Donna Doyon
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  • Ep125: Are Your SMART Goals DUMB?

Goal setting guidance encourages creating SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time bound). But can your well-thought out SMART goals be DUMB goals?

Learn 4 factors that will help you determine if you should continue pursuing a goal. 

Read the Transcript

Note: This is a computer-generated transcript. That means it's pretty good, but not perfect. If you read something weird or confusing, first laugh, then use the time stamp to hop into the podcast to find out what I REALLY said. 🙂


Welcome to another episode of Finding My Way, a podcast dedicated to sharing the scattered thoughts and muddled musings of this 50 something year old woman. Each week I'll share my experiences, challenges, doubts and fears, as well as the lessons I've learned that keep me moving forward toward my dreams. And yes, this is the podcast that was formerly known as Reflections of a Recovering Ugly Duckling. This is Episode 125. And I'm your host, Donna Doyon.


Goals. Do you like setting goals or do you resist it? I have been a lifelong goal setter and mostly achiever.


But today I get to share with you that today's topic is one that I actually started working on almost exactly two years ago. I found some documents, you know, in the vast abyss of my hard drive when I was doing a search for today's topic, which is, are your smart goals dumb?


I knew I had created a document, a training program I was working on, and then I got derailed. It was amazing to me to see that it was two years ago that I had started putting pen to paper or pixels to computer screen to try to make this into a course. So I guess that flows into when a smart goal might be a dumb goal. So we are talking about goal setting and just know that setting goals, it's both a science and an art.


Some people seem to have a built in ability to plan and organize the visions that many of us might think are just dreams, but then, wow, they can make it into a reality.


Some people have told me that I can do this. I suppose that's true. But for me, it's just this natural part of who I am. But I also believe it is a skill that we can develop and we can improve on. And I'm not the only one who thinks that because there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of articles and books written about goal setting.


And there are hundreds, if not thousands of workshops, e courses and seminars on the topic. I know I have read dozens of books and articles myself on the topic because it's fascinating to me. How is it that some people seem to always achieve their goals, other people never even set goals and other people really struggle with the whole process? If you are a student of goal setting, as I am, or if you've attended workplace workshops on the topic of setting goals and achieving goals, you're probably familiar with the acrostic smart in regards to a goal.


The letters in the word smart simply refer to a word that represents one of the guidelines that have been identified as making a goal more effective or the written version of a goal more effective.


It's also been studied and proven, and I say that word with air quotes that people who who write down their goals have a greater chance of achieving them. We can go to the whole law of attraction thing if you put down what you want in the universe conspires to get it for you. Sometimes it's just a way of remembering something. It's a tactile experience of writing something down that kind of builds that early muscle memory of making it a reality. So whether you buy into the whole thing or just the unconscious has accepted this as your future and what you're going to be working on, writing down your goals appears to be more effective.


I typically write down some goals and don't write down others, and I don't know what my track record would be. That's something I may have to start thinking about. So anyway, smart goals. A smart goal is specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time bound. Those five key factors, the experts and the gurus say that if you have a goal and it's specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time bound, you write that down, you can make it happen.


And the reason these characteristics are so important is that when you make a goal specific, it means that you can clearly see the results that you want to achieve in your mind's eye. You know how it looks. You know how it feels when a goal is measurable. That means, you know, when you've succeeded and when you have not. And I don't like the word failure because sometimes you just haven't gotten there yet, but


You want to have something that you can measure a way of knowing. The third point is that it should be action oriented, something that you have to do. I like to remind people that not all action has to be external. It doesn't have to be a tangible physical action. Some of the most productive actions we can take, our internal the way that we're processing our feelings, the way we are thinking about our thoughts, the questions we're asking ourselves, the digging deep to find out where our values and our thoughts and our inner voices come from and deciding whether we want to keep believing them and holding those as our truth.


That can be very subtle internal work that no one else is going to see. You may not be aware of it until you look back one day and you say, Oh my gosh, I can't believe I used to think that that action as well. But it could be action is in getting outside and taking that five minute walk. So it's something that you are doing. Another component of an effective goal is one that's realistic. Two thoughts pop into my mind for this one.


