What’s Missing From Smart Goals

Goals should not only be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented, but also Educational and desiRable.


A search for “SMART goals” on Google returns ***over 24 million*** possibilities.

SMART is a mnemonic acronym that is helpful to apply when setting goals. According Wikipedia, the concept of SMART goals originated in 1981.

S = Specific – Goals must be well-defined and clearly written. In the context of writing, there are many individuals who say, “I want to be a writer.” However, this is a rather ambiguous goal. A better goal might be, “I want to write a book on the philosophy of birds.”

M = Measurable – Goals must be written in such a way that progress (or lack of progress) can be measured. I have a love-hate relationship with working out. However, right now, I am in the love phase, and have set a measurable goal of walking three miles every day at a rate of 4 miles per hour. This is clearly measurable, and I can easily assess each day whether or not I met this goal.

A = Attainable – Goals must be within the possibility of being achieved. I love to travel, but I recognize that a trip to the moon or into space – even though possible the very rich – is unlikely to occur for me. Instead, I could set a goal of traveling to a new part of the world.

R = Relevant – Goals must be related to whatever project or activity is being developed. There are two ways that relevancy can get derailed. First, some type of qualifier might be added to a goal, such as “I want to read one book a week, but I can only read at Starbucks.” In this case, the location is not relevant to the goal, and may actually serve as a distraction (Starbucks is sometimes noisy). The other way that relevancy can get derailed is by simply selecting a goal completely unrelated to a project. If I am planning a get-away weekend with my wife, thinking about I will read my work e-mails while we are traveling is not relevant.

T = Time-based – Goals must have time frames assigned so that planning can stay on track. If a goal does not have a time element, (i.e., a deadline) it is easy for efforts expended towards a goal to lapse into a state of entropy, where all activity slowly decreases until no action is being taken. If someone sets a goal of writing a book, but doesn’t specify a time limit within that goal is to be accomplished, it is easy to put the project on a back burner, or perhaps neglect it altogether.


There are two additional factors that I believe need to be considered. These additional factors are Educational and Desirable. In order to change SMART into SMARTER, “desiRable” must be adjusted so that the “R” forms the new acronym.

E = Educational – Goals must contribute to continual learning. In my free e-book, Never Quit Learning, I discuss ten simple ways that knowledge can help you stand out. Every goal should teach you something about yourself. What factors make it easier or more difficult to obtain a goal? Does it make a difference if the parameters of SMART are changed slightly? The “E” for Educational is really the review part of setting SMART goals to ensure that goals are helping you achieve what you want or need.

R = desiRable – In order to stay motivated, the end result must be something you want to achieve. I could set a goal of obtaining my black belt in karate, but that is not particularly desirable for me. However, earning my black belt in the lean/six sigma quality improvement methodologies is something that interests me.

Instead of setting SMART goals, set SMARTER goals to ensure that whatever you are doing helps you learn more about yourself and moving you in a direction you want to go in.

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