SMART goals are dumb. So are SMARTER goals.
There. I said it.
Before you go grasping your pearls, I think goals are valuable. Our brain needs pursuing something to feel excited and engaged in our life. Goals help us in the pursuit.
But, our culture has gone a bit crazy. Google can’t even catalog the number of results when you search “how to set goals.”
And while components of the SMART goal are helpful, I fear we have latched onto The. Right. Way. to set a goal will solve all our problems. My friend and productivity expert, Emily Perron, taught me that the SMART goal isn’t even designed for individuals! So let’s find a better way.
Last week, I said meaningful goals start with values and beginning small. This week, I want to explore the deeper question, What are you trying to achieve with goals?
Or maybe, what are you trying to unbecome?
These are the questions the Enneagram helps us see. Your Enneagram personality type has its own narrative that helps you make sense of the world. Your personality is trying to keep you safe, but it’s often feeding you untruths that have become so calcified, you believe that is “just who you are.” And those stories block lasting change.
Whenever you are working with personality stories, you are talking about unbecoming or unlearning. And when you are setting goals, it’s no different. You need to unlearn your personality’s way of working. This process will help you not only set the right kind of goals, but actually do the hard work of achieving your ultimate desire: creating change.
Goal-Setting Truths for Each Enneagram Type:
Your story is all about control. Not that you need to control others, but you don’t want others controlling you. So in your natural ability to see what needs to be done and solve the problem, goals aren’t typically hard for you. But what likely comes up, is your bent toward intensity. Pushing to the extremes in setting the target and achieving the goal seemingly prevents you from being controlled by anyone. But it actually puts you at risk because you push past what you can actually do alone. You are stronger when you see your limits.
“I can simply do, not overdo.”
You tell yourself the story that harmony and comfort matter more than what you really want. Your plodding along toward your goal is your superpower until you face the kryptonite that your goal could possibly inconvenience someone else (which could create conflict and disconnection…) See that story? You don’t have to justify your goals to maintain harmony.
“My goals matter to me. And that is enough.”
You’re like, I got this! Goals and lists and plans are your jam. True, but the story you can get trapped in is: “I’m not good if I’m not perfect.” Which leads you to search for the perfect goals to improve yourself or setting rigid goals that will lead you to failure. Your goodness is not at stake when setting goals (no matter what your inner critic tells you) So set goals with built-in flexibility and remember there is no perfect goal.
“I am good without being perfect.”
Your big story is others’ needs are more important than mine. This means you miss achieving your goals because every interruption feels like it’s more valuable than what you planned for yourself. It’s easier to believe you have to help other people than to follow through with your commitment to yourself. It’s not selfish for you to take care of your needs and set goals just for yourself.
“I can prioritize myself.”
You set goals and crush them. So why am I even talking to you? Because your story is “I’m not worth anything if I don’t succeed.” This leads you to setting goals that look good, but aren’t always what you value. And even when you do set goals for just you, you chase those goals with relentless fervor and move on to the next goal as soon as you’ve achieved it. Which leaves you empty because you’re hustling for your worth and no accomplishment will fill that.
“My worth is from my humanity. Not what I accomplish and achieve.”
Your goals are gorgeous and lofty. The dreamer of dreams, you are. What you get stuck in is the story of authenticity. Because while your visions are deeply connected to who you uniquely are, the day-in and day-out work of achieving any beautiful vision gets tedious. Implementation feels like what other people do, not what you do, so you feel like it’s inauthentic. And then your envy kicks in because other people are able to achieve their goals with ease. (Again, see that story! Everyone has to work hard to achieve their goals.) So for you, you must connect to action, even when your emotions don’t align.
“I embrace the daily steps toward my best self.”
You love the planning and the research. But your story that blocks you is about competency. The belief that you must have all the knowledge to be safe. This story leads you to well-researched, detailed goals with intricate plans to work toward those goals. And it keeps you stuck in inaction. Because goals, by nature, involve places of growth where you feel incompetent. All the knowledge and research won’t insulate you from feeling that way when you are working toward a goal. So know this: You can allow that feeling to pass, because you are perfectly capable of achieving your goals.
“I have enough information to start.”
That comfort zone is oh-so-cozy, right? And what keeps you stuck isn’t your ability to achieve goals, it’s the story that you can’t trust yourself. Your loyalty and cheerleader nature show up for absolutely everyone else, but you’re not sure if you can actually do it. So you set safe goals that won’t really upset you or anyone in your community. But big growth is always a little risky. You can trust yourself, and you are safe enough to go after the big dreams.
“I am capable of what I dream.”
SO. MANY. IDEAS. You can set and abandon more goals in a morning than some people can think about all day. Because when it comes to achieving the goal, the story that keeps you stuck is pain must be avoided.
I know you’re expecting me to talk about focus and discipline (which is, yes true), but when achieving your goals, think more about being present even when the tasks become boring or challenging or, heaven forbid, disappointing. When the urge to take the escape hatch comes because something feels hard, stay present and recommit to the goal.
“I finish what I start.”
Achieving what you want in your life is personal. And the smart way to do it is actually unbecoming. Unlearning the old personality stories that keep you trapped and learning the new story that opens the way to all the change you want.
So what change do you want? Do you know what’s keeping you stuck? Grab 15 minutes for a Spark Call, and I can help you figure out what’s keeping you from the change you want.