The first is you've set a goal to lose 50 pounds, but you really don't think that you can do it. And you're harboring this self-doubt and this anxious feeling about setting a goal that you won't be able to accomplish. So we want to make sure that our goals are realistic so that you can trust your heart to the process of achieving that goal. So if you can't buy into it, then that's a chance for you to adjust the goal. Instead of setting a goal to lose 50 pounds, change it to losing five pounds.


And then once you've reached a five pound weight loss, say, OK, I'm going to do this again, and you allow yourself to lose five pounds ten times rather than 50 pounds one time. Know yourself. Know the way you're thinking. Pay attention to your thoughts. This can be some of that action oriented internal work you need to do. Be sure your goal is realistic. Now, the second place where this comes to mind is in the workplace.


When you already have a full load of work that you're doing and your boss comes over and gives you another project, another task, another goal to complete. And you're thinking there is no way that I am going to be able to get this done. And those we just kind of plug away on, depending on your enthusiasm for your job, whether it's a career in something you're really passionate about, you may not fully commit to that goal or you may jump into it and make decisions about something else that needs to be let go of so that you can have a realistic expectation to accomplish this goal.


So when you're asking yourself if it's realistic, you're going to need and want to look at everything around you, other things that are going on in your life to help you evaluate whether or not the goal is realistic. You can't look at this goal in a bubble as if that's the only part of your life because you'll set yourself up for failure that way. The fifth component of a smart goal is that it's time bound. You want to have a deadline.


You need to determine if you're ready to commit the time, the resources, kind of a whatever it takes mentality and approach to accomplish this goal. Now, these smart goals, specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time bound are wonderful in a perfect world. But there are always going to be outside influences. There are going to be those mental and mindset obstacles that get in your way, other life choices that infringe upon the time in the energy you have for your smart goal.


Planning it out and writing it out in a smart way does not guarantee that you will achieve your goal. And I believe in the power of smart goals. But when I was working on my own goal setting course a couple of years ago, almost two years. Exactly. That just cracks me up that this timeline has worked this way. I really didn't think it was that long ago, but I started thinking, can smart goals be dumb? I was struggling getting this course together and I really believed in smart goals.


Notice the past tense there. Things have changed for me. Perhaps I was more aware of it intuitively and not really on a conscious level at that point. But I did come up with the question, are your smart goals dumb? And here's what I came up with for Dumb. Again, each letter of the word represents something. For you to consider about that smart goal, so the first thing you want to consider when asking yourself if your smart goal is dumb is is the goal dependent upon others or events?


What I mean by this is be aware that other people can help or hinder your goal achieving process.


If you're counting on someone else, be sure that you have a backup plan in case they fail to act. Just because it's your goal doesn't mean that it's someone else's. When I was a supervisor a few years ago and I would have to talk with my workers about their goals for the years, things that I wanted them to accomplish, one thing I always tried to do was ensure that if one person's goal was dependent upon another person's actions and support the secondary person, they also had that goal on their list because otherwise they could keep blowing off Jane, because, well, it's not important to them.


They have their own goals to achieve. But when helping Jane becomes their goal, they're more likely to say, OK, yes, I can give you 10 minutes today. Let's work on this. Let's answer your questions. So this is an important tip for those of you who manage people, whether it's on a formal or informal basis. If you are helping people set their goals and your expectation is for them to achieve those goals, make sure that the other people, the resources that they are going to need, they have available to them.


Because if you have to depend on others or specific events to happen, oh, I'll be happy when I win the lottery. Does that mean you can't be happy today because you did not win the lottery? No. Being dependent on someone else for you to achieve your goals is so common. Sure, I'll go to the gym every day as long as so-and-so can go with me. Well, if so-and-so isn't as committed as you are, they're not going to go every day and then you won't go every day.


Late last year or early this year, Earl asked me if I wanted to run in a half marathon, which is this coming weekend. So by the time you listen to this, we will have run this half marathon in March. I injured myself, I pulled a muscle or something and I could barely walk. And I'm thinking there is no way I can get ready for this half marathon. Earl kept training even though our plan was to run this together, along with a third person he used to work with.


He wasn't dependent on us, on me to get his training in, to get himself prepared for this half marathon. And that's the important thing to remember. You cannot be dependent upon someone else.


You have to be willing to move forward with your goal, with your power, your energy, your time, your resources. Another example would be that you have written a delightful children's story. You have a good friend who is an amazing artist, and you envision your book on the bookstore shelves and you're out there signing copies for children, reading it, library story hours. And the book is illustrated by your friend. But your friend has a busy life, she has things going on, illustrating a children's book is not on her radar.


