HR for Moms

SMART Goals: 5 Reasons Why They Fail (And What You Can Do About It)

Goal-setting is an essential part of personal and professional development. We all have ambitions and dreams that we strive to achieve. And to turn those dreams into reality, we often rely on the SMART goal framework. However, despite its popularity, many people still struggle to achieve success with it.

In this blog, we will explore the reasons why SMART goals fail and discuss what you can do to overcome these challenges.

But first –

Understanding the SMART Acronym

SMART goals are more than just a catchy acronym – they are a powerful tool for goal setting and achievement.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition and importance of SMART goals.

S – Smart

Defining a specific goal is the foundation of the SMART criteria.

And when I say specific, I mean that your goal should be clear and concise. It should leave no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be to create a plan of action and stay focused on achieving it.

Think of it as your step to your ultimate goal.

For example, let’s say your ultimate goal is to learn a new skill. Instead of just saying “I want to learn a new skill,” make it more specific by saying, “I want to learn how to bake in the next three months.”

women baking

Photo by cottonbro studio

Another example is when you want to increase your social media presence. Instead of setting a general goal like “I want to increase my social media presence,” make it more specific by saying, “I want to increase my Instagram followers by 20% in the next six months.”

By being specific, you give yourself a clear target to work towards, which helps you stay motivated and focused.

M – Measurable

How do you know if you’re making progress toward your goal if you can’t measure it? That’s where the “M” in SMART comes in.

A measurable goal can be quantified or tracked. It allows you to gauge your progress and determine whether you’re moving closer to achieving your desired outcome.

Using our previous example, instead of just wanting to learn how to bake, make it measurable by setting a specific target, such as “I want to be able to bake three different types of cakes within three months.”

Project goals for increasing your social media presence on YouTube can be measured by the number of followers or subscribers you have on the app. You can also take a look at engagement metrics. Keep an eye on the number of likes, comments, and shares your posts receive.

Remember, measuring each goal is crucial to tracking your progress and ensuring that you’re on the right path to success.

A – Achievable

Is your goal within your reach? Are you setting yourself up for success or setting yourself up for failure? The “A” in SMART goals stands for achievable, which means that your goal should be realistic and attainable.

While it’s great to dream big, it’s also important to set goals that you can actually achieve given your current resources, skills, and circumstances.

For example, if you’re just starting in baking, setting a goal to open your own bakery within six months might not be realistic. Instead, start with smaller, achievable goals like mastering basic baking techniques or completing a professional baking course.

Similarly, when it comes to increasing your social media presence, setting a goal to gain one million followers within a week might be unrealistic. Instead, focus on setting smaller, achievable goals like increasing your followers by a certain percentage each month or reaching a specific milestone in terms of engagement.

R – Relevant

The “R” in SMART goals refers to relevance. Your goals should be aligned with your overall objectives and aspirations. Ask yourself if the goal is meaningful and relevant to the bigger picture you have in mind.

If your ultimate career goal is to learn how to bake a cake, then setting a goal to learn how to decorate cakes with intricate designs would be relevant and aligned with your larger objective.

On the other hand, if your main focus is on building a successful social media presence as a baking influencer, setting a goal to learn how to play the guitar might not be particularly relevant.

phone social media applications

Photo by Pixabay

Consider how they contribute to your long-term vision and whether they align with your passions and interests. By keeping your goals relevant, you ensure that every step you take brings you closer to achieving your overall aspirations.

T- Time-Bound

Time-bound goals provide a specific timeframe for goal achievement.

Imagine you’re enrolled in a baking course and you want to improve your skills. Instead of setting a vague goal like “I want to get better at baking,” try setting a time-bound goal such as “I want to master the art of making French macarons within three months.”

Likewise, if increasing your social media presence is your focus, a time-bound goal could be “I want to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram within six months.” Then you can monitor your progress with your mobile app and adjust your strategies accordingly to meet the deadline.

Setting a specific timeframe helps you stay accountable and motivated. It creates a sense of urgency and allows you to track your progress along the way.

Remember, these examples of SMART goals are all about being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

By incorporating these elements into your goal-setting process, you increase your chances of success and ensure that every step you take is purposeful and aligned with your overall vision.

What are some common mistakes people make when setting SMART goals?

While the SMART framework can be incredibly powerful for personal or career development, it isn’t foolproof. To get the most out of this process of goal-setting, you really need to make time to think and reflect

Many people still make common mistakes when setting each goal, which can hinder their progress and lead to failure.

So, let’s explore these pitfalls and learn how to overcome them.

girl squinting

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

1) Lack of Clarity

Lack of clarity in a goal is like trying to hit a target blindfolded – the chances of success are slim.

On the other hand, having a clear goal provides the compass that guides you through the journey towards achievement.

As mentioned earlier, be specific.

Vague or general goals can lead to confusion and lack of focus, making it difficult to develop an effective action plan.

Furthermore, specificity goes beyond the overall goal.

It also applies to the tasks and action steps required to achieve the goal. You need to break down the goal into a detailed list of specific tasks with deadlines.

Think of it like a roadmap, guiding you towards the successful completion of the goal. They help keep you focused, and motivated, and keep the end goal in sight.

By paying attention to specificity, you can ensure that your goals are clear and achievable, and provide the necessary guidance to stay on track.

