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What is Goal Setting and Why SMART Goals Do Not Work

Last year I set some goals for my blog, which I made public. They were not simply goals but dreams of where my blog would be within a year. It included how much money I would make from the blog and how many visitors I would expect. How many posts I would write and a number of other products I would create.

They all centred on what is known as SMART goals. Where Smart implies they are:

 

S  – Specific, meaning it is very clear in its detail.

M – Measurable – It must be easy to say if you reached the goal or not (not simply better at Twitter, rather 1,000 new followers on Twitter)

A – Attainable, it must be within your reach. becoming an astronaut within a year is hardly possible, so it has to be something within your realistic grasp

R – Realistic, if your goals are unrealistic then the exercise is useless. I will never be a 20-year-old model, I’m one year too old now, give or take a few months…

T – Time-Bound, if you do not have a time frame, you have no reason to focus on your goal.

 

Yesterday, somebody messaged me via my Facebook asking me to update them on whether I achieved my goals or not.

WOW, a year later and somebody remembered to hold me accountable. They remembered my goals and came back to ask if all had gone to plan.

Well, I did have a very productive year in 2020. I achieved a lot, but when I look back to the goals I set, I FAILED MISERABLY. 

I hardly achieved anything on my list of goals for last year. Partly because my priorities changed mid-year, but also because SMART goals have some very fundamental errors.

 

Why SMART Goals Do Not Work

Bear with me here. Those of you who know my work, know I never slam something without giving you very useful workarounds, and this post is no different. However, in order for me to emphasise the importance of these workarounds, we must first be very clear on some of the reason why SMART goals will never truly work for you.

 

 Reason 1: They never discuss how you will reach the goal

This has to be one of the most fundamental errors with the SMART goals setting. Of course, it is very easy to simply set your Smart goals, but unless you actually plan the route to get there, then there is very little chance they will ever be fulfilled. Think about it, what good is a list of measurable and time-bound goals when you still have no real actionable methods/ideas to get there?

Solution:

You must make use of my Rule of 3, and write down three methods to help you reach your goals. These methods should not be plucked out of thin air, they should be methods you have knowledge of or methods you have always been wanting to try.

This will give your goals in a true direction. There will never be a point when you are not working on your goals as always have guidance as to which methods you should be using. Thinking clearly of 3 main methods to help you achieve those goals will help it become part of your strategy, rather than a dreamy target. This was a fundamental error I made with my goals for 2020.

 

Reason 2: They simply have a start and end, encouraging no reassessment or evaluation of your goals before failing them.

Let’s think about most of your 2021 goals. They will have a start point (most likely now) and then an endpoint. There is no in-between, you simply start, and then either succeed or fail. Think about it! Every job in the world has evaluation to help you improve (or should have), every job in the world re-evaluated its core role due to changes in the environment around them. Yet, SMART goals do not allow you to adapt to the changing business environment or perhaps even the different priorities of your business.

SMART goals are simply far too rigid to work.

Solution:

Use my rule of three to help you here and define THREE different points in time where you will re-evaluate your goals. You will check how well you have been progressing and make adjustments to ensure your goals remain on track. Very rarely does anything go to plan, yet SMART goals fail to take this into account.

If your goals are a year-long target, then set the three re-evaluation points, three months apart. So you would sit down and think about your progress toward your goals at the end of March, June and September, thus giving you ample opportunity to update or adapt your goals to ensure that they are still relevant and ADD VALUE to your business. 

 But wait….

Why not take this one step further. Instead of just having re-evaluation points every three months, why not also create mini-targets for those same points. So you can see clearly if you are on track and whether the methods you are currently using are giving you the progress you deserve.

 

Reason 3: They fail to take into account why your goals are important to you or your business. 

I know this reason is going to come across too many of you as subjective but it is something I personally believe in strongly.

If you fail to state why the goal is clearly important to you or your business, there is a very little priory of importance placed on the goal. SMART gives you a way to create goals, but it fails to recognise if any of those goals are even worth it. It fails to help you prioritise which goals you really should be focusing on, and that is a huge flaw that will cause many many goals to simple fail or be forgotten. Heck, if I hadn’t be messaged on my new Twitter Account, then my blog goals also were long forgotten.

Solution:

Always ask yourself, ‘why is this goal important to me’. Don’t just ask yourself, WRITE IT DOWN. Once written, look at it and ask again, why is what you have written important? Then do it again, so you have asked yourself three times.

Let me make this clear with an example:

I may say this one of my goals is to gain 10,000 organic followers on Twitter (not using follow me back or other tricks),

so then I have to ask myself: ‘Why is this important to me?’ My answer may be:

Even though I am well known in certain circles online, numbers still matter in order to achieve a good status online.

So now I have to look at what I just wrote and ask myself again, but ‘Why is this important to me?’ My answer this time may be:

A visibly popular status online is further recognition that my work is liked and loved by others.

 

But we are not done yet, I still have to ask myself one more time: Why is this important to me? The answer this time may be:

Knowing I have something of VALUE that people really like, motivates me to work harder and helps me feel fulfilled.

So, what did it tell me? It clearly shows that is not the number of Twitter followers that is important, it is more the feeling of being valued, and Twitter is simply one way of showing that.

Of course, I have just done this quickly and will have to do it again with more thinking, but it does help me prioritise what is important to me and what will help make me feel fulfilled.

Some of you may need to ask that question a fourth or fifth time, but you should do it a minimum of three times.

Summary 

SMART goals in their current form have some very fundamental errors. Besides the fact that very few people realise (or like me do not see the point of) the different between Achievable and Realistic parts of SMART Goals, they also have some missing elements which are fundamental to the success of any true goal. The three key missing parts are:

  1.  You must think about how you will reach a goal whilst setting it. Failing to plan is planning to fail…
  2. You must set milestones simply to evaluate your progress and reassess priorities. Continuous improvement is the key to success
  3. You have to know why your goal is important or like me, you are likely to forget you even created them.

 

I hope these tips will help make your 2021 not only 100% more useful but also help to make your 2021 a very successful year.

 

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