I have been taught for my whole life that I needed to make SMART goals; Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. I’ve been taught to work towards things in life in small, measurable, logical steps and it seemed to make sense for a long time.
You need to be realistic.
You need to do the safe thing.
You need to think logically.
And I did for 25 years. I made small, simple and straight forward goals and I met them. I got that degree, I saved money, I lost those 10 lbs, and then I lost them again and again and again.
I did what I was supposed to do so why did I feel like I really hadn’t achieved anything? Whenever I reached a SMART goal I would be proud of myself for a day or two but after that initial feeling wore off all I could see was what I hadn’t yet achieved.
If I lost ten pounds, I needed to lose 5 more. If I saved $1000, I needed to save $5000. If I finished a semester of university I had 3 more to go (I did 12 total!).
It was never enough; I was working towards things I thought would make me happy but never did. I was living for the future; when I get that car I’ll be happy, when I get that job I’ll be fulfilled when I lose that weight I’ll be confident.
When never came. When just led to another goal that just HAD to bring me the feelings I was hoping for.
Have you ever been there? Working towards the kinds of goals you were told to make without truly achieving the feeling you were after?
Human beings are motivated by feelings. It’s not the money, it’s not the perfect body, it’s not the recognition that we are after, it’s the feelings that these things give us (or the feelings we THINK we’ll get).
Contentment, confidence, freedom, joy, happiness. We are looking for these things in the mirror, the gym or our bank accounts but I’ve finally realized that we can’t find it there.
It turns out I didn't want to be skinny, I just wanted to be happy.
Achieving a small, logical, measurable goal won’t finally allow you to relax, it won’t allow you to feel at peace in your life. These small achievements are often useful for certain aspects of life, like finishing a big project at work, for example, but banking on them to bring you the feelings you want is wishful thinking.
So what are SMART goals, why don’t they work and what can we do instead?
S – Specific Traditional goals are extremely easy to pinpoint. The issue with specific goals is that they make us think small, which is fine for the times when you need to get something done but are useless when it comes to changing your life.
Example: Lose 10 lbs
This is also a problem because many specific goals are largely out of our control and making a goal that we cannot completely control is a recipe for failure. Many people think that weight is something we have control over but it is quite the opposite. You have a set weight point where your body will fight tooth and nail to stay at, we have metabolisms that vary and calorie labels and estimations are usually 20% off which makes calorie counting nearly impossible (and very ill advised so please don’t do it!)
M – Measureable Goals that you can measure are often superficial. You can’t measure feelings, emotions or breakthroughs but we can measure weight, money, and material achievements so we figure this is the most responsible thing to be working towards.
Example: I can weigh myself and see a number.
A – Attainable This means assessing what your limitations are and what might make this impossible or highly unlikely. SMART goals have barriers and limitations built into them. Is this something that will change your life? No.
Example: I am injured and won’t be able to exercise and have little access to fresh food. (So maybe I should set a different goal).
R – Relevant Is your goal something you want to achieve? This point is slightly condescending and often misconstrued. “Do you really want this?” sounds like more of a discouragement to me than it does a prompt for a thought provoking inner contemplation.
Example: Yes, I do want to lose weight. (Most of us think we do, we think this is what will make us feel good about our bodies, it’ll make us confident and beautiful).
But when we dive deeper into whether this goal will really bring us the feelings we are aiming for, it is often not the case.
T – Timely People figure that if you put a due date or a finish line on a goal you’ll be more apt to achieve it in a timely manner. Is this what you want though? Something that just gets going and once you start achieving success you are done?
Example: I lost 10 lbs in 2 months, now I’m done… (After 2 months of restriction this will likely end in a binge, diet cycle).
Instead try SMORE goals *I will list them out of order o you can go through the steps in the correct order to reassess your goals for 2017:
M – Meaningful Creating a superficial goal because I think that that will bring me happiness, confidence or contentment is a waste of time. Getting straight to the source of how I want to feel will allow me to reach my goal in a more honest way
1. Assess your initial goal and keep asking yourself why you want that until you reach a deeper feeling or desire.
I want to lose ten pounds --> So I look good in my bikini --> So I feel beautiful --> So I can finally be happy with who I am
2. It is rare that a person cannot achieve the end feeling even if they skip all the steps before it. You don’t need to lose weight to find happiness. Cultivating that feeling of happiness, contentment, or confidence will get you MUCH further in life than seeing a smaller number when you step on the scale ever will.
S – Specific Being specific is fine but I don’t believe the overall goal needs to be specific, just the path to how you’ll get there.
Example: I want to feel confident in my body.
This is a vague goal but in order to actually achieve this big goal I need to make a list of specific things that make me feel more confident in my body.
My specific activities:
- Lifting weight
- Wearing clothes that fit me properly
- Do my makeup and hair
- Realizing what my body DOES instead of what it looks like (Gratitude journaling)
- Wear sexy underwear
O – Ongoing When a goal has a finish line it is likely that you’ll rebound the other way when it’s done. For instance, if you diet, when it’s over you’ll binge. If you save, when you finish, you’ll splurge. It’s human nature. So if you create a goal that you enjoy working towards forever more than you’ll be set (and it will also reach a point where it is second nature and you won’t need to think about it anymore).
Example: If your goal is to be happier than you won’t want that to end and it’ll be fun to work on.
R – Realistic Wishing for things won’t get you anywhere. Yes it would be nice to win a million dollars or have that perfect body forever but these things just aren’t going to happen. The good news is that that’s ok! They won’t bring you those feelings you’re after anyways, right?? Feeling good is always possible for everyone!
E – Enjoyable If you are dreading the steps it will take to reach your goal, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stick with it. Being miserable doesn’t mean you’re getting somewhere, it just means you’re miserable. Choose to work towards your goals in ways you like!
Example: I cannot wait to do all these activities that will make me happier every day!
Imagine yourself letting go of the petty, meaningless New Year’s Goals this year. Doesn’t that feel invigorating?
Instead let’s change the way we feel and finally live the life we’ve been working towards.
The good news is that it really is easy to change your life in a big way when you go about it the right way.
I’m here to coach you through it. For free!
If you are interested in making a New Year’s Resolution this year that will change your life, come join our free New Year’s Challenge starting January 2nd.