For reminder SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time sensitive. And it sounds great! Everyone should plan their goals this way, right?
It’s something that is often sold by consulting companies because it sounds good, but real life doesn’t really align with it. Let me explain.
Let’s start by deconstructing the SMART elements.
There isn’t much to start with. If you have a goal, its specific to you. If you want to run a marathon its specific. But it you run to run better, faster, or further, it’s also specific. You want to learn how to draw: that is specific. If it wasn’t specific, their wouldn’t be a goal.
This is where it starts getting a bit more complicated. How do you measure something you don’t know much about, because your goal is to learn it, if you already knew about it you wouldn’t need to set a goal. How do you measure learning how to draw? You cant, just like many other things. So if you cant measure it, does it mean you shouldn’t do it?
The point of setting ambitious goals is not knowing if they are achievable. And, again, if you are starting and don’t know much about the subject, there is a good chance it doesn’t seem achievable, or worst, that other people are telling you its impossible. The curiosity of discovering if something is achievable is often what allows us to expand our limits. Running a marathon will always seem impossible to you until you actually finish one.
If you are setting a goal, it is obviously relevant to you. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be called a goal. If you don’t want to run a marathon, it just isn’t your goal.
This is the same problem as for measurable. How can you know how much time it is going to take you to achieve a goal you haven’t achieved yet? You just can’t. You could find some estimation from other people. But you’re experience will be different, your skills, abilities, you life is different from others. So there is no way of knowing how much time it will take you, until you actually accomplished your goal.
So SMART goals never work?
SMART goals can work in a very specific condition: you need to have already achieved this goal in the past and you are repeating what you have done before. Only in this way can you know if its Achievable, how to Measure it, and how much Time it will take.
For everything else, its normal not to know. It’s ok to doubt. It’s ok to change and adapt your goal. That is how we learn. That is how we grow.