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How SMART Are Your Goals?

In the game of football or most sports games for that matter, goals are very important.  The whole game revolves around them and they are critical if you want to win. The same can be said for the game of life or the game of business.  With a sport like football (insert soccer if you prefer the non-American version) scoring (or reaching your goal) has very clear parameters.  You either are in the end zone or you are not.  The ball goes through the uprights or it doesn’t.   The soccer ball goes in the net or it does not. You stop the other team from scoring or you do not.

The criteria for success are very clear.  They are SPECIFIC, just like the S in SMART goals and MEASURABLE, just like the M.  There are specific actions which occur to meet those goals.  Plays are run, passes are attempted, sacks and tackles occur.  The whole game is action-based through ATTAINABLE steps with the end goal strategically in mind.  Every play designed by the coaching staff is RELEVANT to the goal, it is designed to further the action with the intent to score.  And everything that happens is inherently TIME-BASED, from every snap to every time out, to every 2 minute warning. If you want to understand SMART goals, just watch Football.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the game of business were as structured and the application of SMART Goals so easy.  Unfortunately, it is not.

When it comes to setting business goals the context is less predictable. So what you can do is create an effective structure within your business.  While it will never be as controlled as a sports event you can use SMART goals to define what a score looks like for you.   And like a successful football team (or soccer team, etc.) you can define your desired results with great detail (make them SPECIFIC).  You also need to go beyond articulating what the end result should be to defining what each critical, MEASURABLE step will be.  Once you capture this level of detail you will be able to ensure that each key step is doable (ATTAINABLE) before you begin implementation.  If it can’t be done with the results you want in the time frame (TIME BASED) needed, then it is not doable.  Change your plan.  If the actions you have planned will not, with an acceptable degree of certainty get you where you want to go then they may not be RELEVANT.  Then, once you have ALL the details in place, this is the pivotal question you need to always ask:  “will this get me where I want to go?  Can I score? “

Finally, the proof of the plan isn’t in the details.  It is in the practice of the key plays. The ultimate measure of a SMART goal isn’t just in working out all the details.  It is in the execution.  Just like on the playing field, plays don’t always execute the way they are planned, especially not the first time.  That is why teams practice them over and over again in varied circumstances until they get it right.  So, if you really want to have SMART goals that work, expect to spend a lot of time on execution.  Having SMART goals is a great start but it doesn’t guarantee the score.


  1. February 20, 2013    

    Great post and it’s so true that goals need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound)

    There is also a little technique you can use, if you have the courage that will almost guarantee the achievement of big goals and dreams. It is based on the idea of “social pressure”.

    Think about this; let’s say you have a goal to lose a certain amount of weight or achieve some desired level of fitness. You can set the goal privately and tell yourself, “I am going to achieve this goal by August 1.” On the other hand, you can make the goal public by telling all of your friends and family what you intend to do and even give a date for your desired completion.

    As soon as you take that goal public, you move into a different state of mind. No longer are you at the mercy of your own self-discipline (which has been tarnished by years of bad habits). Now you have a much more powerful force dictating your day to day actions and decisions.

    • Jill Jill
      February 20, 2013    

      Shanna, I agree totally. That is one of the biggest benefits of coaching as well. I have a coach who holds me accountable to my commitments, which is what I also provide for my clients. It doesn’t matter if you tell 2 people or two hundred. What matters is that the one you share your goals with will gently but firmly hold you to your word.

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