SMART isn’t very smart

This article begins with the question I regularly ask groups I work with. The question is: What is the definition of success?

Many people give answers like this:
◾Succes is achieving your goals
◾Succes is achieving your goals within the specified time
◾Succes is when others think that you have done well / your status increases

These answers alle make sense and not very long ago I might have given them myself. However, there is a problem assocoated with all these answers: What do these definitions imply for the goals you set?

They will probably make you set achievable goals, not too high. Otherwise you might end up as a failure. And nobody wants to be a failure. So we set achievable goals, and not ambitious ones, which only increase our chances of failure. Many people say goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

And now suppose you actually achieve this attainable, realistic goal. Will that make you feel successful? Probably not very much, since you obviously knew beforehand that it was feasible. Indeed, it is quite possible that you end up not reaching the attainable goal. For example, because you didn’t immediately start, since you figured there was still plenty of time. And how do you feel when you don’t reach an attainable? In any case, not successful. And the next time you will probalbly think better about your goal and make it even “more feasible”.

The root cause for all of this lies in our definition of success. I therefore call for a different definition, which is:

Success = 100% effort

You are successful if you give 100% of your effort. This means that you can easily set ambitious goals. As long as you give 100% effort, you are successful. Who knows, you might even reach your ambitious goal, that would make you feel fantastic. And even if you almost reach it, you will probably already have very good results.

High targetsIf you didn’t reach your goal, but you gave it your best, then you’re still successful. If you didn’t reach your goal and didn’t put in 100% effort, then you have indeed failed. And you will have no one to blame but yourself. What will you do next time? Give 100% effort!

It is also interesting to see how (small) children behave and when they cconsider themselves successful. For example, observe a child learning to walk. This is a quite ambitious goal, since he’s trying something he has never done before. And probably things aren’t going well immediately. How often does a child learning to walk fall? Perhaps 100 times. Does falling equal failing? Not as long as the child gets up to give 100% effort again. For children, this is a no-brainer, they would never consider falling as failure, they are immediately back on their feet and try again, and again, and again.

Thomas Edison invented how to light a lightbulb, after about- 10,000 failed attempts . He himself says: “I have not failed 10,000 times, I’ve found 10,000 ways in which a lightbulb does not light.” Most people smile when they read this, there may doubt whether Edison really meant this. I am convinced that he did, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried that long. Nobody wants to fail 10,000 times.

Thomas Edison continued to think in the same way as we did when we were little. The most natural and effective way of thinking in my opinion.

How do you set goals? Have you ever set a very ambitious goal and achieved it? And how did you feel? I’d like to hear from you!

For maximum results: keep it simple and fun,

Wil Konings 

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