When SMART Goals Fail Do This


What’s the biggest reason people fail in reaching their most important goals?

I used to believe that they didn’t set them up correctly in the first place but turned out I was missing something huge.

In both my personal and professional goal setting, I’ve used a format called the SMART criteria that I learned in B-School from studying Peter Drucker. The main advantage being that you create goals you understand and ones that you’re confident you can achieve.  Here’s a quick recap on what the SMART goal criteria is:

  • Specific – What’s your goal clearly stated in 1-2 sentences?
  • Measurable  – What’s your preferable scoreboard to track your progress?
  • Attainable – How can you tweak it just enough that you’re pushed to achieve it but also you ensure your success?
  • Relevant – What action can you take to make your goal relevant to yourself and those around you?
  • Time-Bound – When’s the clear time you’re going to have this done?

But When SMART Goals Fail

Even though organizations and scores of HR departments across the globe use this same goal setting criteria, they run into the same problem.  People don’t make their goals and it’s costly to every one involved.

I’ve spent hours crafting my goals using the SMART criteria, only to watch myself fail in achieving them. I could use a litany of excuses but the truth is that SMART criteria is incomplete.

Your Most Important Goal Gets Whacked

I recently bit off one of the biggest goals I’ve ever taken on personally (and believe me, I can’t wait to share it with you soon). It’s pushed me beyond what I ever thought I’d be capable of doing and so many mornings I just didn’t think I could continue.

Though I’d used the SMART goal criteria, it wasn’t enough to keep me waking up every morning at 5 am to work on it, especially when I had so many competing priorities.

Too often the biggest, most important goals get whacked in the name of more urgent needs.  Thus the goals that would make the biggest difference in your life just roll to next year.

Ever happen to you?

Add 1 Powerful Element to Your SMART Goal Criteria

When this happens, you need the energy and motivation to keep going.

You need a reason why.  Clarifying ‘why’ gives you a much deeper emotional connection to your goal.  It helps you dig-in and keep going when times get tough.

So I propose ending your SMART goal criteria with a big “W’ that stands for why the heck this goal is really important in the first place.

‘Why’ Helped Me Start Waking Up at 5 am

For my big project, it took me a few iterations until I landed on the ‘Why’ that worked for me.  It went like this:

“To do more of what I love doing like coaching and speaking to groups and at conferences.”

This felt okay but it didn’t really motivate me for such a huge undertaking, and it felt a little self-serving.

“To inspire others with a clear message that changes the world.”

This felt great, but it also seemed a little faceless and really too big to keep me going on a daily basis.

“To create something that will inspire my daughter one day when she grows up.”

Bingo!  I could wake-up at 5 am for that on a consistent basis.  I hope you’ll feel the same way when I share this project with you soon.

5 Questions to Help You Reach Your SMART Goal

So to help you build your motivation and energy for attaining your biggest goal, consider these five questions:

  • For who or what’s sake is this goal important?
  • What gift does reaching it represent for you, your family, your coworkers, and your organization?
  • What’s the happiness and joy it will generate?  Who will you high-five first? Who will you share your first smile with when its done?
  • What’s the consequence you’re not willing to accept if you don’t hit it?
  • Why?

In the comments below, please share your biggest professional or personal goal for the year.  What’s your first shot at ‘Why’?

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