In January there can be a lot of talk about goal setting and New Year’s resolutions. And whenever there’s talk of goal setting, you often hear about the importance of setting SMART goals. Personally I’m sick of hearing about SMART goals, because if you ask me, they’re a completely dumb idea.
For anyone who hasn’t come across SMART goals before (where have you been hiding?), the acronym is generally accepted to mean Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Over the years, there have been different versions of the words that make up this acronym, however they are all along the same lines.
From the outset, the framework can seem quite helpful. After all, surely it’s a good idea to create a specific goal that can be measured within a particular timeframe. To which I would say, go right ahead. As to whether achievable and realistic are helpful criteria by which to set a goal or not, there has been much debate. But I’m not here to debate the A and R of the SMART goal, I have a bigger issue with the framework.
Here’s why I think SMART goals are dumb.
Firstly – they don’t take into account WHY you are taking the action in the first place. There’s absolutely nothing about SMART goals that encourages you to reflect about the purpose of the goal and whether or not it’s fulfilling, inspiring or even worth doing.
This may seem really obvious, but take it from someone who used to set a lot of goals, if you don’t take the time to stop and consider WHY this goal is of any value to you and what the REAL REASON is behind why you want to go after this goal in the first place, then it’s very easy to find yourself ticking things off your list, achieving goals and feeling incredibly bored in the process and unfulfilled when you actually accomplish what you set out to do.
Like the time I decided to set myself a goal to run a marathon before I turned 30. This was the perfect SMART goal. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. It fit all the criteria and I went ahead and trained and completed the 42.195km race. Never mind the fact that I don’t actually enjoy running and that I’d never even run a half marathon, let alone a full one. By not stopping to really assess WHY I wanted to do it, I went ahead and achieved something that wasn’t enjoyable for me, just for the sake of saying that I’d done it. And I know I’m not the only one with a story like this.
In my mind, for a goal to be worth pursuing there needs to be an intrinsic motivator. A real purpose to the goal and an understanding of why it is important to you.
My other problem with SMART goals is that they don’t take into account how you want to FEEL. As Danielle LaPorte eloquently states in her book The Desire Map, our aspirations are being driven by an innate desire to feel a certain way. We might think that we’re pursuing a particular goal because we want to have X or achieve Y, but in reality it’s that we think we are going to feel a certain way once we have X or have achieved Y. We’re chasing a particular feeling. Maybe it’s happiness, love, acceptance, confidence, security, pride – whatever it is, it’s the feeling that’s underpinning our aspiration.
The key to setting an inspiring and fulfilling goal is to first figure out how you want to feel and then work out what things you want to pursue that are going to help you feel that way.
So the next time you set yourself a goal, before you use the SMART framework, go ahead and ask yourself WHY you really want to go after this goal and if pursuing it is actually going to make you feel the way you want to feel. You’ll be so glad you did.
PS – One of my favourite things about being a coach is helping people create inspiring and meaningful goals for their life. If you want some help with your own inspiring and meaningful goals, then email me to book in a completely free coaching conversation. No strings attached.