…and why SMART is not enough

So what is SMART? In the words of Mary Poppins while she was doing that summer job as a coach…

Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with…

S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, tracked

S – Specific, Significant, Stretching

What do you really want to achieve? You’ll be far more likely to be able to successfully hit your target if you’re really specific about what you want. Do you want to meet your friend in London? Or do you want to meet your friend under the clock in Waterloo station at 4pm on 21 May? Look at the two goals. Which one is most likely to be achieved?

Ask yourself:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Where will I be/go?
  • How will I achieve it?
  • When am I going to start and finish?
  • Who else might it involve?
  • What hurdles, constraints and opportunities might exist?
  • Why do I want this?
  • What are my options? Are there alternative routes to success?

Make your goal into a challenge. If it’s too difficult, it’s possible that this will affect commitment. If it’s not stretching for you, it’s possible you’ll see it as unimportant and so it’ll be easy to not work towards it.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

By being able to measure your goal, you are able to fully track your progress. You’ll know when you’ve started. You’ll know how far along you are at any significant point. You’ll know when you’re successful. You’ll be able to visualise the tangible outcomes of success as well as the intangible ‘feeling-based’ benefits of success. Making the goal meaningful to you personally will increase motivation to succeed.

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented


Take some time to think about the outcome of your goal. Is it achievable? Or is it a dream that you secretly know (or think) will never come to fruition? If you look at your goal in a business sense, will there be a pay off? Will the effort, costs, hard work, etc pay you dividends once you achieve it? How does it stack up against other commitments and priorities?

If you don’t have the time, money or talent to reach a certain goal and you’ve not thought through how to get these along the way,  you’ll almost certainly fail and be miserable. That doesn’t mean you should look at your goal and dismiss it as being impossible. How might you her over or around these hurdles? What can you do to make sure you can make this goal a reality? Plan, plan some more and go for it.

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-orientated

Is your goal yours or is it someone else’s? Sometimes, we can’t escape inheriting someone else’s goals. When you’re at work, for instance, you often work towards company goals or the goals of your manager. This is inescapable. It doesn’t mean you can’t make these goals relevant to you. Think about what you’ll achieve personally. Is it a promotion for completing an excellent project? A pay rise? A sense of respect from your peers?

How realistic is the goal? Is the challenge too big? Is the time frame fair? Does it depend on the actions of third parties of whom you haven’t yet engaged?

Why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, tracked

It’s said that a goal is a dream with an end date. And it’s true. Unless you give yourself a fair time frame in which to be successful, what’s going to drive you? What’s going to keep you on track? This doesn’t mean that your plan should be inflexible. Quite the opposite. But there should be timed milestones so that you can measure your progress. You should be able to see what you are achieving and whether or not you have to adjust the effort required in order to hit your target.


SMART is not enough

Many organisations follow the SMART methodology for goal-setting. It’s a great framework and can achieve a compelling set of goals for an individual, team or organisation for work towards. You can. however, increase commitment and motivation by running the ‘four Ps’ check over it.

P1 – Positive

Subconsciously, our minds are biased towards the positive. It’s difficult to switch between the positive and the negative. You can see this in action – tell a child not to do something. What happens?

When constructing your goal, write it in the positive. Instead of ‘I will lose 10kg’, write it as ‘I will weigh 70kg by 1 March’. ‘I will stop smoking’ becomes ‘I will be a non-smoker experiencing the benefits of improved health and extra money in my purse’.

P2 – Personal

I touched on this above. Thee goal should be YOUR goal. When stating your goal, make use of ‘I’ and ‘me’. If it’s yours and you want it, you will believe you can do it.

P3 – Possible

If your goal is massive, overwhelming and unweildy, you’ll find it difficult to achieve it. You might not even be able to start it. Break your goal down into chunks that are much more achievable. Each action or goal should be possible. Challenging, but possible. Look at it as steps on a ladder.

P4 – Present

When stating your goal, it’s often useful to imagine yourself post-completion. What is it you have achieved? ‘It is 26 November and I weigh 70kg’.


If you use these tips when setting goals for yourself, you’ll be able to come up with some challenging, but achievable goals which align with your own personal values. You’ll feel motivated by them because they are personal and meaningful to you. Good luck.


Do you want to commit to some SMART goals?

If you’d like to spend some time with a coach to help you develop your goals or to work with you on your goal-setting technique, get in touch.