Why smart goals fail (how to achieve your goals)
Ready to achieve your goals? Avoid these goal setting mistakes traditional goal setting gurus will tell you to follow! If you’re wondering how to set goals that actually work, and how to achieve your goals with ease, this is exactly what you need to understand what are SMART goals, why SMART goals DON’T work, and how to set goals instead so that you’re actually able to grow your business and live a fulfilling life that you love.
If you’ve done ANY amount of Googling when you began setting goals, it’s likely been drilled into you that goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound).
You know you can’t just decide to “eat healthier” but should commit to “lose 10 pounds of body fat by June 30”.
As a huge personal growth nerd who loves setting goals (can this be a hobby?), I subscribed to this theory for a long time and believed it was the only way to set goals you could actually achieve.
But over the years of building a wildly successful business and becoming an experienced life & business coach (helping ambitious people create fulfilling lives through purpose driven businesses), I noticed a pattern that didn’t make any sense.
People are setting SMART goals and falling short of them time and time again – if SMART goals are so smart, why do they keep failing?
This article is going to bust industry myths (goals do not have to be SMART!!!) and help you understand why what you’ve been taught is actually keeping you from achieving the goals you desire. I’ll answer questions like “what is goal setting?”, “what’s the right way to set goals?”, “why do I keep failing at my goals?”, and show you exactly what needs to change for you to be able to create the life and business you dream of.
What is goal setting?
Goal setting, by definition, is a process for creating clarity around what you desire and developing a strategy for making it your reality.
Perhaps you wish to quit your mediocre 9 to 5 and start your own business, or lose the extra 10-20 pounds you’re carrying, or take a family trip overseas for a month.
Related Post: How To Break Down Big Goals and Actually Achieve Them
Goals formalize the commitment to creating what you want, and put intentionality behind your actions.
Misconceptions we have about goal setting
There are many different frameworks for helping you set goals, but the most common one is the “SMART” goals framework (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound).
Here are the 2 biggest beliefs (ingrained through SMART goals methodology) that are actually keeping you from creating success:
Goals have to be realistic
The truth is, realistic is a judgement we place on something (and it’s not objective!).
You get to define what’s realistic, and what’s achievable.
Making a million dollars may feel unrealistic to most people, yet there are 47,000,000 millionaires in the world (fact).
Running a 4 min mile didn’t used to be achievable, until one person decided it could be. Since then, the record’s been broken 18 times, and currently sits at 3:43.13 as of 1999 (fact).
Building a business that provides you with the fulfillment, freedom, and flexibility you crave can feel unrealistic when you’re trapped in a soul sucking 9 to 5, yet has been done by 44 million people in the US alone (fact).
“Unrealistic” is defined by people who are less brave than you.
The problem with making your goals “realistic” (as defined by the masses), is that it keeps you stuck playing small and settling for less than you’re capable of, in order to appease everybody else.
YOUR GOALS DO NOT HAVE TO BE REALISTIC.
Related post: How To Build Self Discipline To Achieve Goals
They get to be grounded in the most powerful vision you have for yourself.
They get to blow your own mind and the minds of people around you.
They get to evolve WITH you, and grow bigger all the time.
Stop feeling like you have to fit in with “realistic”, and start creating a vision for your life and business that is so damn exciting you can’t help but achieve it.
Goals have to be time-bound
This one’s a doozy.
You’ve been taught that you need to set deadlines for yourself, but it holds you back more than it moves you forward!
Why do we set deadlines on goals?
The theory behind setting deadlines is that it creates an internal sense of urgency which gets you off your butt and taking action toward your goal.
Related post: 5 Strategies For Better Time Management
Why do deadlines create repeated failure?
The problem is, we play it safe, and set smaller goals and longer deadlines so that we don’t “fail.” This keeps us from achieving goals that blow our minds.
If we do set a wild goal with an “unrealistic” timeline, the deadline pushes us into a state of *frantic* action.
Frantic action is action that comes from the place of “I must hurry, hustle, and grind to meet this goal or else I’ll fail and never get to have the thing I want.”
This kind of action is incredibly demotivating. It’s exactly what creates procrastination because it does not feel good, and we end up falling into a vortex of shame and self-loathing when we don’t meet our goals.
So although it might spur momentum in the short term, it creates the wrong kind of action.
