Why Goals Can Do More Harm Than Good

Many of us are paying more attention to our goals as New Year’s Eve is around the corner. And when talking about goals the acronym SMART often gets dropped. You may have heard about it. A goal should be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based. From this post, you will learn about the big problem with (SMART) goals and how to avoid it.

More than once I noticed that people are eager to define their goals and then just rush towards their accomplishments. Taking action can be a good thing. But what if you’re running in the wrong direction?

If you’re not aware of the motivation behind your goals chances are pretty high that you will be chasing your own tail. Achieving one goal after the other, but never feeling satisfied. Does that sound familiar to you?

Well, it did to me. I felt stuck—feeling the same emotions over and over again regardless of what I was doing. I wasn’t able to break out of that vicious circle until I started to ask myself the right kind of questions:

WHY do I want to achieve these goals? What’s the main motivation behind them?

Honestly, it can be uncomfortable, and sometimes the truth even hurts. But awareness is the first step to real and long lasting change.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do to identify the origin of your goals

All you need is a paper, a pencil and about 20-30 minutes.

1. Write down all the goals and wishes (material, relationship, job, etc.) you have at the moment for 10 minutes.

2. Pick the first one and ask yourself: “If I already accomplished this goal/wish how would I benefit or how would my life change?”
Example: “If I had one million dollars, I would buy everything I wanted.”

3. Then keep questioning yourself in that manner. Another example: “If I could buy everything, how would my life change?”

4. Don’t stop until you get the same answer over and over again. If that’s the case then you probably have found the true origin of your goal/wish. Let’s say the origin was freedom. Pause for a moment, close your eyes and ask yourself: “Where’s freedom right NOW?”

5. Repeat this with the rest of your goals.

You might be surprised that quite often the one thing you were looking for is much closer than you thought. Actually it may be right within you. Some goals may lose attractiveness after this exercise… Good, time and energy saved! Others will still attract you. Follow them. Repeat this from time to time. This exercise is also great to do with a good friend or your partner.

A word of advice about setting up your goals

There are different types. One approach is to classify them into two groups: outcome- or process-based goals. “I want to lose 20 pounds” would be outcome-based. “I will eat a portion of veggies with each meal” is a process-based one.

Think process-based goals as activities or habits. Losing 20 pounds can be an honorable goal. But if you fail to implement (small) daily habits to get there, you probably will give up somewhere along the way.

So, set up your goals. If they’re outcome-based, break them down into small, daily habits. If you want to lose some weight for instance, you can start with things like “getting used to working out 2-3 times a week” or “eat a portion of veggies for lunch and dinner.” Start small and increase difficulty each week. As the saying goes: A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

To sum it up

I don’t have any problems with goals or the SMART principle. Actually, I find it a very useful tool. But before defining your goals the SMART way: take a moment, be aware of your WHY and break your desired outcomes down to small, daily habits. Now it’s up to you. Make 2017 your year.

Featured photo credit: Greatist via greatist.com

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