How Not to Fail With SMART Goals

Some people make utterly worthless resolutions, be it on New Year’s or any other occasion. Something along the lines of earn more, or drink less, or lose weight. Having helpful individual around, these are remarkably easy to achieve. Being myself, I’d give the first person a penny, knocking the wine glass out of hand of the second and propose interesting use of my chainsaw to the last one. Can you imagine reaching your big resolution in 5 seconds? Well, losing weight would take at least minutes, but, anyway.

But people today are not that stupid, or entertaining. Everybody’s goals are SMART now.

If you were living under a rock over last thirty years or so, you might’ve not heard of this acronym. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeboxed. Let’s take the most notorious one as an example. “My (whatever reason) resolution is to lose weight!” Great. Unless you’re ready for some instant Texan-style experience, that’s virtually meaningless. “My resolution is to drop down to 70kgs over next 12 months!” Now, that’s better.

Specific? Yes.
Measurable? Yes.
Achievable? Yes, at least possible. Technically speaking, any weight loss down to bones and necessary organs is achievable, though you might not want to die in the process.
Realistic? Well, that depends on the starting point and several other factors. It might be.
Timeboxed? Checked!

Is this very person likely to achieve their goal? Perhaps. After all, it is SMART, making it many times more likely to be fulfilled. Thing is, this specific goal is a perfect example of one that makes no sense whatsoever. As muscles have higher density than fat, a committed follower of the plan would inevitably lose huge portion of them. If your point is to become light and weak, you’re good to go with this plan.

How to approach it differently then?

First, figure out what’s your actual need. People don’t want to lose weight just for the sake of it. They either do it for boring medical reasons or to feel better with themselves, be more attractive and so on. Which boils down to improving confidence. Wait, is pushing the scale down the only way to do it? No, it isn’t – especially considering it might make you weaker. It’s the same with money, relationships, personal development and whatever any individual might pursue. Deep beneath, where you might not want to go, there’s actual reason behind your resolution. And there’s always more than one way to get there.

Second, don’t focus on this tangible goal altogether. Let me tell you a story. About a year ago, I got more serious with jogging (even though I still claim it should be restricted for lunatics only). With some interesting irregularities in training, I was struggling to achieve decent times during 5K or 10K races. Then, for pointless reason (just because it’s so cool), I had this dream of completing half-marathon that year. And on one June evening, I did just that. I jogged for 21 kilometres. I made it, completed my SMART goal! As runner’s high ended, I realized something was wrong. Yes, I made it, but… My time was pathetic, I almost completely dehydrated myself and mere walking was painful for week to come. I literally devastated my body in the process. While the feat felt enormous, I wouldn’t really call it a success. It was just a huge stretch of an inefficient process.

That made no sense.

Only later I realized, my scope was completely wrong. I should’ve focused on forming a good habit instead. Do you remember my mentions of irregular training? Yes, that’s it. Interestingly, when I did actually start to train on a more regular basis, I made it to run 21K on one Monday morning last December – and then went to work. In fact, I was surprised how easy it was. That’s because I turned my training into a habit.

So, how to achieve what you want? Just follow this simple process:

  1. Identify your actual need.
  2. Find out ways to fulfil the need. Talk it over with friends or family, another angle is always beneficial.
  3. Figure out what habit(s) you could form to help it.
  4. Here’s where SMART comes handy – make forming the habit your goal.
  5. Carry on and enjoy the ride.

And it’s all straight from the horse’s mouth – why do you think I’m in the gym, or swimming pool, or on the track every single morning?

It sounds very romantic to aim for something or die trying. Life is not a sprint though – it is a marathon.

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