Time and time again I hear people banging on about so called ‘SMART’ goals.
Mostly in a business context but this illusion is now spreading into personal development as well.
In fact, the last thing you want your personal goals to be, (or your business goals for that matter) is ‘SMART’.
You see, the ‘SMART Goals’ philosophy is terribly limiting.
It was my colleague and coach Phil Olley who first brought this to my attention at one of his Nexus Experience days.
The thing about true goals is that they should be outside, or at the very limit of your comfort zone.
That’s if they are going to be of any use to you or have any lasting effect.
Now, as a long time ‘serial project manager’ I had bought into the ‘SMART’ concept because it fits really well with the processes involved and you can easily use project management methods to achieve any goal of this type.
The essence of a SMART goal is that you set a goal you know you can achieve, and you know how to achieve.
It then becomes a task that you can set up a project to implement.
It becomes tactical, not strategic.
Goals should be strategic.
A strategy is a high level plan, a master plan, a grand design, to achieve clear objectives within a state of uncertainty.
In other words, your goal or objective is clear but you may have no idea how, or when you are going to achieve it.
And, it’s usually, more often than not, outside your comfort zone in unfamiliar territory.
After all, isn’t that what military strategies are all about?
Now let’s look at SMART goals
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
Something like “I want to increase my income by 10% within the next 12 months” – and for income you could substitute, sales, productivity, or any other business parameter that you can measure and want to increase or reduce.
And what if 10% is not agreed to be realistic, or the timescale is not agreed to be achievable?
You just change and downgrade the so-called ‘goal’.
It’s not a goal, it’s just a procedural adjustment.
Bob Proctor would identify a real goal to be more like adding a zero to your monthly income. If you make £5,000 a month now, the goal would be to make £50,000 a month.
But that’s not ‘SMART’.
It’s not realistic, it’s not ‘achievable’ within your current parameters, it may be specific and is measurable, and you’ll notice I didn’t set a timeframe.
Setting a timescale creates a limiting belief because here’s the thing.
When you don’t set a timescale you often achieve the goal before you expected; when you do set a timescale you hardly ever achieve the goal until the time you’ve specified is ‘up’!
It’s like saying “my goal is to earn more money”.
Well, you will, but probably only a very small increase.
You and I have to be specific and clear about our goals but this should not be tempered by whether or not we think it will be ‘achievable’ or whether we think it ‘realistic’.
Neither do we consider how we are going to make it happen and how long it will take.
What’s happened is that ‘business’ has managed to get strategy mixed up with tactics.
In a military scenario the commanders draw up the strategies, it’s then up to the officers and soldiers in the’field’ to work out the tactical operations required to achieve them.
Too often in business and in personal development people are looking, not at this top down planning but ‘bottom up’ planning – or “what can we realistically achieve from where we are now?”
They are setting ‘SMART’ goals based on this concept and so they only move forward incrementally.
‘Goals’ should be seen, as Phil Olley puts it, as ‘Awesome Special Missions’ that contribute to the strategic vision or ‘dream’.
In the vintage TV Series ‘Mission Impossible’, the characters were given a seemingly impossible task, a goal, that they had to find a way of achieving.
“Your mission if you choose to accept it . . . this tape will self-destruct in five seconds”
Certainly not a ‘SMART’ goal!
What you and I need to do is set a different kind of goal – a ‘REAL’ goal.
It’s Revolutionary – about something new, breaking new ground, different.
It’s Extra-ordinary – outside the comfort zone, something you don’t fully ‘know how to do’
It’s Awesome – an Awesome Special Mission and a bit scary, or more than a ‘bit’ scary!
It’s Lucid – clear and specific but not down to the minutest detail – a ‘big picture’ goal
Take a look at your goals.
Are they ‘REAL’ or are they too ‘SMART’ for their own good – or yours?