SMART goal setting, or at least the use of the acronym, has been around since the early 80’s and Peter Drucker is credited for the concept in his 1954 book “The Practice of Management.”
So, it has some staying power.
But is it truly the best way to set goals?
Well, if you have read other blogs I have published on this topic, you would likely say NO!
So the question is, if you don’t have access to someone like myself to walk you through the goal setting process, how can you accomplish it yourself?
The key to ANY goal setting is understanding your intimate role in the objectives. You can call it your why, purpose, mission or multitudes of other words that have similar meanings.
Basically, you need to figure out why the thing you are so passionate about achieving is important to you.
It sounds a bit counterintuitive but it doesn’t need to be intrinsic initially. Too often people get stuck on the fact that they can’t tie their goal to a deep and profound meaning and that stops their momentum.
Oftentimes it takes some extrinsic motivators to push you in a direction to then see where it takes you.
For example, a new client of ours came in wanting to lose some body fat and get lean. It’s a common goal we see. But, as we dug down to specifics, she said she really wanted her legs and butt to be bigger.
Some of you might hear this and say, “that’s so vain.” And you aren’t wrong. But, when has working out NOT been about looking better in your jeans, that nice dress or your best suit?
It is vain and extrinsically based, but it’s HER goal. And here’s where it gets effective.
I told her there are two ways you can go about getting “bigger legs and a butt”
- Head off to the local cosmetic surgeon and have him/her injection some fat into your legs and butt (she thought that was funny)
- Consistently come into the gym, train hard and develop stronger legs and a butt that looks like she works out. They would appear to others like they are bigger but might not actually be bigger.
Her response to this was simple. I want my legs to look strong, not just to be bigger.
Being actively involved in the process is imperative to moving in a consistently positive direction under your “why umbrella.” Passivity, like going to the surgeon to get injections, will never create the kind of satisfaction desired by goal setting.
Nothing is ever handed to you that will truly matter in your life. You have to take it. Opportunities may present themselves but it’s only your action that will turn aspirations into reality.
So if you want to find something better than SMART goal setting, try this…
Interview yourself (record this with a voice recorder ideally)
- Ask yourself why achieving the goal matters to you
- Question and explain your perspective, to yourself or whomever will listen, until it becomes clear what makes your goal specifically important to you. Continue to question it if you feel like other people would easily relate to your why. Eventually you will have something uniquely yours
- Apply a variety of boundaries or constraints to verify your why is valid (this is where my approach differs from others but it is hugely impactful on long term success)
Let’s use an example:
A new client came in wanting to get leaner and stronger (sense a theme?). But, as we dug deeper, I found his passion is tennis. He played in high school, college and has maintained proficiency well into parenthood.
More importantly, he knows that his ability to excel at tennis is impacted by his leanness, which he has always previously achieved through strength training.
So, we have a consistent measurement tool (he plays tennis at least once a week), a reason to come to the gym (strength = lean = more agile = improved tennis game) and something he is passionate about that has nothing, directly, to do with him actually getting leaner (tennis performance).
An outcome of getting leaner is a secondary effect of him showing up to the gym 3x/week, putting in the work and then testing his fitness improvements as he plays tennis weekly. Sounds pretty action based don’t you think? 🙂
When I pulled back and asked him, “This is great but will this have a lifelong impact on him?” ie. is it his why? He answered with a definitive, “YES!” and here’s why.
He has constraints currently on his tennis game, specifically 10 and 12 year old daughters. His priority at the moment is instilling an active mentality for his family which he hopes will carry over into adulthood for them. That means soccer games, swim meets, coaching etc. And that all means plenty of physical activity, other opportunities to recognize continued strength gains carrying over to real life AND likely a leaner frame.
But, when he and his wife are empty nesters, he plans to get back to playing competitive tennis 2-3x per week. Being healthy and strong enough to do that will require continued action from him, now and into the future.
Constraints will change but his why will remain the same. When you can apply a variety of scenarios to your why and it remains unchanged, you’ve nailed it!
This approach to goal setting can be applied to ANYTHING in your life. I used examples from training because that is the world I live in. But, if you are trying to utilize this process yourself, remember these three things:
- Ask yourself why achieving the goal you seek is so important
- Dig deep in your questioning of its importance in your life. Eventually you will pull away all the fluff and end up with a why that is uniquely yours
- Put a wide variety of constraints on your why to confirm that it applies not only in the present but as you move through the always uncertain future.
Finally, if you want a unique perspective on it, I’m always up for a conversation about your goals over a nice beer or glass of bourbon. Hit me up!