Why a ‘SMART’ goal is stupid

Average reading time – 5 minutes


When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. How it is important to set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. For years we’ve been taught this model – perhaps in your latest review at work, your boss asked you to set your goals for the forthcoming quarter and of course, you followed the SMART rule of thumb.

But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals?

Because SMART goals are stupid.

Bit harsh maybe? But there are certainly some flaws within SMART goals that contribute to people not setting goals they ever achieve. After all, what’s the point in having the most perfect academic worthy SMART goal… and then not going out and achieving it!

Here is why SMART goals are stupid.


Reason 1: Where is your “why”
First off, a SMART goal doesn’t include your why in your goal. It’s too clinical. It says what you will achieve by when, but where is the passion? Without the fire in your belly, it’s hard to motivate yourself towards achieving your goal. A strong why connects you to your purpose of the goal. No one was ever motivated to do something just because they can, think they have to or been told to!

Simon Sinek famously talks about this in his TED talk and I also (although I am not famous) support this in my talks and webinars about pitfalls to achieving your goals and goal setting. Your why is your driver to your goal, it is what sets you apart from others, it is what connects people to your cause, it is what gives you the ability to pick yourself up when you come across a hurdle.


Reason 2: What’s going to trip you up?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is never going to be a goal in our life that you achieve where it’s been 100% plain sailing. You WILL trip, fall, fail, feel stupid, get hurt and want to give up. This is not to be cynical or “glass half empty” but by knowing that there will be obstacles makes us plan for them. After all, prevention is better than cure! When setting your goal, think beyond this – you need to ask, what hurdles will there be and what can I do to overcome them?


Reason 3: Who wants a goal that is attainable?
I have always been the type of person who goes for something bigger because I know if I miss the mark, then at least I have still hit a decent goal. As they say, shoot for the moon because if you miss you will still be among the stars. My problem with SMART is that it encourages us to play safe by going for something ‘attainable’. Where is the fun and development in that?


Reason 4: Cheat meal your goal
SMART goals don’t address the issue of motivation. We’re not robots. We’re not going to feel motivated 100% of the time. I know I don’t! One of the reasons we often derail from our goals is because we berate ourselves when we fall off the wagon. When I set goals, I know at some point I am going to fall off the wagon, so I factor in “buffers”. For example, if I am on a diet, I will factor in “cheat meals” because we can’t be motivated and all guns blazing 100% of the time. Whether your goal is to build a business, go for a promotion, start learning Chinese, or learn to drive, where can you factor in your ‘cheat days’?


Reason 5: Let’s review that
I totally agree with SMART that goals need to be specific but where is the room for a review? It is crucial that goals are regularly reviewed to ensure you are on track but most importantly that the goal is still the goal. There is little point reaching success in something, but it doesn’t actually matter. We’ve all heard about making sure the ladder is leaning on the right wall before we climb up it.


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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.