If you are a self-development kind of person, like I am, you know about S.M.A.R.T goals. Some of my fans already know how I feel about “SMART” goals. But I had a phone call the other day that prompted me to clarify something.
There’s no T in “SMART” goals.
The phone call was from another coach asking me about a client I have, and when, specifically, he would reach his goals. Apparently, this coach didn’t read up on my beliefs about SMART goals being dumb. I told her there was no timeline. She didn’t approve.
Here’s the thing. In my world, there’s only one type of goal that gets a due date and that is a task. A task is something small that you’ve assigned yourself to do that requires one action step (or possibly a small series of action steps). For example, calling Singapore Airlines and complaining about my flight is a task that is in my calendar, set at a certain day and time. I make the call, they either fix it or not and I may or may not have to follow up. But it’s just one task.
The problem is that most of our goals in life are not single tasks. I believe goals fall into 2 distinct categories: Habits & Projects.
Habits are goals that we want to achieve that will bring about a change in who we are as a person. We don’t want to lose weight by a certain day and then start gaining it all back again the very next day. No! We want to lose weight for a lifetime. We don’t want to get just one promotion, we want to be the type of employee that is always getting promoted. We don’t want to have a certain amount of savings, we want to be the type of person who saves and invests forever. We don’t want to start going to the gym or start learning yoga only to stop on our “due date.” We want to be the person who gets up in the morning and does 108 Sun Salutations because it’s 5AM and that’s what we do at 5AM. Habits are just that, something we do without thinking. Most of us would love to have our BIG goals so unconsciously embedded in our brains that we just do them without the whining and complaining and the procrastinating. Wouldn’t that be nice? Yes, of course it would be! And that’s why you are working on whatever you’re working on for weeks and months on end so you can turn your goal into a habit. There’s no due date because you don’t need one. This goal you want is going to be a part of you, like your right arm. That’s why there’s no T.
Projects are goals that require dozens, hundreds, thousands of tasks happening in some type of order that will get us to the conclusion of our project. In reality, though, the project doesn’t end. Let’s say you have a project to find a new home and fixed it up. You go out and buy a home, paint the walls, replace the air conditioner, tile the floors and move in. In a few months, the air conditioners need to be serviced, there’s a tile with a crack and your son has drawn on the walls in permanent marker. Is the project really over? I don’t think so! My business is a project that never ends. My duty as the “financial controller” of my household is a project that never ends. There’s no due date to a lot of projects we embark on. If it’s important to us, if it’s something we want to have and keep, it’s going to be a series of tasks that continue for a long, long time. Again, no T.
As I told the coach who called me and was confused by why I wouldn’t insist on having a timeline for my client’s goals. Having a timeline works with 10% of what we really want to accomplish. The rest is a lifelong journey. We will get there in our own time.