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Do goals need to be SMART? - Brilliant Living HQ

Do goals need to be SMART?

Do goals need to be SMART?

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream

C S Lewis

Start talking about goals and it wont be long before the subject of SMART goals comes up. Possibly the most popular and well-known of all goal setting tools and techniques, but are SMART goals always the smartest way to set goals? Today on the Changeability Podcast we we ask, and answer, the question – do goals need to be SMART?

You can’t go far in the worlds of business or personal development without coming across smart goals and last week in episode 77 we talked about what SMART goals are in ‘A smart guide to SMART goals’.  Because they are used so much all over the world and particularly in business, they tend to be accepted as the best way to set goals but maybe not everyone is so enamoured with them.

Do goals need to be SMART?

Yes, there are those who totally get SMART goals, they love them and accept them as the best goal setting technique, but are they really always the best way to look at goal setting.

What is a SMART goal?

The word SMART is an acronym which provides a goal setting framework to ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.  Goals that meet these criteria are said to be SMART goals and the assumption is that we want our goals to be SMART – but do we need our goals to be SMART?

What are the pitfalls of SMART goals?

SMART goals and small thinking

One of the key potential pitfalls with using smart goals is that because of the very nature of SMART goals they tend to veer you towards thinking small.

If you think about how to set a good smart goal, you’ve got to have quite a good idea about how you’re going to achieve it before you set that goal.  You need to know what likely timescale you can achieve it in, and how you can quantify it in someway. This means you’ve already got an idea of the numbers involved whether that be time, money, widgets, weight or any other way of quantifying goals.

It’s great you’ve got a concrete target to aim for. We know it’s good for our conscious and subconscious to know what we’re working towards; something tangible and specific we want to achieve. And for that SMART goals are an excellent tool.

SMART goals and aiming lower

But one of the issues with quantifying your goals in such a way, is that you’re looking at them through the lens of your present experience. This may or may not matter but looking at your world, life and ambitions through the lens of your present experience can mean you don’t aim as high as you might because straight off you’re aware of the need to quantify it.

It’s not just this need to quantify your goals but also the need to be relevant, realistic and achievable or attainable.  Taking these elements together can constrain us or make us narrow-minded in the way we use our imaginations and vision. It can mean we can end up thinking smaller rather than aiming higher. And consequently start out with goals that are just a bit boring or a little dull rather than exciting, empowering and part of a bigger vision.

SMART goals and failure

Another potential downside of SMART goals to watch out for is that by constantly quantifying your goals you might just be setting yourself up for failure or at least for fewer chances to feel good about yourself and what you’ve achieved.

For example, if you measure a fitness goal by going to the gym 12 times in the next month and something comes happens and you go 10 times have you failed to reach your goal. Yes, you’ve missed your goal and you know you’ve missed your goal but does that make you a failure. Of course not, you’ve been to the gym 10 times, which is probably 10 more times that you went this month. But the very act of getting so specific puts the focus on the numbers rather on the activity and how you feel, and how you’re actively pursuing and being a fitter person.

These may seem like small points but can change your perception of yourself and your goals.

So what can we do to make SMART goals smarter?

Vision first, SMART goals later

You can get around this by not starting off with SMART goals, but start with thinking about your bigger vision. How you want to feel and the sorts of things you could do to make you feel like that, the lifestyle you desire, how you want to spend your time, what you want to look and feel like. Take this as your starting point looking through the big wide lens of potentiality.

Now of course at some point you might want to, or have to, ‘smarten up your goals’, because you need to quantify them in some way and think about the actual actions you need to take. Yes of course you are going to have to do some of this, but the point is don’t start there.

Start bigger, then think about what you can do, and how you can start making those goals a reality for you. Yes, this will probably involve some element of timescales and quantities plus actions of course, as without action you’re not going to achieve anything – and your vision and goals will remain as wishes.

Start out thinking big and hone in and smarten up your goals until you’re thinking more specifically about each part of what you want. You might also look for other ways to measure the progress and success of your goals, or opportunities to leave them a bit more open and less specific, and more about the experience than the outcome.

This is a a good starting point if you want to make significant changes. However, if you’re setting goals in the workplace or business and they’re not of significant proportions like wanting to change major things in your life, then smart goals may very well be the best option.

If you’re talking income, expenditure, turnover, profit, productivity, in other words goals based on numbers and being specific and quantifiable, and within specific timescales, then SMART goals are indeed a suitable technique to use.

Episode 78 of the Changeability Podcast

Listen to episode 78 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us chat about all of this and more as we we ask and answer the question – do goals need to be SMART?

How can I find our more about goal setting?

Sign up for our FREE webclass.

If you want to make big changes in your life a great place to start is reading Kathryn’s #1 Amazon best seller – Changeability: Manage your mind – Change your life – available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

This is what what one lovely reviewer called Ian wrote on Amazon.co.uk a couple of weeks ago:

5.0 out of 5 stars: A good place to start if you want to re-focus your life

‘I’ve read tons of self help books in the past; I then gave it all up when life just got too hectic and I got caught in the grinding mill with work, kids, unhealthy living, etc. Ten+ years later I found this little gem of a book, it does bring together the best of what is out there (good instruction, enough but not too much details as to why) and it has helped me re-focus my life. A Happy customer :)’


Thank you Ian wherever you are. We really appreciate this and every review we get on Amazon and iTunes.

If you’ve read the book or listen to the podcast and haven’t left us a review on iTunes or Amazon we would love it if you could take a moment to do so.