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Beyond SMART Goals

A New Standard has Emerged: IDEAL

Since 1981, SMART has been the go-to model for planning goals, and deserves respect for its contribution to the subject.  However, as we evolve—be it through our ideas, technology, or anything else—, the former gives way to the improved, more useful, and more beneficial.  We’re long overdue for an upgrade in our knowledge about how to plan and achieve goals.


While SMART was useful in its time, we need to account for additional and different requirements for success, as we understand the concept today.   Let’s quickly review each aspect of SMART as it was most widely understood:


  • A SMART goal was specific. Yes, your goal must be specific. However, a specific goal is not sufficient when planning your success. A specific goal is not enough – it needs also to be actionable.  Actionable goals have answered how—through what steps—success is possible.


  • A SMART goal was measureable. Being “measurable” is not relevant to all goals, such as a goal to “start a business,” for example. Instead, if measurability is not applicable to your goal, consider your progress in terms of what may be verified. Verifiable progress toward a goal might involve a checklist. If you had a goal to start a business, for example, you might list everything required in order for you to launch – to be in business. Each item on your checklist might represent a verifiable accomplishment that contributes to the success of the goal, and might include: obtain a business license; open a business account; register a domain name and create a website; etc. Each step moves you toward your goal, and is verifiable. 


  • A SMART goal was achievable. How do you know if your goal is achievable? Imagine trying to achieve something not previously attempted.  It might be more useful to have an explanation for the means by which you will attempt your goal; that is, it is more useful to define your process. By defining your process, you’ll have the benefit of a predetermined, step-by-step course for your success.


  • A SMART goal was relevant. If we set a goal, don’t we believe it has relevance?  Of course! Instead of relevance, the focus should be on motivation. If your motivation to pursue a goal is unclear to you or somehow problematic, you could face challenges to persist and succeed.  On this point about motivation, it may be worthwhile to think beyond the apparent reason for your goal. In addition to knowing the “why” for your goal, also identify your why-not, which is the set of potential reasons for how you could fail to achieve your goal. If you don’t know how you might fail, then you cannot be fully prepared to succeed.


  • Finally, a SMART goal was time-bound. But not all goals are or need to be deadline-driven. Imagine a company that has a goal to increase sales by 25% within a year.  How useful is that time-frame to the work that needs to be done this month, or this week, or today?  Instead of setting some distant endpoint, think of time in terms that are useful, as building blocks, or increments of opportunity to advance, and focus on what progress means, and requires, now—today. Consider the difference between a far-off goal—such as to increase sales by 25% over the course of a year—and the work required to accomplish that goal. Instead of a remote goal, think of your plan to increase sales in terms of what needs to be achieved this month, or by the results that you need this week from your various sales activities. 



Key Point: It's time for an upgrade in our knowledge about planning goals. There is a new and more useful way to think about, and prepare for, success.  Let's talk about IDEAL, the most natural course for our development and the achievement of our goals.


Learn how to apply IDEAL to achieve your personal or business goals by reading IDEAL: Step-by-Step, now available for FREE when you join the Achievers community. Learn more here.



Achieve Your Goals

Now available! Get the article inspired by the groundbreaking book Achieve.  Learn how to support your ability to succeed at what's important to you—in your life or for your business. Download the PDF now when you join the Achievers community for continued support of your goals.    

IDEAL Article by Steven Robert Young
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