It's not something she'd ever thought about, wasn't something she could get excited about. And she told you that she would do it because, yeah, it sounded kind of cool if she could get to it. But she wasn't buying into the dream as much as you were. And so you're faced with this dilemma. You have this delightful children's story and you really want to share it with the world, but you don't have an illustrator. Your goal becomes a dumb goal.


If you are going to remain dependent on your friend illustrating it, you may reach the point where you need to say, hey, Sue, I really would love for you to illustrate this book, but I need a commitment from you and I need the finished artwork by such and such a date. Is that something you're interested in doing or could do? And your friend may say, you know, I'm really not that interested. Why don't you find someone else and then you find someone else?


Otherwise other people can hold your dreams hostage.


The second part of a dumb goal is being unwilling to do what it takes to achieve it. We get very comfortable in our routines. We come home from work and we sit on the couch and then we get up and we make dinner and then we sit on the couch and we're binge watching Netflix. And your dream of writing a book might require you to spend some time at the computer in the evening and you say, oh, but Donna, I'm on the computer all day at work.


Well, if you want to write a book, you may need to get on the computer at home.


Perhaps you'll pull out a notebook instead and you can sit on the couch, keep the TV set off and work on your stories, work on your novel, work on your research material. Perhaps you can go for a walk and you can dictate into your smartphone and then transcribe it later. There are ways to accomplish pretty much anything if you're unwilling to do what it takes to achieve your goal. Your goal is a dumb goal. And being unwilling doesn't just mean that you're not willing to give up Netflix.


Unwilling may also mean not willing to do the inner work dealing with the voices that are telling you you can't or you shouldn't, or there are other things you should be doing. Instead, when you set big goals for yourself, you are going to need to grow into a person who can achieve them really does transform you when you set a big, unbelievable, seemingly impossible goal and you start plodding along and you're just making progress on it.


But you can't make progress if you are unwilling to do the work.


A smart girl, maybe dumb if it's a momentary desire. It's very fleeting. It ebbs and flows.


The types of goals that fall into this category are getting the invitation for your high school reunion and saying, oh, my gosh, I have to lose 50 pounds. You don't really care about your weight. Nothing really keeping you focused on it except the thought of wouldn't it be great to show up nice and slim looking really fit and healthy at a thirty or forty year reunion? If it's just a momentary desire, allow yourself just to enjoy that. Wouldn't that be cool and then allow yourself to go on.


Don't beat yourself up for not wanting to make the commitment of your time and your energy and your resources to something that really doesn't matter to you. At some point you may change your mind and that goal may become something that, yes, I really want this. What comes to mind for me was I've always had this thing with my weight, have always been overweight since I was a teenager. But before Earl and I hiked the 100 mile wilderness a couple of years ago, I knew that my body would not be able to tolerate hiking one hundred miles over a two week period, no days off just to get out of the woods.


I was afraid of that situation. I thought, how could I even really handle that?


That gave me that power, that determination to get myself physically ready for that challenge. It wasn't just a fleeting desire. If I had still weighed one hundred and eighty three pounds when we hiked the one hundred mile wilderness, I may have survived it, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. My body would have hurt.


My thoughts would have been saying, Oh, you stupid idiot, why didn't you lose weight? Why did you make this harder on yourself?


Why, why, why? And I would have spent those two miserable weeks blaming myself for not getting myself ready. But then once we got off the trail for a little while, I maintained that weight loss. But then, just like so many other people, I've regained quite a bit of it and I still struggle with that.


Now it's more of a momentary desire. I'll think about losing weight, but I really don't have a solid buy into it. And so I need to let that go to offer myself Grace, and just say if it happens, it happens. But I'm not going to make a full on commitment to losing that weight because I really don't care. And if you really don't care about something, why are you putting your time and energy into it? That can be a dumb goal.


The final factor to consider or may not be the final factor, but it was the fourth factor in Dumb, is if this goal belongs to someone else.


Hmm. Yeah, it happens. You're chasing after someone else's dream or a dream that someone else has for you. The example I gave earlier about the friend that you wanted to illustrate your book. Well, your good friend. So what if you were the illustrator and you really don't care? You don't want to do this, but you make the commitment to illustrate your friend's book because it's something that they want for you that they're telling you will be so great.


