Are smart goals really smart? It is coming to that time of the year when you set your goals. You might think of your dreams regarding SMART goals (Doran, 1981).

SMART goals stemmed from the work of Locke from studies from the 1960s through to the 1980s. Their studies found goal setting is most likely to improve performance when the objectives are specific and sufficiently challenging, and the subjects have sufficient ability.

But does the use of this template get you what you want? Or is it just something you applied to those tedious tasks or management quotas you must meet? In the past, you may have failed to achieve your objective. You may have stuck religiously to the techniques and given it plenty of welly, but still no joy. You wouldn’t be alone.

However, we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The SMART template is helpful, combined with a few other vital ingredients to help you achieve your goals. SMART or not!

SMART Acronym

The SMART acronym for the unacquainted is the following:

  • Specific – Collect 100 Desmoulins’ whorl snail Vertigo moulinsiana this calendar year. (No, I know nothing about snails except these are rare and exist in the South East of England).
  • Measurable – Can you measure it? How are you going to measure it?
  • Achievable – What has been your past success rate? Increasing sales by 25%. Are you comfortable with this, or do you believe you can do more?
  • Realistic – Are your goals relevant to you? Do they align with your values?
  • Time-based – When do you want to achieve your target?
in pursuit of magic written

It is not only about setting goals but about achieving them.

Sporting icons deem goal setting as integral for achieving their ambitions. Serena Williams quotes in Inc,

“It doesn’t matter what your background is or where you come from, if you have dreams and goals, that’s all that matters.”

Serena Williams

So what is the most efficient way of meeting one’s objectives? Out of 160 Canadian Olympic athletes, some 99% reported using mental imagery as a preparation strategy, according to Orlick and Partington (1988). Imagery is an experience that mimics real experience and involves using a combination of different senses in the absence of actual perception—imagining without experiencing the real thing. When engaged in vivid imagery, the brain interprets the images, movements etc., as identical to what occurs. (Marks, 1983). Michael Johnson is an excellent example of this.

“I started my automatic default mechanism of visualising myself running the race… I would hear the gun go off in my head and start going through my paces. Then I’d visualise the whole thing again. I focused on running the perfect race in my head.”

Michael Johnson

Let’s not stop there because we need to dig deeper. What is the difference between SMART goals and achieving your dreams? Imagery is a well-researched psychological strategy with benefits before and during performances. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. How do you perceive the experience without actually being there?

Feelisation opposed to visualisation to make smart goals

Achieving your dreams could be skittled by your inability to connect with your goals and its emotion. I’m not even sure ‘feelisation’ is a word. But it says what’s on the tin. When people set goals, they ask for something they don’t have or require more of, e.g., money. So when they ask, pray or develop their objectives, they start from a position of lack. Which is not in tune with the outcome they are looking to achieve.

What do I mean by ‘being in tune? When you meet someone, and everything clicks, you feel like you are on the same wavelength, in tune, and you ‘got’ each other, whether business or personal. It makes everything easy. So when imagining your goal, from this feeling of lack, can you imagine being in tune with the future you? The short answer is ‘No’. So you need to know that you already have it.

Visualisation is essential, but when I use the term, I talk about engaging all the senses, so it is more ‘feelisation’ and visualisation. People who find it challenging to visualise will find it easier once they employ all of the senses because pictures will spring to mind. And vice versa for those that can imagine but may find it harder to feel what is happening.

Know you have achieved your dreams

You might ask how I do feelisation. Importantly, you must see your outcome like it is a done deal. You are not striving for the goal or objective. You are already the world champ, like Muhammad Ali told the world, “I am the greatest”. Act it out. But to get you started, first follow these instructions.

Think of a pleasant outing, a holiday scene or a beach. Now, imagine yourself in it. Be in the location. You are not watching it on a screen. You are in it.

boy celebrating at football match

Bring in your senses. Can you hear the waves or the wind blowing? Are there people talking? What about touch? Can you feel the sand between your toes or caught between other nooks and crannies? Can you smell the salty air? Imagine sipping a cold drink and the sensation of it sliding down your throat.

Bring up these feelings as strong as you can. Imagine yourself turning up the sound volume, the water washing over you faster and faster. Imagine your goal, be present in it, and know that you have it. The mind does not know if what you perceive is real. It does not question you.

Before living your goal, do one essential thing…

Be at peace with yourself and whatever it is you want to achieve. Let it go out there into the world. Let it be once you have devised what it is in your mind. Align with your thoughts, feeling and emotions.

A client was having difficulty with a legal case. It went on for almost a year, and there was no joy. I asked what it was he wanted from the situation. After much discussion, he admitted he wanted the payout in his favour and didn’t wish anything for the opposing side. He felt anger towards the other side. I asked him to put himself on the opposite side to get a fresh perspective. Then instead of seeing himself only with the result, he saw the opposing side going off peacefully and happily. Initially, he couldn’t envision anything other than winning himself, but he was not in proper alignment as he felt disgruntled, so his goal was out of sorts.

When doing the exercise mentioned above, he found his anger at his opponents clouded his judgment, and it didn’t sit right in his body. It was causing conflict. When he could see the perspective from all parties, he saw the outcome, which included everyone, and it felt better in his body. He then was in alignment with his goal. Being physically and mentally aligned with your dreams is vital in goal setting as knowing what you want.

If you struggle to find peace with the desired outcome or are having difficulty setting goals, you may need to look at what is getting in the way. In my client’s case, he was at war with the lawyers and was carrying that into his visualisation and ‘feelisation.’ I could not see how this legal case would positively conclude.

Double your chances of reaching your goal

You need to be at peace with what you are bringing about. So much so you can let it go, it will come about. Within a day, my client had the result he imagined, with a change in mindset. Sometimes goals can appear in our minds, and there is nothing more to do. Other aspirations may need a little more attention. If you can let the goals go and include everyone in it, then your SMART goals got a lot smarter.

So let me know if you need more help, and see what work we can do together. To get in touch or book a consult, click here.