Not-So-SMART Goals

Not-So-SMART Goals

Goals really are a funny thing… we’re told to set them and we’re instructed to hold ourselves accountable to them and yet because the question of “how do I get there” perpetually goes unanswered, goals can inadvertently become a reason to beat ourselves up, leave us feeling like failures, and lead us to ultimately being defeated, demotivated, and well… STUCK.

How is that helpful? Well within the ONE Theory, we believe that the old-school ways of setting goals are outdated and ineffective. You’re probably familiar with the phrase “set SMART goals”? We suggest forgetting that altogether and considering that there’s a simpler way to look at goals that actually helps you decipher the “how” to reach them. 

SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Sensitive. Let’s see how “smart” that really is…

“Specific” – OK – this does make sense (to a point) in that we need to be clear on what it is we are trying to achieve but there’s a bigger picture to consider here. More often than not – we just don’t know what the external influences might be while we’re working towards our goals. You know… the things we can’t control? So we can get so specific that we’re down at the microscopic level of our goal but that simply doesn’t take into account that there’s more at play than “what we want”. That’s issue number one with “specific”. 

Here’s issue number two: it keeps us thinking too small and with too narrow a perspective. How many times have you set a goal for yourself and you don’t achieve it specifically, but you realized other benefits and rewards that you hadn’t even considered? Does that mean you’ve failed? I’ll give you an example: You’ve set a specific goal of losing 15lbs in 3 months. For all intensive purposes, this goal would meet the SMART criteria. So let’s say that in 3 months, you lost only 3lbs. Is that a failure? The math adds up to being 12 whole pounds shy of this SMART goal. Through our traditional goal-setting lens – it would appear that the goal was not achieved and that the strategies employed to reach that goal were not successful. Insert self-loathing, defeat, and 4L of ice cream to drown our sorrows in.

But hold up a minute here… if we weren’t just specifically looking at the number on the scale here, we might realize that there were some unanticipated wins that occurred. Perhaps you can feel a noticeable difference in your energy levels? Maybe you’re sleeping better and you’re more active. Perhaps your head is clearer since you’ve cut back on sugar and upped the veggies. Maybe you’ve actually gained significant muscle mass and lost several pounds of visceral and subcutaneous fat. Hmmm…

Is this still considered a failure because the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goal of losing 15lbs wasn’t achieved? I’ll let you be the judge here.

Now this is perhaps one of the easiest, most relatable examples we could use but if you take a moment, I suspect you’ll be able to identify other goals in your business/career life that could be dissected much the same way.

What about “Measurable”? I think it’s great to evaluate and monitor one’s progress but you need to be measuring the things that matter, don’t you? Take our example above… if you weren’t measuring energy levels, sleep, activity, mental clarity etc… you would have completely missed that you were successful!

“Attainable”? This one is easy to dissect. Attainable by what/who’s standard? And should we only be working towards the goals that we know we can achieve?

“Realistic”? See “Attainable”.

“Time-Sensitive”? This is about the only part of the SMART acronym that I can get behind. We absolutely do need to put timeframes around our goals so I don’t have any arguments there. 

So what if we applied The ONE thinking to goal setting… maybe there’s a better way to look at goals? Now that we’ve challenged the thinking around old-school goal setting, see Part 2 for a whole new method that we call “OATH” goals.