I don’t like setting goals.
There, I said it. If I never have to make another SMART goal for the rest of my life, I will go to my grave perfectly content.
Here’s the thing about goals: you don’t always hit your goals because, well, life.
Can you be the type of person all the motivational posters feature, that person whose silhouette is cast against the mountain they are scaling, or that person looking into a sunrise with all the possibilities of the most fantastic future ever, DESPITE ALL THE ODDS AGAINST YOU?
Sure. But then again, maybe you have a toddler.
We are often encouraged to set goals – career goals, parenting goals, financial goals, educational goals, LIFE GOALS (ack!) – that are supposed to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
If that works for you, great. What does it mean if you don’t meet those goals? Nothing? Everything?
Here’s what I suggest: describe the condition of your work, education, parenting, life, etc. that you want. Let that be your anchor and then build decisions that get you ever closer to that condition, regardless of the exact circumstances and all the possible wrenches that might be thrown your way. This is called a desired outcome.
Example (the most typical goal of the American experience, am I right?) –
Typical goal: Lose 50 pounds by New Year’s.
Desired outcome: Be healthy, fit, and emotionally strong.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
But, but, but… that’s too vague! How will I know I’m succeeding unless I can point to something specific and say I did that exact thing?
Relax. If that’s how your performance is measured at work in order to land your bonus, I get it. I’m not saying SMART goals are bad. I’m suggesting it might not be the way you personally want to define success, or run your career and your life.
Here are more examples from people I’ve worked with.
Typical goal: Land 2 clients with 16 hours of work per week.
Desired outcome: Focus on what I am passionate about and where I can offer the most value.
The difference: Work may come from 2 clients or 10. If you focus on providing value, the work with your clients may manifest in different ways than you expect. Suddenly, you may not even be limited by 2 and 16!
Typical goal: Make a decision between two job offers, where choosing what I want might be bad news for someone else.
Desired outcome: Be confident in my career decisions.
The difference: Do the work needed to manage the aftermath of the decision – guilt, expectations, judgment, feeling compelled to justify or defend.
Typical goal: Land a new position as a video producer.
Desired outcome: Know what I like and don’t like, and find ways to do more of what I like and less of what I don’t.
The difference: If producer jobs are few and far between in your area, you can find fulfillment and opportunity in other paths, or right under your nose, and maybe you’re not dissatisfied and disappointed while looking for the magic bullet to land that “ideal” job.
Want help defining a desired outcome? Debating about moving away from SMART goals, or how this might complement SMART goals? Want feedback on the desired outcomes you’ve drafted? Sign up for a free mini-session, and let’s talk.