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The Problem with SMART Goals...And How to Solve it!

feelings Aug 11, 2021

"Set SMART Goals," they said.

"SMART Goals are how to get things done," they said.

"SMART Goals are the secret to success," they said.

I thought and thought. I diagramed, white-boarded, and analyzed what I wanted to achieve. I refined, re-framed, and word-smithed. Finally, I had it. I had a SMART goal.

You know that feeling? You're struggling with a concept, and your brain hurts from thinking about it so much? It's followed by a flood of relief when you realize you've worked out the problem. I was at that point. I thought, "I've got it! I've figured it out." I have my goal, and it's SMART, and now everything is going to change.

But it didn't.

The goal was there. It checked all of the boxes. It was SMART. Apparently, I wasn't quite so smart.

What was the goal?

I will lose 25 pounds by (insert date here, usually six months out).

Let's double-check it for SMARTness.

Specific? Yup…25 pounds.

Measurable? Yup…25 pounds.

Achievable? Yup…6 months is 24-26 weeks, 1-2 pounds/week = challenging but doable.

Relevant? Yup…call it vanity or for health reasons.

Time-Bound? Yup…6 months from today.

I lived and re-lived this scenario with my clients. I'm a health coach. Helping my clients achieve their goals is my #1 priority. Yet, I watched them struggle to define what they wanted to achieve, why, and how they were going to achieve it.

SMART goals have a place in any transformation process, but it's not a "set it and forget it" process. Working with my clients, we discovered a small but crucial element that you can overlook when you're setting SMART goals.

Setting the SMART goal is only the first step in your transformation. Next, of course, is to make a plan of action. Make the path clear and the activities doable.

But there's still something that can trip you up on your journey to your goal. 

Each day you will make decisions to take the action in the plan, or you'll decide not to.

Your first decision is to follow your plan.

My clients had to decide to eat the healthy food in their plan.

They had to decide to show up and complete the workout.

Making decisions that move you in the right direction is empowering. It's inspiring. It raises our energy levels and reinforces our belief in ourselves.

When I decide to do something, I give myself control over my destiny. I take back my personal power. It's a subtle but powerful change in my language.

Rather than "running out of time to go to the gym," I decide to shorten my lunch by a few minutes so I can leave work on time and get to my workout.

Rather than "I'm too busy to meal prep," I decide to find short-cuts to make healthy food or ways to make healthier choices if I am at a restaurant.

Recognizing we're making a decision can be tricky. When I pointed out these decision-making opportunities to clients, they didn't always want to hear it.

Admitting we have a problem is the first step to fixing it. It's easier to blame work or traffic or whatever else life throws at us. When we decide that those things won't stop us when we recognize that we have the power to do anything we want to, the world changes. Our bodies change, our minds change, and our health changes.

Now it's your turn. Create your SMART goals…that's step 1. Make your plan…that's step 2. Then make the decision as often as possible to follow the plan and move closer to your goal.

You won't make that decision every time. That's ok. Decide to move towards your goal more often than you decide not to, and you'll get there.


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