2) Ignoring Measurability

A common pitfall when setting a goal is ignoring measurability.

To be honest, this is where a lot of people go wrong.

You see, measurability is a crucial aspect of the framework because it allows you to track your progress and determine whether or not you are moving closer to your goal.

How do you know you’re nearly there? What specific data can I use to determine if I’m lagging behind?

Measurability is key in answering these questions. By incorporating measurable elements into your goals, you can have a tangible way of gauging your success.

This could be through numbers, percentages, or any other quantifiable metric that is relevant to your goal.

For example, if your goal is to increase your social media presence, a measurable element could be the number of followers gained or the engagement rate on your posts.

Having a measurable aspect of your goal allows you to celebrate small victories along the way and make adjustments if needed.

Not only that.

Measuring your progress also gives you insights into what is working and what isn’t. It allows you to analyze data and make informed decisions about how to improve and reach your goal faster.

Personal and professional settings don’t make a difference. Incorporating measurability into setting goals holds you accountable.

Remember, you need concrete milestones or metrics that let you have visual and concrete evidence of your hard work.

But if you don’t do a regular check-in?

There’s a high chance that you’ll lose sight of your progress and lose motivation along the way.

screen with data scores

3) No Regular Monitoring

Setting a goal is just the first step; consistent progress checks are crucial to ensure that you’re on the right track and making the necessary adjustments along the way.

The thing is, it isn’t enough that you put a measuring system in place. You must also commit to regular monitoring of your progress. This means taking the time to review and analyze the data you’ve collected.

Tick the milestones or move the due dates of your time period.

Think of goal monitoring as the rearview mirror of your career – it helps you avoid accidents, interpret road signs, and make informed decisions about the best route to take toward your desired destination

Whatever it is, know that you’re moving in the right direction toward personal or business success.

4) Unrealistic Goal Setting

One of the biggest culprits behind failed SMART goals is setting unrealistic goals. While it’s admirable to aim high, it’s important to set goals that are achievable given the available resources, time, and constraints.

Here’s the thing about the term realistic: Realistic doesn’t mean playing it safe or settling for mediocrity. It means setting goals that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone, while still being within the realm of possibility.

When setting your goals, ask yourself: Can I realistically achieve this goal given my current circumstances? Do I have the necessary resources and support to make it happen?

This is a great way to reflect before going forward.

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration, burnout, and ultimately giving up on your dreams. Remember, success is a journey, not a sprint.

So take the time to evaluate your goals and ensure they are both challenging and achievable.

5) Time-Bound Confusions

man confused in front of a screen

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

When you define your SMART goals, it’s crucial to include a specific time frame for achieving them. This is what makes them “time-bound” and helps you stay accountable for your progress.

However, it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of time-bound confusion. Time constraints are meant to provide structure and keep you focused, but they should not become a source of stress or overwhelm.

On one hand, you want to avoid setting unrealistic deadlines that are impossible to meet. On the other hand, you don’t want to give yourself too much time either, as it may lead to procrastination and a lack of progress.

To avoid this, take a step back and evaluate whether the timeline you’ve set is realistic.

Consider factors such as your current workload, available resources, and any potential obstacles that may arise along the way.

Remember that setting an overly ambitious deadline can put unnecessary pressure on yourself and lead to burnout. It’s important to strike a balance between challenging yourself and giving yourself enough time to work towards the finish line.

How to Make Your SMART Goals Work

Now that we’ve explored the reasons why SMART goals fail, let’s shift our focus to finding solutions.

Here are a few tips to make your SMART goals work:

Begin with the End in Mind

Start with a specific outcome in mind. Clearly define what you want to achieve and articulate it in concise and specific terms.

Think of it as defining your life’s purpose.

Every relevant goal should have a clear purpose or desired outcome. By beginning with the end in mind, you can establish a strong foundation for your SMART goal.

This clarity will guide your actions and decisions, ensuring that you stay on track and focused.

Use Vivid and Descriptive Language

Communication skills have never been more important than when it comes to setting SMART goals.

In project management, for example, using vivid and descriptive language ensures that everyone involved understands the expectations and can work towards a common vision.

Instead of saying, “Increase sales by 10%,” you could say, “Achieve a 10% increase in sales within the next quarter by implementing targeted marketing campaigns and improving customer satisfaction.”

By using specific language, you paint a clear picture of what needs to be done and how it will be achieved. This not only helps you stay motivated but also enables others to provide support and collaborate effectively.

Adjusting Goals According to Changing Circumstances

While some individuals and team members have benchmarks for achieving their SMART goals, it’s important to recognize that circumstances can change. As you work towards your goals, you may encounter unforeseen challenges or opportunities that require adjustments.

Flexibility is key to ensuring the success of your SMART goals.

Remember, SMART goals are meant to help you achieve meaningful outcomes. Stay open to change and make necessary adjustments to keep your goals relevant and achievable.

man smiling while thinking

Photo by Michael Burrows

Be Smart About It

SMART goals are a powerful tool for personal and professional growth.

However, they can also be prone to failure if not implemented correctly. From overlooking specificity to neglecting the relevance of goals, there are several common mistakes that people make when setting SMART goals.

But with a little bit of wit and wisdom, you can make your SMART goals work for you.

At the end of the day, it’s all about being smart about your approach to setting and achieving your goals.

Good luck!