"Smart" Goals are Stupid


As a manager, grassroots organizer and life coach for the last 20 years, I’ve talked to and worked with a lot of people.  Through those experiences, I’ve concluded that there are five common mistakes unsuccessful people make. These next five newsletters will talk about these mistakes in greater detail.

The first mistake that unsuccessful people make is that they create “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. You may recall that the term “S.M.A.R.T.” stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based.  S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to ensure that you succeed, which makes sense, right? Why, oh why would anyone set themselves up for failure?

I say S.M.A.R.T. goals are stupid because they stop you from dreaming big, thinking creatively and playing full out.  If you know you can achieve your goals, how much ingenuity does it take? How much are you going to go outside of your comfort zone? Probably not a lot and that’s why unsuccessful people find themselves bored and frustrated with life. Their goals are small. If they achieve them without much effort there is little experience of success. If they don’t achieve them, they start thinking of themselves as someone who is unable to produce the results they want.

Successful people set big, hairy, audacious goals — goals that will be worthy of their time and worthy of the possibility of failure.  Successful people put their butts on the line for something big because playing out there on the skinny branches of life is exhilarating — it’s where our creative juices begin to flow. It’s where ideas are hatched and connections are made.  

Successful people get a lot of juice out of playing full out even if they fail because they take the time to reflect and understand where they grew and developed. They review their strategies and habits and identify the ones that worked, identify the ones that didn’t work, and identify achievement gaps. Successful people then set out to connect with others who can help them close those achievement gaps.

One other point, successful people also know that failing does not make them a failure. Failing is failing – it simply means you didn’t achieve what you set out to do.  It doesn’t mean you ARE a failure, or that you will always fail, or that you will never succeed. Quite the contrary. Successful people know that success itself is marked by a whole lot of wins and a whole lot of losses.

I’m always looking to expand my own thinking so would really welcome your comments.