hunger” to make this work.

The SMART Goals Template Can Apply to Everyday Life

Let's talk about mundane everyday life.

Because that is where most of us spend our time.

And let's face it – it's not always that exciting.

Maybe you have a really messy closet that you have been putting off for like forever.

It's a task you don't want to do and it certainly is not an exciting goal.

So, maybe cleaning the closet shouldn't be your goal.

The outcome or the reward should be the goal.

Is there a new outfit you've been wanting to buy? Make that the reward for cleaning the closet. When the closet is clean you will have space to store it.

Or maybe the gaining additional space by itself is the motivating goal behind cleaning the closet.

The beauty is that you get to decide what makes you tick.

Your Challenge

When it comes to setting goals – they should be SMARTER as per Michael Hyatt's framework.

But each action should be SMART in the traditional sense – so you can climb the ladder one rung at a time.

Make sure you plan each day according to these guidelines to make progress.

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