SMART Goals Are Not So Smart After All!

by Gia Ganesh

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We’ve all heard of goal setting. Set a few goals in our life time. And somewhere along the way we’ve heard and used the SMART goals framework.

SMART for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bound. 

Goal setting seems all the more relevant now, especially around this time of the year, when people are reviewing their annual goals and setting new ones. I am seeing this more in the entrepreneurial world that I am part of.

For a long time I believed in the concept of SMART goals. But the more I started using them, I found that it was not working for me. I would set goals that were specific, measurable, actionable and realistic and time bound. For example, losing 2 pounds in 2 months by doing 20 mins of cardio 3 times a week(M, W, F) at 6 AM.The goals I set had the elements of the SMART goal framework, but I never reached them! I failed in accomplishing my goals. What I found surprising was the fact that there were intentions/goals in my head that I did not develop with the SMART framework nor did I necessarily write it down, but I met them and even surpassed them at times! What was going on ?

How was I able to achieve goals that I did not develop with the world’s most talked about goal setting mechanism and failed at the goals that I set with the SMART goals framework?

On digging further, I discovered the flaw in the SMART goal framework, which may be the reason you are not achieving your goals too. And lo and behold the missing component is the Why behind the Goal!! The Why is a powerful motivator that holds us accountable. It helps you move forward on those cold winter days when curling up in the bed is a  more enticing option than getting up to run on the treadmill. Its the invisible hand that nudges you forward and keeps you going. Its the thing that does not let you give up when you so badly want to and things aren’t going your way. The Why of a certain goal keeps you centered and focused amidst the distractions that are eating into our lives.

Tony Robbins often says that there are 2 primary things that cause action/inaction in our lives – pain or pleasure.

The fear of pain may either motivate us to do something or cause us to not take action. For example: the fear of having yet another dental issue after numerous ones the past couple years, has me flossing every night irrespective of the time! At the same time, the pain of rejection or ridicule stops many people from public speaking. The fear of pain can cause action or inaction!

The anticipation of pleasure is the second driver that causes us to take action or hold back. The pleasure of receiving an award or a promotion may be a key driver for people to take action at work. Or the pleasure of sitting with a book may be so strong that someone may neglect to do chores. Again, action or inaction in anticipation of pleasure!

By tying our goals to a certain pain or pleasure, whatever drives us more in that instance, we are able to leverage the SMART framework and make it truly work!!  For me the pain/fear of losing my teeth is so strong and it is the Big Why that drives me to accomplish my flossing goal every single night. This was the same person who has never flossed before!

By tying our actions to the Big Why as defined by pain and pleasure, we are paving way for success with each and every one of our goals every single time. 


What goals are you trying to reach in the next 90 days?

Meet Gia Ganesh

Gia Ganesh is passionate about helping high achievers lead FULFILLING professional lives. As a career success coach and speaker, Gia specializes in coaching professionals and college students who seek career happiness, career direction and strategic advice and tips for their job search.

People who are stagnating in their careers or looking for that one thing they were born to do- find clarity, direction and a renewed zest for their career life, after working with Gia.

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