The SMART Goals Method

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The SMART principle for goal setting is one of the most popular and long term goal tools that many of us know of in the west. It has been developed as a practical basis for any planning process. Following this principle is said to help you create goals that can be achieved. SMART is an acronym. The letters of the acronym are shown in the following list.

S = Specific 

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Time-restained 

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Recently there has been many studies on SMART goals, and how effective they are. What was found is that although they do work for some, many people use the principle of SMART to create goals but then don’t actively work on achieving them.

However, neuroscientists are finding that some SMART goals that feel realistic and are achievable aren’t actually worth working towards for the individual. Ironic?

Even if your goal is smart (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), your brain will find ways to sabotage your best-laid plans. Why?

Goals often aren’t achieved because it’s easier for us to continue to do what we’ve been doing rather than make changes and take steps towards our goals. Changes feel hard, and for us to achieve our goals, we often have to change our behaviours, and changing behaviours starts with changing the way we think. Often, people are not ready to follow through with the required mental habits needed to achieve the set goals.

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Frankly speaking, taking consistent action to change your habits can be pretty challenging in spite of how motivated you are. If you want to achieve your desired goals, you must take deliberate, consistent actions repeatedly over time to condition your brain to make new mental habits that will support you in implementing actions that will enable you to achieve your goals.

For example, hundreds of people make commitments at the start of the year to better their health, their fitness, their life in general. Speak with them a month later and ask them how their new year’s resolution is going, and the most likely response is one of a lack of action towards the goal.

Change is desirable for all, but not all make conscious efforts to achieve the desired change. To create new behavioural habits, you need to feed your brain daily with the information proof that your goal is achievable and worth the effort. Without the informative proof, your brain will provide justifications for not changing and give you reasons for lowering the value standard of the goal. For example, you are better at justifying why you can’t achieve your goal today rather than setting aside whatever you are doing in order to meet up with your commitment.

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Another reason why SMART GOALS do not appear achievable and realistic is that we don’t always have the emotional buy-in we need. Decisions are made in the emotional section of our brain, not the logical section; as a result, we need to be emotionally invested in the goal in order to drive the changes we need to make in order to achieve our goals. In the case of the Wright brothers (the inventors of the aeroplane), they were emotionally invested in their mission (it was a passionate dream) to achieve their goal of developing the first aeroplane.

In contrast, the Wright brothers’s competitor; Langley was said to be driven by surface-level motivators such as education, ego, money etc. It could be said he did not have the emotional buy-in required to push him in the direction of achieving the mission and purpose surrounding the set goal.