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Rethinking SMART Goals

I’m sure we are all familiar with SMART goals. I honestly don’t recall where I first learned the term. Odds are it was in grad school, but it could have been earlier as I am having flashbacks to Yuppies and the 80s. And I don’t think it matters your profession. Whether it is health related, sales, or basket weaving, someone at some point has talked about the power of SMART goals in your world. However, and stay with me here, what if we change them just a bit? 

SMART goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible. This acronym is great. Easy to remember and understand. However, goals for many people are a daunting and intimidating topic. 

Personally, I hate even writing goals. I try and stay away from using the term too much with my clients as there are often negative connotations with them (I use terms such as accomplishments, objectives and achievements). Or, such as in my case, once I achieve a goal I can be disappointed and then start looking for the next challenge. 

Regardless, the term SMART goals really does not excite most people. At least in its purest sense. Maybe it is time to shift how we look at SMART goals (you thought I was going to say paradigm, right) to make them actually personal to you. Basically, we want to shift them because when you have goals that actually resonate with what is important to you then you stay motivated on your journey to fulfilling your objectives. 

As I went through my advanced financial planning training, I was taught to make a small, but significant shift with SMART goals. How about we change SMART goals to Significant, Meaningful, Attracting, Rewarding and Timely? Let’s break this down a bit more. 

Significant in its simplest terms means things that are most important to you and will keep you motivated along your way. 

Goals can often be set for us by others are maybe we set them based on what we think others believe is appropriate for us. You know, all doctors should belong to country clubs because that is a sign of success. However, your goals should be Meaningful to you and match with your values and priorities. 

Next we need to talk about Attracting. Working hard toward a goal is more realistic if you can see a positive image of it. Instead of relying on grit and determination to keep you motivated, seeing a clear vision of what you want in your life will help focus your intention and guide you as you make decisions along the journey. 

Rewarding. This is a huge issue with goals. Many traditional goals are set up as a winner-take-all mentality. If you accomplish them you get the reward. If not, well, there isn’t even a set of steak knives for second place. Maybe have rewards along the way to the overall objective is a slightly better design. 

Finally, they should be Timely. In this case we are talking about more than just the deadline when the objective needs to be met. We look at things like whether this is the right time, whether you have enough time to dedicate, and even if there should be a time attached to the completion because not everything has to have a target date. 

I know as we enter the final part of the year there is always lots of discussions on whether one achieved their goals for the year and also setting some for next year. Maybe. Just maybe, there is a slightly better way to reframe our SMART goals to make them truly our own.