What happens when we miss our deadline?
I had a wildly stretchy goal of creating $5,000 online by December 31, 2019. It felt so out of reach. Especially when, at the end of the year, I sat at $374. I totally “failed.”
When we miss our goals, most of us give up. We make it mean something about what we are and aren’t capable, and we direct our efforts elsewhere.
“I guess I’m not cut out for entrepreneurship and should stay in my mediocre 9 to 5.”
But, instead of getting so picky about how much money I was going to make by when, what if my goal instead had been to create a purpose driven online business that created the fulfillment, flexibility, and freedom I craved? What if I was crystal clear on my vision and dripping confidence that it was possible for me?
$374 would have moved me toward my vision.
Instead, my brain used it as evidence AGAINST my vision. It tricked me into thinking that because I “failed” at my goal, my vision was “unrealistic.”
Related post: The Ultimate Guide to Setting Goals and Achieving Personal Growth
Luckily, being the smart cookie that I am, I invested in my own business coach. Having that support in my corner allowed me to reflect on my thoughts and beliefs, and create new ones that actually served me instead of holding me back.
So in 2020, I created $30,000 of income online and was able to quit my day job.
This year (2021), I’m creating that much in a single month!! And my business is on track to hit well over 6 figures.
My $5,000 in 2019 goal was helpful in that it focused me on the direction I wanted to take my life in (freedom, financial abundance, and fulfillment through a purpose driven online business).
Related post: Tips On Working From Home & Building Your Dream Life
But the timeline was completely arbitrary because it was made up. And had I used it as the make/break point in my business, I never would have experienced what it felt like to achieve results my brain didn’t even think were possible.
‘Cause let’s be real, it would not have been “realistic” to set a goal of making $30K in one MONTH.
And this is where the lesson lies: your goals do not need to be time-bound.
Instead, create a vision that is so aligned with your purpose that there are no other options.
Buy into it so deeply that there is no plan B.
Leap, lean in, and move forward with the excitement that it has already happened and time just hasn’t caught up yet.
THAT’S the kind of goal that keeps you moving forward, and when you continue taking action consistently, and get the support you need in your corner, you WILL get where you want to go.
Stop cutting yourself off with a self-imposed timeline you made up.
How to set your goals up for success
Here’s the truth, if you want to create your dream life/business, forget being realistic, and stop putting pressure on yourself to hit your goal in a made up timeline.
Shift your goal setting framework slightly, and you’ll start to see just how much you’re actually capable of.
My 1:1 coaching clients are able to create wild results in their lives and businesses (like quitting their 9 to 5s less than 8 months into our work together, or having $11K weeks on repeat) because they set goals that are
Related post: 10 Tips To Stay On Top Of Your Goals
Know exactly what you want and be able to picture yourself creating it. Vague goals don’t inspire bold action.
Create a system for tracking your progress and celebrate every small win along the way. Don’t focus on how far there is to go, but how far you’ve come.
Your goals should energize you and you should be in it for the long game. Don’t set intense, short term goals that burn you out. (This is the difference between changing your relationship with food and dropping 50 pounds in a year, vs starving yourself for a week, seeing little results, and falling back in the spiral of shame).
Grounded in purpose
Ensure your goals align with your values, with your vision for your life, with your purpose. Don’t set goals that are somebody else’s.
Your goals don’t need expiration dates. If you really want to create this reality, it doesn’t actually matter whether it happens this month or next month, this year or next year. Focus on the actions you can control that will move you closer to your goal, but release the pressure of having to “succeed” by a certain date.
The way you set goals can make or break whether you create the reality you desire, or not.
When you’re crystal clear on what you want to achieve, celebrating every little bit of progress along the way, focusing on taking action that is sustainable over the long term, aligned with your inner WHY, and determined to get there regardless of how long it takes, you will absolutely create success (and it will be better than you ever imagined).
As a life & business coach, I support ambitious women with big goals and big dreams in creating fulfilling lives by building thriving, purpose driven businesses.
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If your goals include figuring out what you actually want to be doing with your life, getting out of your soul sucking 9 to 5, and/or building a business that allows you to be your own boss, make a real impact, and quantum leap your income, I’m here to support you with making that a reality.
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And drop a comment below, what goals are most important for you to achieve this year?