GOALS: Why SMART Is Just Not Smart Enough…

Setting goals for yourself and your businessThis is a guest post by Alan Chatfield from Lifestoogood.net

Have you ever heard of a coach that doesn't like goals?

I know, bear with me.

That would be like a chef who doesn't like olive oil, a spider who doesn't like to catch flies, a monkey who won't eat nuts or a sandwich-maker who doesn't like chutney…

Well I am.

… a coach, that is.

And I don't.

… like goals that is.

At least not the way they are usually thought about.

The GROW Model

Heard of it?

If you haven't here's an added bonus for you because I'm going to tell you a little about it now.

It's the most fundamental part of most coaching.

In fact, if you're a coach and you haven't heard of GROW then you need to grow up (ha ha) or get out of coaching and try something new. Unless you're just getting started, in which case I'll let you off. Just read this and then punch GROW coaching model or something similar into Google.

Here's what GROW is:




Way Forward


I'm not going to go into too much more detail here because this article isn't a fundamentals of coaching course – (just punch GROW coaching model into Google if you want to know more about it than that) but to make my point I need you to just trust me that this is pretty fundamental stuff, OK?

Still with me?


Now, did you see what the first one was?


So if that is the most fundamental (I may even go so far as to use the word essential) model in coaching, why would I not like Goals?

Well, I don't.

At least not the way they are usually thought about.

So how are they usually thought about?

Let's take a look…

How Goals Are Usually Thought About: SMART Goals

Somebody really smart came up with the SMART acronym.

… and it's a pretty good one.

you've probably heard of it already.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely/Time-bound) makes your average, every day, run-of-the-mill goal into something much more. It super-charges it, puts some boundaries around it – allows you to measure it even.

It turns a bland statement into a goal you can really be proud of.

So, not bad.

You can have great fun taking your goals and making them SMART goals.

You can even write them down and have someone review them. They might get you to tweak the wording here and there to make them even more SMART… as a lot of companies do this in their appraisal process.

For me though, this really is not enough.

It may be good for the companies to be able to measure performance of their employees, but it's not good enough for the employees themselves.

… and whether you are an employee, self-employed or unemployed, SMART on its own is not the best way to look at goals and goal setting.

Sorry, but it just isn't.

I have seen too many people craft really good SMART goals and then for one reason or other miss them. Or even worse than that, completely forget about them.

I've also seen people create SMART Goals when SMART Goals really wasn't what they needed (yes, there are other aspects to coaching than goals believe it or not).

But let's not ditch Goals completely.

I'll do you a deal.

I'll let you have your Goals on one condition – we do it my way.

Then I'll give you two choices – you can have even SMARTER goals, or you can have the SMARTEST goals ever.

Sound good?

OK then.


Even SMARTER Goals

I've seen in a few places recently people mentioning SMARTER goals.

Some smarter guy than the first one must have come up with it.

Personally I like it. This is enough for me, we are now on the right track.


Because, as I said earlier, what I really believe in and think is powerful is VISUALIZATION.

Goals without any visualization at all are such a wasted opportunity. They are like a Ferrari in a housing estate.

I've always advocated Goals with visualization long before coming across this extension of the SMART acronym, but it fits just perfectly and makes the idea a little clearer.

I've seen it written a few different ways but always along the same idea: The E stands for Emotional or Enthusiasm and the last R stands for Reward.

 So now we have:








The idea is simple, by adding emotion into the mix (i.e. why do you want it? how do you feel about this goal?) you are adding motivation and some aspects of visualization which hopefully will create a compelling future and help drive you toward the goal.

Then, by adding reward to the goal (i.e. what will you reward yourself with when you achieve this goal?) you are adding an incentive which will drive you even more towards that goal and perhaps further help to crystallise the visualization of that goal.

I can't over-emphasize enough how much more powerful your goals become when you add visualization to the goal setting process.


Adding Accountability?

By adding visualization into the goal setting process, you're setting up a driver to keep you motivated toward that goal, this is a pull mechanism that comes from inside of you and if done well, you don't really need to give much thought to. Your ‘Why' if you like. Another way you could construct a driver is by asking an accountability partner to keep you honest, but as Gary mentions in this article: ‘Why Announcing Your Personal Goals May Be Bad Idea‘, that's just not going to be the most powerful motivator because in that case, the motivation is artificial and external, it's not your ‘Why', it's just a reminder.

For your goals to work really well and to have the best chance of achieving them, you have to want the result and visualization is the way to go to get there. That being said, you need to do it right.

How To Do Visualization The Right Way

OK, so you know I'm a big fan of Visualization.

So let's get it right.

There are two parts to it, or, rather two ways to do visualization.

The wrong way and the right way.

Briefly, the wrong way to do visualization is to picture yourself achieving something (or doing something). You can see it happening but you may still be seeing it as a future event. The image may be hazy, but you can see it happening. you can imagine it, and you are imagining it.

This works. It is still a lot better to have goals and visualize them in this way than not to visualize them at all.

