7 Proven Alternatives to SMART Goals

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Goals can be simple or complex… from choosing to start eating healthily, to committing your life to discovering a cure for a disease. The one thing they all have in common is that everyone has goals. You may not call it that, but if you set out to achieve something, it is a goal.

Unfortunately, it seems that fewer goals are reached than those that fall by the wayside, unrealized and unmet. This is because most people don't have a clear idea of exactly what they want, how they plan on getting there, or even why they want to meet that goal. That is where using a good goal plan to help you clarify your goals can help increase your chances success.

Once you have the correct goal, using things like journaling or vision boards can help keep you focused on the outcome. Goals don't get reached overnight, but with dedication and small victories each day, you will reach the place you want to be.

The first step in achieving any goal is to make sure you have a clear idea of what you actually want to achieve. One of the earliest attempts at creating a uniform goal-creation program was the SMART goal system, first made popular in 1981. Since then, millions of people have attempted to create viable goals with this system.

Today, we are going to take a quick look at the SMART goal system and discuss why many people find it doesn't work for them. We will then discuss several alternatives to SMART goals that have become popular.

Goals, like people, vary so much that it is rare to find one system that works with all of them. There is, however, a system among these that will suit your needs. Let's get started.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are based on applying five steps to the creation of goals in order to make sure they are viable. Each letter is one step.

Specific – Well-defined, clear goals answer the 5 W’s of who, what where, when, and why.

Measurable – Ask yourself what determines your progress? How will you know when you achieve your goal?

Achievable – Is your goal reachable? What resources/ abilities do you have at your disposal and what can you obtain? 

Realistic – Is it possible given the time and resources I have? Can I truly commit to what I need to achieve this goal?

Time-Bound – Do you have a timeline with clearly defined start and completion dates?

Why Some People Dislike SMART Goals

Times change and so do people. The goals attempted by this generation are often different than those of generations past. There are also different resources available.

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Some people dislike SMART goals because they believe that SMART goals are already outdated.

Many people believe SMART goals are outdated, but this isn't the only reason this method may not work for people today. Let's take a look at the other reasons that seem popular for seeking other goal-creation methods.

  1. Goals that are too achievable and realistic can prevent you from taking bold action. People need challenges to stay motivated.
  2. Being too specific can make you feel like a failure. Sometimes creating a window is more realistic. 
  3. A time goal doesn't always allow for other obligations. Life is full of things you need to do, not just one task.
  4. You need to account for glitches. Things very often don't go smoothly, and you need to figure out what will happen to keep you from being discouraged.
  5. This method doesn't often work in matters of personal growth, which is on a continuum.
  6. There is no mention of how the goal will be achieved.
  7. It can be stressful due to the restrictions involved.

SMART goals still have their place and can work in some situations…but when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, there are other proven methods you can turn to for setting and achieving your goals!

Alternatives to SMART Goals

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #1: CLEAR

The CLEAR goals system is great for group goals. These work for corporations, planning community events, or charitable organizations.

Collaborative – Is everyone involved?

Limited – Have you set time and financial boundaries?

Emotional – Is everyone emotionally invested in the goal?

Appreciable – Is the goal easily measurable?

Refinable – Can adjustments be made if necessary?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #2: DUMB

DUMB goals are for those big dreams that may take years to achieve. Think of something like turning your love of animals into a multi-acre dog rescue, complete with an onsite vet, plenty of exercise room, and space for a hundred dogs or more.

Dream – Are you being ambitious and reaching for the stars?

Uplifting – Does the goal energize you and make you feel positive?

Method-friendly – Can you break the bigger goal into manageable pieces?

Behavior-driven – Can you harness the power of habit to reach the goal?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #3: PACT

PACT goals fit perfectly with your life mission statement. This is a perfect plan for artists, writers, and photographers who wish to become well-known and loved throughout the world.

Purposeful – Is it relevant to your long-term purpose in life?

Actionable – Can you start working on this goal immediately?

Continuous – Is it flexible enough to keep repeating until you reach the goal?

Trackable – Can you record successes along the way to see your progress?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #4: WOOP

WOOP is for those who allow inner things to hinder their success. This was designed for kids in school but can also work for adults who have a tendency to self-sabotage themselves out of fear or low self-esteem.

Wish – Is this a feasible wish or goal?

Outcome – What do you see as the best possible outcome?

Obstacle – What inner obstacle, such as anxiety, could stop you?

Plan- How can you overcome the obstacle when it crops up?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #5: HARD

HARD goals are for pushing yourself to the limit. You recently broke your leg in several places and, you not only want to walk again, but want to eventually run the Boston Marathon.

Heartfelt – Are you completely emotionally invested in this?

Animated – Can you actually visualize yourself succeeding?

Required – What routines are required for success?

Difficult – Are you truly challenging yourself?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #6: GROW

GROW method helps identify obstacles in advance. Think of something like being a single parent who wants to get a PH.D. but must work full-time, take care of the home, and be there for your children. 

Goal – Is the goal specific and time-bound?

Reality – How realistic is your goal?

Obstacles- What obstacles are in your path to success?

Will – What will drive you through the obstacles to keep you from quitting?

Alternative Goal Setting Strategy #7: WISE  

WISE is a method for setting multiple goals. You want to become a wildlife photographer, buy land on the ocean to build your home, travel to all the continents, and start a family all within the next twenty years. Each goal is separate but must somehow work together to create the picture you see for your future.

Written – Have you set your goal on paper?

Integrated – Does it fit well with other goals you have set?

Synergistic – Can all your goals work together, or will they clash?

Expansive – Are your goals challenging enough to keep you motivated?

Bonus method: CLARITY

The CLARITY goal-setting method is very new and has yet to be tested over the long term. It does, however, show great promise and is included here to give you yet another option to realize success.

Crystal clear – Is your goal well-defined?

Linked – Is the goal linked to a bigger vision or an even larger goal?

Action-oriented – Do you have a plan on how you will go about achieving the goal?

Realistic – Is the goal achievable given enough time and resources?

Important – Are you invested emotionally in succeeding?

Time-bound – Have you set a time limit that is realistic and yet not too limiting?

Your why – Have you thought through your reason for wanting this goal and found it is yours and not something others expect of you?

Final Thoughts on Alternatives to SMART Goals

Goals can't be achieved by simply making them and then walking away… they are not a set and forget item on your to-do list. Using one of these methods to set, refine and make a plan is a great start. Success, however, will only be realized with time, persistence, and a lot of work.

It helps to start with smaller goals, so you get a feel for how the whole thing works. Eventually, you will find yourself ready to work toward Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

Some people may find it useful to combine the methods to ensure they include all aspects they are most comfortable with. Regardless of which method, or methods, you elect to use… once you have a goal in place, there are several tools to help you realize them.  The most commonly used include manifestation techniques, journaling and vision boards.

Over time, your goals may need to be adjusted and that is fine. Remember: You only fail if you don't try. If you need a bit of inspiration to get started, or keep going, check out these inspirational stories for motivation.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

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