SMART Goals Are Overrated

Standard advice (even ours !), If you want to set a goal, must be “SMART”. Concrete, measurable, something, something tied to time. There is disagreement about what some of the letters mean, which is our first hint that they may not be that important. It turns out that the SMART goal framework doesn’t include all the ways that goal setting can help us. In fact, we should not turn every target in a clever goal.

Where do SMART goals come from?

Let’s take a look at the history here. Since we hear SMART goals discussed in the context of fitness goals or New Year’s plans, one might think they come from the area of ​​self-improvement. But they don’t: they are from the world of management, where in 1981 George Doran wrote an article called “There is a SMART way to write down the goals and objectives of management.”

He argued that goals are often vague and that something specific and clearly articulated would be more effective for the job. The acronym SMART was meant to be structured, although he noted that it is not necessary to define all five points for every goal.

Another piece of evidence that this structure doesn’t make sense to individuals: the letter A originally stood for “assignable,” meaning you could have assigned it to a specific employee or group.

Disadvantages of SMART goals

SMART goals are often seen as improving vague statements like “I want to get in shape,” but I’d rather call it bait and substitution. By the time you finish defining your goal, you will have a pass-fail test with a deadline and metric. Is this really what will motivate you?

When we make a goal specific and measurable, we learn to focus on specific actions – which may be good – but we also overlook things that don’t fall into these categories. If you only want to lose weight and are counting pounds, what happens to your ability to maintain muscle mass and strength? What happens to your ability to enjoy food without getting hung up on calories? What happens to the types of exercise that you usually enjoy but that don’t maximize your calorie burn per minute? We have tunnel vision, and that’s not necessarily a good way to get closer to the goal.

When we make a goal achievable and realistic, we get in the way. If you strive to be better, wouldn’t you want to try something that is a problem precisely because you might fail? How much do you think you will ever be successful if you only stick to “goals” that you are 100% sure of?

Finally, setting a time-bound goal creates an artificial barrier. What happens if you meet the deadline but don’t? Was it all in vain? If you’re talking about a corporate quarter deadline, maybe. But if you work towards your goals for your own reasons, time doesn’t matter, does it? Self-improvement has no finish line. If you couldn’t do 100 push-ups by date X, aren’t you still stronger than when you started? Could you go ahead and see if you can do 100 push-ups in a month? Quite right.

Consider SMART goals as benchmarks or minimum

When you give up on SMART goals, you may get a little lost at first. They really provide a good structure for clearly defining what you want to work on. This is not your main goal, but perhaps it can be useful as part of the process.

So consider setting up a few time-limited, measurable tests as a minimum, to make sure you’re on the right track. Focus on the process, not the result: for example, you can commit to running four times a week for the next month. This is not the same as “running a marathon” or “getting faster”, which may be your actual goals, but reaching a certain, measurable, time-bound benchmark is a tool you can use to focus your efforts on that. paths.

Think Big When Setting Real Goals

What goal would you set if it were not realistic or well-defined? As I wrote earlier, I think it makes sense to think of fitness goals (or any other goals, in fact) in terms of the question . Deliberately remove one or more of these SMART settings and force yourself to see what you can achieve when it no longer passes the pass / fail test.

Remove the deadline and ask: How soon can I complete the deadlift [target weight]? Or remove the requirement for specificity and ask: How fast can I run by the time this race starts? Or take away the dimension aspect and see what happens if you just do something . Have fun. To make yourself. What will happen? How will your life change? You don’t need numbers that you can keep track of in a spreadsheet to try different things and see what happens.


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