Goal Creation — A Twist on the SMART Model
The SMART model is powerful, yet dated. See how this twist on goal creation can help drive businesses beyond their current limitations.
This post is part of 1 of a 4-part series. For part 2, click here.
It is estimated that less than 5% of people create goals for themselves. The other 95% work for the goal creators.
Where do you fit?
Goals and strategy go hand-in-hand with one another and are important elements to the success of any business because, without an idea of where we want to go, we won’t know which path to take. Without appropriate goals, we won’t have a benchmark to measure our successes, thus keeping us from the constant improvement needed to grow a successful business.
You will hear us say many times throughout our content that any effort without purpose is worthless and any purpose without measure is hopeless. And it isn’t just a set-it-and-forget-it approach either. Goal creation and strategy need to be part of a cyclical process, where each one is constantly reevaluated in order to maintain their relevance.
If you take appropriate measures in starting a business, there’s no doubt that you are going to have great success. Some successes will come quicker for some, but there comes a time, likely within the first year of being in business, that you will look back and realize that you really did it. You have actually created a real business. You’ve manifested a money-making entity that provides real value to the world. You sigh with relief and continue on.
Unfortunately, chances are that at this point you will become completely complacent in your business and it will fail. Now before you get worried, it doesn’t have to follow this trajectory. You aren’t destined for failure.
One of the many reasons that business fail is that the founders do not have clear goals in mind as to what success means to them and their self-congratulatory attitude leads to a static and dismal end. They have no end-goals in mind beyond conceptual objectives.
Their plans are without design and the business grows stagnant.
Chances are when they first started out, they weren’t as concerned with how to maximize value in their company and grow it into a sustainable business. They were likely more concerned with freeing themselves of a typical 9-to-5 or some other burden that was weighing them down. They wanted to feel free again.
Unfortunately, this is more common than you may think and is probably why 9 out of 10 companies fail before they are in business for 3 years. If you want to be the 1 out of 10 that does succeed, you have to have clear goals in mind and constantly evaluate and adapt to make sure your business is meeting its objectives. Furthermore, you need to evaluate whether or not your business is helping you reach your personal goals.
Before you start your online business, first decide what success means to you. If success to you means having $100,000 in the bank, free and clear of debt, then great—you have a clear understanding of what you need to work toward. We urge you however, to go beyond the money and think about what that money actually provides.
Is it financial security? Does it mean you get to spend more time with your family? What about the ability to stop trading hours for dollars? Whatever it is, it should be unique to you and should make you happy in all areas of your life. This will help your business grow over time and reach the profitability it needs to sustain over time.
With online businesses, you may find that there is a lot of overlap between personal goals and financial, or professional, goals. The main reason for this is that work-life balance doesn’t have to be a balance at all. Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that there is no work-life balance and that your life becomes your work. Happy entrepreneurs will tell you that they never work a day in their lives.
The online business we want you create isn’t one that’s solely designed to make money. Yes, money is part of the equation, but it’s merely a vehicle for what’s truly important. We want you to design a business for yourself that helps you live a life you love. After all, what is all the money in the world if you can’t enjoy it. Trust that the money will always follow.
The more passionate you are about your business, the easier it is to make money with as well. Since your business is about living a life you love, you will find that your dream “job” doesn’t feel like a job at all. In fact, part of creating a more meaningful life is about making money doing the things you already enjoy doing. This is one reason you will see a lot of grey areas between personal and professional goals.
If you’re already at this point in life, we applaud you and urge you to keep moving forward with it. If not, take the time to truly reflect on what really matters to you. If you’re caught in the habit of thinking about careers as “jobs”, try and rewire your thinking to understand that making money doesn’t have to be work. Once you are in that mindset and understand that you can make money doing things you love, it’s time to create goals that will help you achieve this level of success.
Ok, so we understand why we need to create goals, so let’s go over how to create them. How do you attain that life you want to live? What will it take to get there?
One method for goal creation that has been around for decades and still provides the best actionable guide for creating goals is S.M.A.R.T. Goals. The mnemonic acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each one of the elements provides actionable steps on how to create an effective goal.
We felt, however, that a couple of important pieces of this puzzle were missing—that goals should also be incremental and educational in nature. With that, we’ve added to the acronym and came up with S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goals.
Adapted directly from George T. Doran’s criteria, S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goals can be described as such:
Goals should be clear and unambiguous; without variations and clichés. To make goals specific, a business must know exactly what’s expected, why it’s important, who’s involved, where it’s going to happen and which attributes are important.
There needs to be concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable it is not possible to know whether a business is making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to help a company stay on track, reach its target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.
Goals must be realistic and attainable. Whilst an attainable goal may stretch a business in order to achieve it, the goal is not extreme. That is, the goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, since these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.
Goals must matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by 2pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your business, your family, your life will get that needed support. Relevant goals (when met) drive the business forward. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.
Goals must be grounded within a time-frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a business focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the S.M.A.R.T. Goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.
Goals must be incremental in nature, allowing them to be broken down into smaller, more attainable pieces. Incremental pieces give a business realistic measures of success that can be built upon in a gradual manner. This part of the S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overwhelming in nature. An incremental goal is intended to increase attainability.
Similar to the concept of vanity metrics, goals can be measurable and relevant without being educational, leading to less than optimal results. A goal of getting “1,000 total hits to your Website” can be relevant is is certainly measurable; however, it lacks any educational component. This part of the S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goal criteria is intended to make sure goals will provide actionable feedback to aid in incremental growth.
Once you have created your S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goals, it’s time to solidify them through positive reinforcement and evaluation. One of the biggest hurdles you will get over in life is getting over negative affirmations, or declarations that impede your success.
Goal creation is no different, so take the time to rewrite each S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goal in a way that projects a positive spin on the end result. Avoid using negative words or phrases like “can’t” or “not enough”. Instead of saying you “want a life where you don’t have to work so hard,” try rephrasing your goal to something like, “I want a life where I can truly enjoy the fruits of my labor” or “I want a career that I love that also allows me more time doing the things I enjoy.” You would be surprised at the power our subconscious minds have on our ability to get what we want.
Also, track your progress and evaluate where you are with your goals. If you find that haven’t reached them, simply reevaluate and create new goals. Goals are not benchmarks for failure or success and shouldn’t be treated as such. They are merely targets that we are working towards.
Finally, honor your accomplishments and acknowledge when you have reached your goals. Celebrate milestones and other major events by rewarding yourself for a job well done. This self-gesture will give your subconscious positive reinforcement for having reached your goals and will increase positive behavior over time.
To learn more about S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Goals and how to implement them into your business, check out our course, Launch Blueprint 2.0 — Online Business Made Easy. In next week’s post, we will learn how strategize your goals. To learn more about Launch Blueprint 2.0 and to get free tips, exclusive offers, and more, sign up for our free newsletter below.
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review (AMA FORUM) 70 (11): 35–36.