When NOT to do SMART goals, and what to do instead (a personal example)

Goals

December 28, 2023

Goal-setting season is upon us so you may be breaking into a new journal and reflecting on what kind of goals to set for the year.

This is a time I like to start looking back on the year – pulling out my learnings, savouring my achievements and drafting my goals for the new year.

I absolutely love reflecting and analysing on how things worked out.

Especially goals.

When we make goals in January, it can sometimes feel like shouting wishes into the abyss.

Who knows what happens to them once we release them?

Will they take on a shape and grow wings, or will they evaporate into the air, never to be seen or spoken of again?

So I think when goals do work out, it is my duty to have a sit down interview with them and ask them ‘how the heck did you do it?’.

That way, we can try applying the same methodology to the next batch of goals.

Which brings me to an interesting goal I set this year….

The Goal

Why this goal was ‘interesting’ is because I didn’t make it a SMART goal.

If you’re not sure what a SMART goal is, here’s the cheat sheet.

A lot of people will tell you that in order to achieve your goals you need to make them SMART.

I disagree.

Some goals, like working out and being healthier, do benefit from being broken down into specifics.

But other goals are more exploratory.

You need time to play around with them and not put deadlines on them before you can feel them out.

That’s what this goal was.

My goal was to write better and read more.

Normally, if you presented a goal that had the words ‘better’ or ‘more’ to a coach, they would ask you to be more specific.

This is so we can measure it – so we know if we’ve achieved it.

Otherwise, how do we know when to celebrate?

But I didn’t want that much pressure on this goal because with creative endeavours, you have to go gently.

You have to make creativity feel safe to come out and be itself.

If you start putting deadlines and numbers on it, you may scare it. It may feel like it’s back at school, being judged by someone else’s subjective measures.

No, creative goals need freedom to grow, fall and pause.

‘But how do they ever get accomplished?’ you may wonder.

Well let’s see how my one managed it.

The Journey

First goal: write better

I wanted to have a richer vocabulary to pull from and to be able to articulate my ideas in new ways.

I asked the most eloquent people I knew how I could write better – what course should I take?

They told it to me straight – you just need to read more.

Right.

Start with the basics.

Seemed obvious, why didn’t I think of it?

It’s because our mind loves to complicate things.

When you have a big problem, you always feel like the solution needs to be big too and so you underestimate the power of going back to basics.

Reading more

Before this year, my reading consisted of 95% non-fiction and 5% fiction. 

Clearly, this was the source of my problems with my limited vocab. 

I was learning new words, but they were all related to psychology and not the more flowery and poetic side of the English language. 

But what to read?

The only fiction I had enjoyed was Agatha Christie-type books.

So that’s where I headed – towards cosy mysteries. 

It worked. 

I was reading more. 

I discovered new authors. 

It was all going along…..’nicely’. 

Serendipity

By August, I had read 7 fiction books. 

Which, I can tell you, was a lot more than the previous year. 

So I had no complaints and no reason to change my tactic. 

Until…

I ran out of books when I was on holiday. 

I’d read all the ones I brought with me, so my sister helped me out and lent me a book she had discovered through Bookstagram.

It wasn’t my usual genre. 

In fact, it was a genre I hadn’t read before – fantasy. 

But I needed something for the 17 hour flight back so I gave it a go. 

Records were broken

Since that fateful moment, I have read…neigh, DEVOURED, 10 books in just under 4 months. 

TEN!

I’ve gone from reading 0.8 books a month, to reading 2.8 books a month. 

That is WILD to me. 

Patterns were changed

Now I’ve found books I look forward to curling up with.

Now I can see that the cosy mysteries, whilst they were ‘nice’, they were just that. 

They weren’t world-building, mind-expanding, heart-rending. 

They didn’t stretch my imagination and tantalise my mind in the ways these books did. 

Before, I would read when I found the time. 

Now, I create time to read. 

Lessons learnt

My learnings from this goal are:

Goals can move at their own pace – Just because it feels like a slow burn, doesn’t mean you won’t have a surprise plot twist at month 8 of the year.

Keep an open mind – Otherwise I would never have discovered fantasy.

The plan comes together when the goal is aligned – found the time to read when the books I was reading lit up my mind. If you’re not making time for something, then see if you need to change that something.

Over to you

Are there any goals you need to make sure aren’t SMART?

Have you made sure you’ve set exploratory goals for yourself this year?

As ever, if you need help with clarity on goals and direction, I’m here.

Ready to get coached?

Coaching gets to the root of the problem fast. So if you’re done with the reading, the podcasts and the delaying of your happiness, and you want to confront those fears, then let’s work together. 

It’s always easier, more enjoyable and way less scary to work on yourself with an expert by your side, than it is going solo. 

Let’s do this. BOOK A FREE BREAKTHTROUGH CALL and let’s get started.

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