Setting Goals and Achieving them – Why SMART Goals Aren’t enough
Whether you realize it or not, setting goals and achieving them is something you do each and every day. For example, you wake up and manage to get yourself out of bed in the morning!
Now, this isn’t exactly an ambitious, life changing goal (unless it’s Monday!), but the reality is, we set many small, simple goals each day and achieve them without much difficulty (and a
little lot of coffee).
So why is that we struggle to set and achieve our biggest and most ambitious goals for our lives? Why do we struggle to lose weight, or stick to a budget?
This is mostly because our small simple goals are part of an easy to follow pattern. In general, each step of your daily routine is repeated every day. You get used to your routines and the normalcy is motivating enough for you to keep doing them.
So when it comes to setting bigger goals and achieving them, why do we get stuck? Let’s dig into how to set and accomplish goals.
Setting SMART Goals and Achieving Them
If you have ever done any research into how to set and accomplish goals, you may know that goals need to not only be smart, but they also need to be S.M.A.R.T. This is one of the most important tips for setting goals.
The SMART acronym for goal setting is one of the most fitting acronyms out there. A goal that is SMART should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
When setting a SMART goal, you should to be able to summarize your goal in specific terms and describe how you will know whether you are progressing toward reaching it. Your goal should be realistic, and you should be able to actually achieve it in a specific amount of time.
Many of the big goals we set for ourselves aren’t always smart or SMART. For example, I often find my thoughts wandering to the goals I set when I was a teenager. This was back before I decided to pursue a post-secondary education. Back when my idea of a goal was to drop out of school and become a professional rockstar.
Full disclosure: I am not a professional rockstar.
While this career goal was arguably specific and measurable, it very much is not achievable nor realistic. So in order to set goals and achieve them, it is important that goals are SMART.
The Missing Piece: Value Driven Goals
Now, my goal is not to bore you with how the psychology of SMART goals can help you with setting goals and achieving them. As you will soon find out, I believe that there is one key piece missing that is important when it comes to setting goals and achieving them.
We’ve all set SMART goals before. But just because a goal is SMART, does that mean that we will be guaranteed to achieve it? Of course not!
Here’s an example for you. In our mid-twenties, my wife and I took a trip to New York City. We toured around and ate all the food. And I mean all of it. Turns out, I brought about ten pounds of New York City home with me!
After spending some time being unsatisfied with my weight, I decided I would set a goal. My goal was to lose 10 pounds in 4 months. Was this a SMART goal?
- Specific? Yes.
- Measurable? Yup.
- Achievable? With exercise and some healthy eating, yes.
- Realistic? I think so.
- Timely? Bingo.
Long story short, here I am 10 years later still 10 pounds heavier. Hey, what gives, SMART goals!?
If we want to be successful with setting goals and achieving them, it isn’t enough for a goal to just be SMART. Achievable goals should also be value-driven.
A value-driven goal means that the goal is somehow connected to the things that are important to us and our lives. Value-driven goals are powerful and have the potential to pull us out of slumps when we feel stuck in life.
So, what do you value? Money? Time? Family? Health? It can take some time and energy to figure this out. We all think we know what is important to us, but our brains make this a bit tricky.
The brain really wants to see a tangible reward before it can determine if the goal is worth it or not. Because of this, our minds aren’t always honest with our hearts.
We think that our jobs are important because they give us money and a sense of security, but values usually go much deeper than this. So deep that I actually quit my job after I realized that my values were being compromised.
It gets even more complicated when our values overlap. For example, I’ve always been a healthy eater and taken care of my body. These are values that I hold. So why was I unsuccessful in reaching my goal of losing ten pounds?
Well, as it turns out, I also really value making sure I look good because I am a very insecure person by nature. If I am honest with myself (which is hard to do!) I really only wanted to lose weight so that I look good.
How often have you told yourself you’re going to go on a diet, or that you are going to find some ideas for saving money and put yourself on a budget? How many times have you failed to achieve these goals?
We all want to be thinner, or to spend less on things we don’t need. However, the reward we get when we break these goals always feels more enticing than reaching them. I’m looking at you, Boston cream donut.
Now, I’m not saying that your goal shouldn’t be to eat better or spend less money. Instead, I challenge you to change the story you tell yourself about your goals. Is there a way you can rewrite your goals so that they are more value-driven and have self-care in mind? It is the way we talk to ourselves about our goals that helps determine whether we will achieve them or not.
Here is a simple example of how to tell yourself a different story about your goal, and turn a common goal into a value-driven goal:
Original Goal: I want to eat better and look better.
