Goal Achievement Theory: Why SMART Goals Aren’t and How To Accelerate Your Achievement

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to lead a life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  ~Henry David Thoreau


By: Martin Grunburg
WARNING! What you are about to read challenges existing goal setting and achievement theory and for whatever reason, unfortunately, has proven to ruffle a few feathers. Please proceed with caution.   ; )

Whether it’s based upon your own learning or teaching experiences, I’m sure you’ve come to recognize that repetition is the key to learning (and remembering). The good news is YOU can help me here (please)—to share this message. You see, once you read this, I’m hopeful you will feel as impassioned about sharing the important role HABIT has in goal achievement. But, first…

The “Challenge” with SMART Goals— Who Knew?
Unfortunately, the large majority of coaches (business coaches, executive coaches and trainers) and even the general public who pay attention to this “Success” stuff (that’d be about 99%) continue to use a goal methodology/process to that was developed/published in 1981 (see wikipedia). While 1981 was a terrific year—and thirty years is a fantastic run, I would like to think, goal setting has evolved?

Invest 5 minutes with this post and you’ll never set goals the same way again.

So, What are SMART Goals anyway?
In the event you haven’t heard of SMART goals, here you go; a screen shot of Wikipedia

Be More S.M.A.R.T.-ER
Looks pretty good right? Over 33,000,000 Google results (do a search)— S.M.A.R.T. goals can’t be all bad? And, the answer is, they aren’t. Well, unfortunately, they just aren’t ALL good either, here’s why.

From my experience coaching and helping people with their goals here are five “challenges” I have with SMART goals.

1) The To-Do List. After you go through all the necessary S.M.A.R.T. criteria, guess what. You’re left with a To-Do List. “So what” you say, “What’s wrong with a To-Do list?” Well, nothing really, if you can ensure it’s not getting mixed up with your daily, life to-do list: you know, call grandma, pickup cereal, call the dentist, wash car, feed fish, etc.  The To-Do List is ubiquitous, never-ending and always growing. So people go to bed at night and wonder, “Did I get any closer to my goal today?” The answer, of course, is unfortunately “NO”.

2)  Enter: HABIT. The biggest challenge with SMART goals, is its greatest oversight; SMART goals do NOT take into account HABIT. No mention of the conscious development of supportive, core behaviors (habits) to achieve your goal. It’s astounding when you consider that everyone’s greatest tool for achievement is habit and yet habit hasn’t been offered in any goal achievement theory to date, let alone the most popular goal achievement methodology, S.M.A.R.T. goals.

3) The subconscious mind: What “experts” in achievement and “success” coaches would tell you is that your subconscious mind has far more influence than your conscious mind when it comes to goal achievement. Now whether that is 10x or 100x more influence, that is up for debate. What appears to not be up for debate, that is, what they ALL agree upon is that the subconscious mind has the greatest influence when it comes to goal achievement. So, my friend, here is the question? Where do your habits reside? BINGO! In the subconscious mind! Now, here is another question, does it make sense to follow a goal methodology that doesn’t take into account habit which is a direct path to your subconscious mind?

BTW: Below for your reading pleasure is an excerpt from publicly made available PDF from Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham – on Goal Setting theory:
Here’s the link. I love the final paragraph/specifically the last sentence. Enjoy!

4) SMART Goals criteria gets confused:  See the above screen shot and you’ll notice there is no less than three terms behind each letter in the acronym. So what is being regurgitated by coaches and want-to-be coaches unfortunately, is often incorrect.

5) There is a “simpler” way. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci & “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.” ~Einstein. Combined, these two edicts (from a couple geniuses) have greatly influenced my creative efforts. Consider the simplicity and you might even say, elegance (see Dr. Evil pinky) of simply tracking 3-5 core, related behaviors to achieve your goal. Exciting isn’t it?

A lot has changed in 30 years…

For a bit of a time-warp and reference here are the Billboard Top songs from 1981:
Position    Artist                                               Song Title
1                 Kim Carnes                                    Bette Davis Eyes
2                Diana Ross and Lionel Richie     Endless Love

She’s got Bette Davis Eyes!? Awesome.

Next up (probably) Why Goals are NOT optional. ; )

Until next time, keep on tracking! Develop those core, essential habits to achieve your goals. Yes. There’s an app for that. Thank you for your terrific support and feel free to email me anytime “mg AT thehabitfactor DOT com”.

~mg
P.S.: If you are looking for Professionals who understand The Habit Factor® and how to best implement the methodology to get results, be sure to check our NEW and growing Habit Factor Certified Professionals Directory.