Why SMART Goals Do More Harm Than Good by Karin Ulik

I was having a conversation this past weekend about how valuable it is to teach kids to set goals from a young age. The person I was speaking with expressed that she thinks it is helpful that her kids will be learning to set SMART goals in school this year.

For the love of Pete, I thought, please don’t teach my teen how to set goals for their life using this acronym!

In case you don’t know, SMART goals is a system where one sets a goal according to the acronym SMART. This system is associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept which allows managers to execute on their work one step at a time to allow for a calm, yet productive work environment.

This system mandates that goals should be (S) specific, (M) measurable, (A) achievable, (R) realistic and (T) time-bound. Sounds smart, right? It might be in an office environment around a very specific project that requires sharing the workload across a team.

Let me tell you why I think SMART goals do more harm than good.

It starts out okay. I can’t disagree that being specific and clear is a good idea when trying to determine the outcome you are trying to achieve. But it stops there.

Because sometimes goals aren’t measurable. Sometimes goals are more subjective, like when you have a goal to feel a different way. It’s difficult to place metrics on feelings.

Yet it’s perfectly acceptable to have a goal about changing how you feel about something or someone-such as improving how you feel within a relationship. Or improving your self-esteem. You know if you feel good about yourself, but it’s difficult to quantify. Either you do or you don’t.

Achievable and Realistic. Isn’t the point of a goal to stretch yourself? To go beyond what feels achievable and actually do what seems big and audacious and unrealistic?

If my teen told me about a goal she had, I would want to offer my help to support her and help her figure out how she could achieve it. I would never say, “Sweetie, do you really think you can do that? It’s just not realistic.”

When we encourage achievable and realistic goals, we are teaching you to play it safe and take the easy route.

Lastly, there’s time-bound. What happens if you don’t reach your goal in the time frame you set? Does that mean you failed? Should you give up and quit? Abandon what you may be very close to finishing just because you missed the deadline?

What if you set a goal to make the varsity team freshmen year of high school? Sure, this may seem unlikely, especially if they go to a big school. But you wouldn’t want to hear, “Good try but you missed your timely deadline so it’s time to quit.”

Or what if your goal is to be a doctor but you didn’t get accepted into medical school on your first application? Would you give up and find a different career? I highly doubt you would.

It’s more likely you would want to hear, “Don’t give up. It’s not too late. Stick with it, you’ll get there. Let’s talk about what else you can do.”

Failure is not just okay. It’s necessary. You learn from failure. It makes you better so that you can achieve more. It increases your tenacity. Failure teaches you what you’re made of.

I know, it’s hard to fail. But guess what? You don’t have to be afraid. You can handle it. You know from past experience that while failure is disappointing, it can also be motivating.

So don’t be afraid to fall down. You’ll get back up. Ask for help when you need it. But you need to feel the experience. Just like when you learned to walk. Only now you can articulate your feelings.

Set big goals and dream bigger. Then, create an action plan and the habits that will help you achieve it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear about the goals you’re setting this school year.

SKN_2.15_PVAbout the Author: Karin ULIK, Monthly Mentor and life coach, helps teens define who they are, what they want and take action to live the lives they truly want to live. As a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader and coach, Karin is dedicated to helping busy families avoid the trial-and-error she experienced in her own life. Her programs teach and inspire busy families to realize their potential and transform their lives. Read More…

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