Because there’s been so much emphasis in the personal development world on goal setting, the idea of the “SMART” goal is probably something that you’ve heard about.
Admittedly, it’s a decent formula to provide clarity on any given specific goal, and therefore not completely broken (although I do prefer to use the SMARTER goal template myself).
What is broken, however, is your ability to choose appropriate goals. And by this, I mean goals that don’t set you up for failure.
The most commonly selected type of goal is an achievement goal.
Let’s briefly go over the characteristics of an achievement goal:
-Highly definable project or accomplishment
-Represents a “big win”
-Often represents a dramatic amount of progress or change.
Examples of an achievement goal can be hitting a certain body-fat percentage, writing a book, winning a competition, or making a certain amount of money.
Let me be very human: if I suddenly had a lower body-fat percentage, was a published author, won a dramatic competition, and increased my income, I’d feel pretty darn accomplished! So why don’t you or I have multiples of these things? We set goals, right? (Hint: it’s probably not because we’re lazy, untalented, stupid, or discriminated against).
Here’s the HUGE caveat of achievement goals: IF an achievement goal is outside of your current capacity to work at it consistently and relentlessly and recover from that work, it will fail. Bar none.
-If you don’t exercise regularly and intensely, eat well, and get enough sleep you will not lose fat.
-If you’re not currently a writer, you won’t get that book published.
-If you’re not competing, you won’t win a competition (in whatever it’s in)
Achievement goals tend to hit people’s excitement button.
They get whipped up into a short frenzy and then they cannot sustain that level of effort. This is directly related to the Motivational-Guilt Cycle.
Achievement goals have a way of accessing our personal sense of worth and when used improperly lead to burn-out, a sense of guilt, and a fixed mindset.
Goal set, goal failed, nothing learned.
And often without even really getting started!
Be cautious of selecting an achievement goal.
The appropriate time and place is when:
-You already have proven skill and capacity in the functional area.
-You already have systems, structure, and accountability surrounding it (think, it can’t possibly fail from your daily routine).
-You only have 1-2 other achievement goals in place across your whole life. That’s probably pushing the boundaries, too.
-The path to success is clear-cut, not subjective or metaphorical, or dependent on too many factors outside your control.
NEXT TIME: let’s talk behavioral goals.
This is where 90% of our efforts need to be.