Be smart, not SMART
Happy 2013! It’s that time again. Resolutions and goal setting are the standard for this time of year. The number of ads for weight loss items is staggering. My gym was full to overflowing on New Year’s Eve day with people getting a jump on their resolutions. But I’m pretty sure that by late January the gym will be back to the normal crowd and we will have moved on to something else besides weight loss. So this year, why not forgo the resolutions and goal setting? I have never liked goal setting anyway. It’s too specific (and measurable, and time-bound, etc). It doesn’t leave any room for things changing as you go along or for magic to happen. It doesn’t consider the possibility that you might actually be able to do better than the stated goal. You are either meet the defined goal or fall short of it. Very few people surpass stated goals. The very fact that they are stated creates a limit.
Goals are focused on the outcome without giving attention to the process. Narrow focus on the goal too often results in unintended negative consequences-think overdoing it on your first day back at the gym and injuring yourself. It can really cause damage when the best thing that can happen didn’t make it on the goal list at all. Maybe you didn’t think of it or it wasn’t visible from your current perspective. In the long run, it may be that your SMART goal wasn’t actually very smart after all. Instead of goals, try themes or areas of focus. This approach keeps you looking in the right direction but doesn’t require a specific outcome. It allows for innovation and creativity. It creates a broad swatch of results instead of a narrow one. It allows for continuous change and doesn’t limit your thinking. The process (the how of it) can evolve and you can pay attention to it.
One of my most fun and successful years was when I had a theme for the year of “More money, Less work”. I had no idea what this would mean on January 1. It sounds like I was maybe going to be lazy or unmotivated or just hope more money would materialize somehow. Instead, I had one of my highest revenue years. One of the most surprising outcomes was I that I let go of doing/controlling all the little stuff that is needed to get work done. I delegated, hired, and developed more efficient processes. I just quit doing some things that were no longer important to the real work. It was refreshing. I started enjoying work more because I was doing more of the important, impactful work. Would I have made such a dramatic change if I had a SMART goal about revenue or time? I don’t think so.
If you need more motivation for this approach, take a look at this article by Peter Bregman, one of my favorite like-minded thinkers. He gives some great examples of goal setting gone wrong. This year, be smart (not SMART) and create a theme or some areas of focus for yourself and be prepared to be surprised. Let me know what happens. To an innovative, surprising 2013. Cheers!