Won't it be wonderful to have a published book and you're thinking, no, I don't really want to do that. If you make the commitment to that other person and you are following through on this goal that you have not set for yourself, but it's something that belongs to someone else, you are going to struggle with it. You won't feel that great sense of achievement finishing the goal. You're only going to feel that sense of, oh, my gosh, it's over.


And if she comes back needing changes, our mirror or our.


When you're chasing after a dream that belongs to someone else, it's hard on you, it's emotionally stressful. It takes up so much of your time and your energy. This is when I go back to the episodes on Boundaries. I'll put a link to them in the show, notes Donna Doyon. Dot com forward slash one, two, five. You may need to go back and listen to those and think about your boundaries. It is OK to say no.


If a goal belongs to someone else, say no. In the workplace, you may not have a choice. Sometimes things just have to get done. I get it. But for this I was talking primarily about your personal goals, the things that you want to do for yourself, the things that light you up, that gets you so excited, establish some boundaries you don't want to spend your time chasing after a dumb goal. So to wrap things up, a goal may be dumb no matter how smart it is written.


A goal may be dumb if it's dependent upon others or specific events to make it happen. A goal may be dumb if you're unwilling to do what it takes to achieve it. A goal may be dumb if it's just a momentary desire, not something you ever put much thought or time or energy into even thinking about. And a smart goal may be dumb if it belongs to someone else. There are enough dreams in this world to chase chase your own.


Let other people chase theirs. I do hope this episode has given you something to think about in regards to your own dreams and your own goals, you may determine that your own carefully written, well planned smart goals are actually dumb goals.


And it's up to you to decide if you're ready to let those goals go. I know. I know the work ones. They're always going to be there. But I'm talking about your personal goals. It may not be easy to let a goal go, especially if it's one that you've been holding on to for years, sometimes decades.


You may have to have some difficult conversations around that goal. Remember, it's your choice. You get to choose whether you go through life with your heart, singing the blues or your favorite upbeat song. For me, I always want to be singing those upbeat tunes.


If one of your goals is to improve your physical, mental, spiritual or emotional well-being, I invite you to check out my Walk with Me program. Walk with Me is a walking based mentoring program. I share messages very similar to what I do in this podcast with opportunities for one on one mentoring as well. Basically what I do is I share what I've learned from the gazillion self development books that I've read. These have served as my guide, my coaches, my mentors, and I just love sharing that information, that insight with other people.


Walk with Me is an experience in which my energy mixes with yours. So if you like my energy and you're trying to make some changes in your life, if you have some goals, some dreams you want to pursue, but you keep getting in your own way and you're letting doubts and fears hold you back. Walk with me. We'll see what's going on in your life, in your thoughts, and you'll begin to see all of the options available to you.


If you'd like to learn more, check out on a Doyon dot com forward slash walke. Next week, I'll be talking about smart goals once again. Only this time I'm going to put what might be perceived as a more feminine approach to smart girls. The smart girls that we talked about today, specific, measurable, action based, realistic and time bound. They have become feeling very masculine to me, very pushy. Kind of a go, go, go, go.


Way to reach your goals. And that had always been perfectly fine with me. But in recent years, probably just around the time two years ago, when I started to write my own goal setting course, it wasn't feeling quite as comfortable for me. And I kind of pulled myself back from that type of goal setting. So next week, I'm going to talk about a slightly more feminine approach where instead of going after goals, we allow them to come to us and it's less of a struggle and less.


I won't say that it's less demanding or less powerful or less work, but it's just a different approach. So I hope you'll join me next week where I will be talking about a feminine approach to smart goals.


Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Finding My Way. If you like what you just heard, I hope you'll stop by my Web address. Donna Doyon Dotcom, that's dō and a d o y o and dot com for a visit.


Feel free to bring along your friends and colleagues. You can listen to past episodes from the podcast tab. The music for this podcast is called Drifting Upstream by Hyson.

Show Notes:

I mentioned the two-part series on the importance of establishing healthy personal boundaries. Here are links to those episodes:

Ep104: How Healthy Boundaries will Free Your Time, Energy, and Spirit

Ep105: The Risks and Benefits of Setting Healthy Boundaries

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The music for this podcast is Drifting Upstream by Hyson. The music was slightly remixed and fit to needed duration.

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