But you may as well do it right.

It takes very little extra effort and has really powerful consequences.

The right way to do visualization is to not only picture yourself, but use all your senses and project yourself into that moment. See the goal from the time you have achieved it, not as the future, but as the present tense. Look at it as if you are there, feel the feelings you would feel, see what you would see, hear what you would hear, smell what you would smell and taste what you would taste. make it real in every sense and put a specific date and time on it.

Articulate it in specific terms:

“… it's December 15th and I'm on the beach. The weather is beautiful and I feel awesome. I have made it. Yesterday I signed the contract on the new beach house and I have now officially moved to Bali. I can taste the red wine I'm drinking from the glass in my hand as I look out over the ocean. I can hear the sound of the waves, birds calling to one another and some voices of children playing in the distance…”

or whatever your particular goal is.

the point is make it real from that moment.

It could be a really simple goal, but visualize it using all of your senses and in the present tense.


So ‘Emotional' or ‘Enthusiasm' is great, but it's still not quite enough. We need to really hammer home the point about getting the visualization right and then we're in really good shape.

So we're adding ‘Sensed' into the mix.

Specifically – Sense it with all your being as if you are in that moment, expressed in the present tense.

Oh and the ‘R' (Reward) became a ‘T' (Treasure) – but same thing really.

So now we have:






Emotional – Why do you want it?

Sensed – Sense how you will feel (as if in the present tense) when you get there?

Treasured – How will you reward yourself when you have achieved the goal?



Emotional = added motivation

Sensed = added visualization

Treasured = added incentive


All of which will help you achieve your goals.

So I'll take SMARTER because we have some visualization with our goals, but I prefer SMARTEST because then we're making double sure that we do the visualization the right way.

What Happens When We Visualize Things (The Right Way)?

If you can see, hear and feel the outcome (Goal) then that makes that outcome (Goal) far more compelling, and you are far more likely to achieve it.

In other words, it is a goal worth having.

Worth the paper it's written on…

… and then some.

A soccer player likes to score goals – and these are a good example of well formed outcomes (goals) because they have been well and truly visualized. The soccer player can see the goal (the net is right there in front of him all of the time for the duration of the game), he can hear it (he can imagine the crowd cheering), feel it (he probably thought of this before the game). So even if the soccer player isn't consciously thinking about the goal, he is sub-consciously driven towards it with all of his being.

When we are very familiar with something to the extent that we no longer have to think about it, our sub-conscious, semi-conscious or unconscious (call it what you like – it's whatever you call that part of our being that is not the short term, conscious mind) does it for us – like we're on auto-pilot (think of how you shift gears when driving a car).

Visualization works in a very similar way.

When something has been very well visualized, then even when we are not focusing on it consciously (which in the long term is unrealistic anyway as it would take too much energy) then the rest of our being hasn't forgotten about it and is finding ways to work towards it in the background.


Conclusion: Why You Need Your Goals To Be The SMARTEST

With good visualization therefore we are significantly more likely to achieve our goals.

Of course we still may have deviations, hurdles and obstacles along the way, but like any good Sat Nav system, we have programmed in the destination and despite those deviations we have a much better chance of getting there eventually.

Husband, Father, Business Coach, Writer, Investor (in roughly that order  ). You can find Alan at Life’s Too Good, where he shares both his professional expertise and his personal journey to financial freedom, since retiring from corporate life in 2010.

photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

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Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
4 replies
  1. Alan | Life's Too Good
    Alan | Life's Too Good says:

    Hey Julie,

    it’s a pretty simple model, the trick is the way the model is used rather than the model itself, but it’s quite fundamental to coaching – this or a variation of it.

    In terms of certification for coaching, there is no real ‘official’ or recognized standard coaching certification, which is why there are so many coaching certifications out there – and I don’t think there’s any certification specifically for use of the GROW model.

    The one area of certification that is probably most universally recognized which is also used by lots of coaches though not directly coaching is NLP – and even that isn’t very strictly monitored in terms of certification.

    In my view, in the end, the best thing to look at in terms of qualification for any kind of coaching, training or consultancy is experience.

  2. Noreen Hughes
    Noreen Hughes says:

    Love the idea of visualizing your goals. When I was in the corporate goals, that’s all we had, goals, goals and more goals. They were all meaningless, something the upper management thought up and told us about after the fact. I’m going to try and set some real goals this year, thanks!

  3. Alan | Life's Too Good
    Alan | Life's Too Good says:

    Hi Noreen,

    yes, visualization is huge – particularly if done properly. Corporates usually completely miss this and employees can easily ‘game’ the system when the goals just become checkboxes on appraisal forms. Both the firm and the employee lose out in these cases unfortunately.

    Maybe it’s because it’s seen as a bit woo-woo when we start getting into sensationalizing the feeling and ‘being in the moment’ part of visualization, but it doesn’t have to be that way, it’s actually a very practical thing which works really well.

    thanks so much for a great comment Noreen,

    take care & best wishes,

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