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SMART goals, achieving more the smarter way

Updated on September 20, 2016

The S.M.A.R.T. Model

I recently took up one of Dr. Richard Feenstra’s courses focusing on the SMART model – “Achieve More in Less Time Using SMART Goals” - and I must say that I gained much insight in his version, no scratch that, more like vision of it. ;)

Dr Feenstra mentions that in reality we often are in pursuit of multiple goals, not single goals in isolation, and I totally agree with that statement! He then goes on to address the aspect of goal setting by using the following SMART Model acronym:

  1. Specific: be precise in what you want to achieve
  2. Measurable: quantify performance and outcomes
  3. Actionable: state next actions and milestones
  4. Relevant: determine priorities
  5. Time Bound: develop feedback loops and time lines

The aim of this article is not to go into details about the SMART model because that information can be found in his course online, but instead to focus upon the errors that most people commit, whether consciously or subconsciously when they commence their goal setting. What most people do not realise is they usually end up not achieving their goals because they failed to realise they were executing their goal setting the wrong way, and not because the system failed to do its job. In the next section, you will be introduced to the common errors that people make when setting goals and hopefully it creates an awareness during the goal setting phrase.

Error #1: Not writing down your goals

One of the biggest errors that people make is they do not document them. Dr Feenstra mentions that not writing a goal down reduces the chances of one feeling motivated to continue and follow through, and the time it takes to accomplish the goal takes even longer to a point where it eventually gets forgotten.

Error #2: Having too many goals

I must admit this is one of my issues. I seem to have too many goals at one time that need to be addressed upon, PRONTO! Haven't you been in that situation before? Dr Feenstra addresses this by telling us to focus on “Relevant” or “R” on the SMART spectrum. In other words, we need to focus on narrowing down our goals, so that even if we have plenty of them, we are only pursuing a few of them at a given time.

Error #3: Goals in only one area

Another error is only having goals is one area of one’s life (such as career), while omitting other personal, spiritual or community goals.

Error #4: Not keeping goals visible

Here, Dr Feenstra talks about the issue of not keeping goals visible. For instance, if one decides to document these goals which ends up keep in a folder or somewhere that it is not going to be viewed at regular intervals, there is a tendency that one will forget these goals, and higher chances of leading to reduced levels of success.

Error #5: Not establishing stretch goals

Another area that is usually left out of the picture is not stretching our goals – or simply not getting out of our comfort zone, and that we need to focus on what is “actionable” or “relevant” rather than “achievable” or “realistic” when using the SMART format.

Error #6: Not identifying the next action

Another common problem is not being able to identify the next action or next step. Dr Feenstra recommends using “actionable”. He stresses that It is merely not enough just to document a goal. Instead, one needs to know what step one will have to take next if one wants to achieve success. In other words, you need to take ACTION !

Error #7: Not aligning goals with your vision

The last common error that needs highlighting is the inability to align goals with one’s vision or personal brand. According to the Value-Effort matrix for “Relevant” (see image below), vision is “situated” in the right hand corner (well, not the word literally). In this context, he means one has to ensure that one pursues not only one’s most relevant goals but that all of one’s goals align with one’s vision.

Relevant: Value-Effort matrix

In conclusion

The SMART model is a systematic means to achieving one’s goals. While it is not the solution for all challenges we face in life, it is a means to establishing and monitoring goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time bound. However many find it a struggle to achieve their goals due to common errors. Awareness of these errors allows one to eliminate them, and enables one to practice setting SMART goals, the smarter way to enhance and improve one’s life.


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