Are Goals Really That S.M.A.R.T.?

Last week, I recommended an e-book about goals. It led me to some thinking about the process of making goals. There are some out there who don’t believe in setting goals, such as well-known Minimalist blogger, Leo Baubata, who wrote a post entitled “the best goal is no goal.” Leo even had a “showdown” with best-selling Author and Productivity expert, Tim Ferriss: “On Whether Goals Suck.” The former being opposed to goal-setting, and the latter basing entire books on goal-setting and accomplishing more things in less time (Tim Ferriss wrote The Four Hour WorkweekThe Four Hour Body, and The Four Hour Chef.)

I, myself, am somewhere in the middle. I think goals are great for short-term projects. To get some items done in a to-do list that have multiple steps, I think keeping the greater goal in mind helps motivate these mundane tasks. If you get lost in the minutae, you can become drained and lose sight of why you are doing something that is not your favorite thing to do, rather than focusing on the end result.

Goals for getting rid of debt, or saving toward a big purchase, are useful and using tracking programs like the one at can show your progress, building your confidence along the way.

“S.M.A.R.T. Goals” are defined in Wikipedia as:

The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.[1][2] It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty in setting them. The paper said “Ideally speaking, each corporate, department, and section objective should be:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related — specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
When you set goals, be “SMART.” Don’t just write down: “Get new car.” Write down smaller, manageable chunks, you can break this big goal down into, like, “research cars on Consumer Reports. Save $(amount) with for new car. Test drive cars, etc ...”

For the bigger dreams — the ones that get you up in the morning, but in the immediate, may feel far away — I think setting an intention is best. These are the kinds of things for which, at first, you are not sure quite how to achieve it, or how to get there. You know what you want, but the “hows” are not readily apparent. For example, if you have a dream of having a farm, but now, your life looks like you living in a Manhattan studio apartment, it can feel insurmountable. If you let yourself keep it a “dream,” rather than a “goal,” you can embark on a journey to get there that may not be so linear, and may have you get there in ways you could never imagine on your own.Admitting you don’t know “how” it will happen, starts you in a conversation (and by conversation, I mean researching, subscribing to blogs, and talking to people you know) about your dream being realized. If you get into goal-mode about this dream too soon, you may see the “how” as a way that seems too difficult, or will take too long, and get shut down early on, and give up on the idea completely. Setting an intention opens you up to the possibility of it happening in a way you can’t even imagine yet.Whether it’s goals that work for you personally, or writing down an intention and making a Pinterest board to inspire that vision, go easy on yourself. Get support. Connect, be content, and celebrate what you have accomplished already.

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