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The myth about SMART goals

If you ever wanted to achieve any sort of result, whether it was in health and fitness, business or your career, you’ve probably learned about the importance of setting SMART goals. And if you worked with me, I would have helped you do the same. We would sit down together and come up with a goal that fit the golden standard: it was specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. In health and fitness, some examples are “to lose 15 pounds by November 1” or “to run 5K in under 23 minutes by October 15th.

The goal is neat, clean, clear and at the same time, completely uninspiring. And until this moment that I’m writing this, I never questioned the idea. I accepted the need for goals to be SMART as a truth. Perhaps it is possible that there’s another way, for some people anyway. I am challenging the idea that a good goal needs to be SMART. I believe that for long-term success in health and fitness, we should ditch the deadline and focus on progress.

Departing from time bound goals doesn’t mean that you’re going to get anywhere by saying “one day I’ll get fit” or “one day I’ll lose weight”. Dreams without action are, well, just dreams.

Let’s say you want to improve your health and fitness. Right away, that goal would be attacked because it’s not specific, measureable or time bound. What does that mean? What can we measure? What can we track? When can we get there by? I agree: it is a bit vague. Maybe we can make the goal a bit clearer. What does being healthy and fit look like? Does it mean working out 5 X per week? Does it mean freeing your body of 20-30 unwanted pounds that you could legitimately lose? What does it feel like? Do you feel more confident and sexy? Now we have some direction of where we want to go. Your vision doesn’t have to be crystal clear; you only need a general guideline of where you want to go. As you move forward, you will naturally gain more clarity.

If the goal is results orientated, such as to lose a certain amount of weight, or to improve your 5K time, having a set deadline can take away from the enjoyment of the journey. Instead, get clear on where you want to go and commit to doing something each day that moves you in the direction to your long-term goal or vision. Celebrate progress, learn from setbacks, and stay relentlessly focused on making a step toward your goal.

When we focus on a deadline and an end result, it’s easy to miss out on the enjoyment of the journey. We get stressed out or anxious when we don’t see results as quickly as we’d like, or we feel like we failed when we don’t reach the said goal by the deadline, instead of celebrating the amazing progress.

For action items like completing a project, workout or book, things that will ultimately lead you toward your goal, setting a timeline for completion can be very helpful. If we don’t have a timeline, it’s likely we’ll procrastinate.

Here’s how you can get started on inspiration and feeling-based goal setting:

1. Take time to dream. Where do you want to go? How do you want to feel?

2. Why do you want what you want? This is a big one. Do you want to take better care of yourself so you can be more energetic with your kids? So you can feel more creative? So you can enjoy life more? Ask yourself ‘why’ at least 5 times. For an excellent tool to help you find your ‘why’, go to

3. What action items will move you further along to where you ultimately would like to go? Pick 1-3 action items that you can do to move you forward.

4. Keep yourself accountable to the action steps. Personally, I create a weekly success list and then check off each day I complete the action item. I also recommend having an accountability partner, coach or mentor to help you.

If you have a vision or a dream, call it a goal if you like, that really resonates with you, aligns with your purpose in life and inspires you, you’ll get there by taking one step at a time. Focus on small action steps that move you forward toward your goal, celebrate your progress and enjoy the journey.

“No matter how small you start, start something that matters”- Brendon Burchard