Value-Driven Goal: I want to eat better so that I have more energy to play with my kids.
The original goal is what we tell ourselves our goal is on the surface. This is what we think is important to us.
We all want to look our best. However, prioritizing self-care rather than the outcome of our goal is one way to help achieve our value-driven goals. Wanting more energy to play and have fun with my kids and soak up every moment is more important to me then looking good. If I strive for that goal, I find it easier to eat better, and will probably end up looking better as a result.
Rewards, Setting, and Achieving Goals
It is also important that you understand that the value-driven goal you are working toward achieving is a reward for your behaviour. You can read about the psychology of rewards and changing behaviour for a more in depth explanation, but essentially, we want to repeat behaviour if we are rewarded for it.
This is why our goals are so easily broken. The reward we get when we eat that donut is so much sweeter than the work we have to put in to curb the urge. However, if I am able to run around and play with my kids without being losing my breathe, isn’t that a sweeter reward?
Some days, this is enough to keep me going. Other days, not so much! All it takes is one negative email and I find myself knee-deep in sugar! Does that mean that I value donuts more than my kids? Absolutely not! It just means that eating healthy is a goal worth working toward! Nothing worth it is ever easy!
Find Your Values, Achieve Your Goals
Finding your values is tricky. Our culture tells us that having lots of money and stuff is important, even though often times having less can lead to more enriching life experiences.
We want what we see on TV and social media because others have it. We think that these things will bring a sense of status, or that they will somehow give our lives meaning and purpose.
Because of this emphasis on money and stuff, our values often end up compromised. Values such as spending time with family and loved ones are very easily given up in favour of working or making money.
With all these confusing messages going around, how are we supposed to know what values are ‘good’ and what values are ‘not so good’?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what ‘good’ values are because these will be different for every person. However, my rule of thumb is that ‘good’ values tend to be more self-less, whereas ‘not so good’ values tend to be more selfish.
For me personally, some examples of ‘not so good’ values are:
- material items
When I quit my job, I was working way too much to make money that I was spending on things (rather than experiences). I was overly proud of the status that came with being a teacher at an elite international boarding school.
All of the goals I was setting were in service to money, things, and my position. These were all really bad values for me that led to a lot of bad decisions for my family and myself. As such, these are sensitive values for me that I have to work hard to avoid when setting goals and achieving them.
For me personally, examples of good values are:
- experiences (rather than things)
- spending time with family
If I can rewrite my goals so that they focus on these values, I know that I am working toward something that is truly important to me, regardless of what cool new Star Wars movie is coming out this month.
The Two Pieces of the Puzzle
In my experience, it is not enough to just set goals that are SMART. No matter how specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, or timely your goal is, you will never feel truly connected to it if you do not understand why your goal is important for you, your life, and the values that you hold.
Out of all the tips for setting goals, this is the most important one to focus on if you want to know how to set and accomplish goals.
With a good sense of the ‘why’ for the goals that you set for yourself, achieving the big, ambitious, life changing goals starts to feel more and more like a simple every day goal.
We get out of bed because it is part of a routine that is important to us. We eat healthy and exercise because we want to be able to keep up with our kids.
However, a big part of wanting something is actually putting in the effort to make it happen. Remember that you can do anything you put your mind to! There are so many different ways to keep yourself accountable to your dreams so that they actually start to manifest in your life.
- Take some time to look into the best manifestation methods to make your dreams become reality.
- Find your favorite motivational quotes about grit, perseverance, and determination to keep you going when it gets tough.
- Take stock of your limiting beliefs that you have about yourself and what you are capable of. What do you believe about yourself that may be holding you back?
- Most importantly, remember to make a plan to reach your goal!
Goal Planner Printable
One of the best ways to plan out your goals is to intentionally declare your why.
In our house, we use a goal planner printable that we created to help us with setting our goals.
We start with our goal, a start date, and a target date. Next, we take some time to think about the reasons why the goal is important to us. There is also spot for a motivational quote that will help us stay focused!
We then map out any obstacles that we think might get in our way, as well as an action plan for when we end up facing them.
There is also a spot for recognizing and celebrating successes and milestones along the way! This a helpful reminder that it is better to make slow progress than no progress!
What Do You Value?
After you turn off the TV, or put down your phone, or stop complaining about your job, listen to your heart. If you are able to tune out all of the noise, what you value is what remains. It is this that will help you the most when setting goals and achieving them.
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family on social media! Working together to achieve big crazy goals will keep you accountable!