SMART Goals – they are often seen as the gospel in the personal and professional development industry for goal setting, but are they doing more harm than good? For the most part, I can appreciate the motivation behind setting SMART goals. Do we need goals that are specific, measurable, actionable and time based? Absolutely! My sticking point, however, comes to the “realistic” part.
I don’t like the word realistic. To be realistic means to create a glass ceiling on our capabilities. “Realistic” says that there is a limit to what we can achieve. And yet time and again throughout history, we’ve watched human beings achieve feats that aren’t realistic.
It certainly wasn’t realistic to think that, in the midst of the Great Depression, that a man could build a now multi-billion-dollar company from an animated mouse. It’s not realistic to think that a single mother, who could only write her stories on the bus to and from work each day, would go on to create a billion-dollar empire in Harry Potter. And it certainly isn’t realistic to think that a boy who dropped out of school at 16 because of his struggle with dyslexia could go on to be one of the world’s biggest business moguls today – owning planes, building spaceships and a slew of other companies.
And yet, Walt Disney, JK Rowling and Sir Richard Branson have all created these legacies. All because they dared to be unrealistic, and to believe in their vision. I’ve heard coaches tell their clients that a goal isn’t realistic. I’ve had coaches tell me the same. I’ve listened as my clients tell me their dreams, only to follow it up with “…but I don’t think that’s realistic.” Who am I, and who are you, to say whether a goal is realistic or not?
So, if we’re not completely following SMART goals, how should our goal setting look instead? See below for the 3 step process that will change your life!
1. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice and begin with the end in mind
What is your vision? Write it down, draw it if you need. Be specific. Give as much of the minute detail as possible. Define vague terms like “successful”, “wealthy” or “freedom”. Still give these terms a measure – is successful making a $100,000 or $1 million? Is that before tax or after?
“Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.” – Jim Rohn
2. Now, break it down
Having worked in the fitness industry for a long time, I know that one of the main issues in goal setting is that people focus on the wrong thing. They tend to look at the big goal they’ve set, not the next step. Think about it, when you climb a mountain, do you stare at the top, or do you look at where your next step needs to be?
Looking at the summit makes the entire climb daunting. It can seem so far away and out of reach. The same is true for our goals. If we’re looking at the “top” – say having a million dollars in the bank while we’re still at the bottom with $100 to our name, or an internationally run business while still working out of our parent’s garage – that gap can seem impossible to overcome.
Once you know where you’re heading, you need to break the vision down into small, actionable, mini-goals. This allows us to create the “steps” we need to climb the proverbial mountain.
Here’s an example, say my goal is to have a successful wellness retreat (successful defined as a profit of $1 million a year). Now that I have a specific and measureable vision, I break it down. What came just before that? Well, I would open the wellness retreat and run my first program. And just before that? I would email confirmation of the first program, with program details, to my registrants.
And before that? I would be marketing the program. Before that I would finish construction on the retreat facilities. Staff training, creating blueprints, finding financing, buying the land – these would all be steps that would need to occur on the way up to my vision being achieved.
Use this question to work all the way back until you reach where you are in life now. You now have a roadmap to show you how to get to your vision. It doesn’t matter if there are 10 steps or 1,000 steps that lie between you and reaching the vision. All you need to focus on is the step that lies just in front of you.
3. Become the person who achieves that vision
John Demartini, a human behavioural specialist, has said that humans cannot become what they don’t already think they are. So many times, I have my clients say to me “Once I achieve x, then I’ll be successful”.
Well, successful people become successful because they already believe they are. championship athletes win because for years prior they’ve been treating their bodies and training like they are a championship athlete. Successful entrepreneurs face each day with a mindset of success.
How do you embed the mindset of the person who has your vision? I love to use this lateral thinking activity: ask yourself “how will having (the vision) make me feel? What mindset will I have when I achieve it?”
Let’s use the wellness retreat example again. Having that retreat would allow me to feel healthy, like I was making a difference to others and I would feel at peace in myself. Then ask – “What other activities would allow me to feel this way?”. To feel healthy, I could attend the gym and yoga classes regularly, and eat whole organic foods. I would ensure I get plenty of sleep.
Other activities that would make me feel like I was helping others would be to have clients and help them work on their health, fitness and mindfulness goals. I could run meditation or yoga classes in my local area. And to feel at peace in myself I could schedule in time to go hiking or to be out in nature regularly. I would also make sure I had my own regular meditation practice.
“If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.” – Les Brown
Can you see how it makes sense that someone who is already actively engaging in all those activities would then own a successful wellness retreat? Engaging in these activities, while we’re taking action towards our vision allows our unconscious beliefs about ourselves to shift into alignment with who we need to be to reach that vision. When we change what we believe to be true about ourselves now, we shatter any glass ceilings that have been keeping us stuck.
Using this three-step goal setting system, you now know the destination you’re travelling to, you have a roadmap to get you there, and the belief that you can. All that’s left to do is now is put one foot in front of the other.