All of my life I have had difficulty embracing goals. Not that I am irresponsible. Nor because I never wanted to accomplish anything. Goals feel like they “tell the future” with too much certainty. A certainty that deceives those embracing the construction of their goals.
So many times I’ve heard people talk about the need to have smart goals. Goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Outlining multiple characteristics of a goal. Those defining goals in this way, spend a lot of time describing every attribute of the word SMART to make sure their goal conforms to this structure.
My creative side has trouble reconciling the usefulness of creating such precision as SMART goals require. Life is messy. Our goals or aspirations always meet challenges & obstacles. Life evolves. It never stands still. In our pursuit of something, new information & knowledge reveal themselves making adjustments necessary. Being flexible to adjust becomes a strength far beyond the rigidness of goal setting. Making the pursuit of realizing a goal more of a possibility than trying to fit life into the SMART goal structure created.
Direction is more of a broad-based intention. Much like a goal but without any specificity. For there is never a clear-cut endpoint. If my goal is to lose 10 lbs, what if I lose only 7 lbs.? Were my efforts a waste? Or if I lose 10 lbs by the end of this month, what happens 2 months from now when I gain 3lbs? Did I now not achieve my goal but did at one time? Losing weight is the direction or broad goal needed to inform my next steps. Setting up a process, the discipline, and learning about food, nutrition, and diet becomes important once the intention becomes clear. Yet the outcome of our efforts is never certain.
Accountability is necessary. Milestones are helpful. SMART goal setting puts the emphasis on describing a certain future within a very rigid construct. Too many times I have seen too much focus on the process of SMART goal setting but not enough focus on goal accomplishment.
Direction requires reflection. Much like after-action reviews, military teams use to learn from. Embedding a learning loop into your goal achievement process helps us identify the messiness of life we are facing giving us a chance to decide how to adjust our efforts to keep moving in the direction desired. Using milestones as stepping stones to look back in order to see how far we have come. And how far we have yet to go.
The results of our efforts are never certain. There is a probability that no matter how hard we try or how good our process is we may fail or fall short of our goal. It doesn’t mean we should quit or abandon our goal. It simply means we need to try again to keep pushing ourselves in the same direction we want to go.