Why S.M.A.R.T Goals Can Sometimes Be Dumb?

Why Smart goals don’t work? Let’s find out the answer.

As you’ve already been aware of, setting goals is important. And you’re probably familiar with the concept of Smart Goals. “Smart” is an acronym for ideas, tactics, or methods that are developed to be

S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Achievable
R: Relevant / Realistic
T: Time

It is easy to see how you would expect Smart goals to work best when you are trying to reach a well-defined target under a steady-state situation. Where you can see the target as realistic and the progress within your control, they are great for providing short-term direction and planning progress toward a long-term goal.

But when should you abandon them?

It is dangerous to apply Smart goals to every pursuit. For people who are aiming for big dreams that venture into new territories, or organizations that truly want to achieve greatness, especially in a dynamic environment, Smart goals are often inadequate, and sometimes detrimental.

S.M.A.R.T goals put a limit on your infinitive ability

Let’s throw some lights on 2 attributes: Achievable, Realistic

The human mind has got infinite potential. If we think whether our goals will be achievable or not, or if we think our goals would be realistic or not, then, we are putting a limit on what we can achieve in life.

Do successful people set S.M.A.R.T goals? They seem not to.

Bill Gates would not have been able to be the richest man in the world if he would have put limits on his dreams. Remember, he started his company in a Garage. Do you think Bill Gates would have thought that his goal is unachievable?

Anthony Robbins would not have been such a successful motivational speaker if he had put limits on his dreams and Goals, Remember, He was a janitor before he became a motivational speaker and author. Do you think Anthony Robbins would have thought that his goal is unachievable?

I believe if we assess whether our goal is realistic or achievable or not, then we are actually putting a limit on our thinking. History is witness to the fact that no great invention could ever be created if people had put a limit on their thinking.

Giving up too soon

A Smart goal can be discouraging, before or after the goal is reached. Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I don’t have time,” when excusing yourself for not doing what you had planned for that day?

Time management is one of the most popular applications of Smart Goals. When you think about allocating time to a certain task, it’s often in terms of all-or-nothing.

Smart goals are viewed as complete entities, and when you are unable to do everything as planned, you may become discouraged and give up the entire goal.

When a Smart goal is the sole focus of your hard work, it often becomes a negative incentive. When all eyes are on that Smart goal, people and organizations lose sight of their achievements and the fulfillment of the journey.

I once watched a very interesting TED Talk Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED, and he said:

If you want to achieve your goals, don’t focus on them

S.M.A.R.T Goals are too complex

People see too many attributes to consider in a Goal when applying this philosophy. A lot of people already shy away from writing down their goals. So, when it comes down to writing down their goals, that use the attributes mentioned in the SMART philosophy, people actually find it a bit difficult and complex.

Consequently, they either tend to create a goal that does not have SMART attributes or they don’t write down their goal at all. Whereas we all know that writing down goals is very important and smart people do that.

man grabbing his head

I believe choosing five attributes for creating a goal might become too much for some people. The intellectual level of everyone is different. No one wants to get into such a complex thing as choosing 5 attributes for writing down their Goals.

Try this formula instead

Goals should be such that they help the person ACT upon them and here comes the simple Goal Setting Formula – ACT

A: Assessable

When a person writes down his Goals, he needs to make sure that he is able to assess the progress towards the goal; therefore, the goal statement must contain some quantifiable/measurable term that can be used to assess progress towards the goal.

Example: I want to reduce 10 Kg in next 3 months

Here, 10 Kg is the quantifiable/measurable term through which progress can be assessed

C- Clear

The goals should be as crystal clear as possible. Clarity helps give a direction to what exactly we want to achieve through our goal. Better clarity will induce more vivid images of Goal in the mind of the person who is creating the Goal. More vivid images will motivate the person to further achieve his goal.

Let’s see how adding clarity to a goal statement helps:


  • I will save enough money so that I can travel to my favorite destination next year.
  • I will save enough money so that I can travel to Greece next year
  • I will save 100,000 $ so that I can travel to Greece next year
  • I will save 100,000 $ by March 15, 2011 to go to Greece in April 2011 for a vacation of 10 days.

Which of the above statements is the best for goal setting? I guess you’ve chosen the right one.

T- Time Bound

This is one of the most important aspects to keep in mind while creating a Goal. If a time frame is not attached to a goal, it doesn’t have a sense of importance and urgency attached to it. A goal needs to be time-bound and must have a deadline attached to it. Why? It is because a ‘someday’ approach doesn’t work.

If your boss tells you, I will pay you ‘someday’; will you work for him anymore?

You will only be able to achieve your goal if you have attached a deadline for it.

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