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How Outdated Goal-Setting Strategies May Be Preventing You From Success

The idea behind SMART goals is that bite-sized actionable steps make taking on your goals more accessible and less daunting, but without the crucial "why", setting them in this way will not be effective.

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Image Credit: Getty
Image Credit: Getty

“New year, new me” – the self affirmation that can be seen either sincerely or ironically plastered across social media as the year comes to a close. Seeing out the year and welcoming in the new often brings a wave of motivation and optimism to get setting new goals. But we are all guilty of experiencing that January buzz that often wears off by week three. But the reason for our unmet goals may be due to more than just a lack of motivation – you may be setting your goals totally wrong to begin with. 

According to a study by the University of Scranton, compiled by Statistic Brain, 92 percent of people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Many people will work with the well-established SMART goals acronym: Specific. Measurable. Assignable. Relevant. Time-based. For years we’ve been taught that this will give us the best chances at tangible success, rather than simply wishing for things that don’t have plans of action. But there is a crucial flaw to this method that means many goals are doomed to fail. It doesn’t ask people why they want these things. The lack of emotional reasoning means many people set goals that are outwardly appealing but aren’t genuinely fulfilling.

The idea behind SMART goals is that bite-sized actionable steps make taking on your goals more accessible and less daunting, but without the crucial why, setting them in this way will not be effective. SMART goals also ignore the question of how your goals are aligned, meaning they should be linked to a bigger vision. Many people set too many disparate goals and they end up feeling disjointed and all over the place. Instead, look for goals that you can connect. For example, if you want to lose weight and you also want to save money, eating at home can help you make progress in both areas at one time. 

Setting SMART goals can also have you subconsciously setting goals that sound good, but aren’t truly important to you. For example, you may decide to pursue a certain career because your parents say you should, but you’re really passionate about something else. Or maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom that wants to get back into the workforce, but you feel the pressure to put your goals or dreams aside. Your goal setting process should force you to ask and assess exactly why you alone want this, without external influences. It can be tough admitting that even things like financial growth and job promotions aren’t important to you, but it is the first step to realizing exactly what you want.

Author, speaker and life coach L’areal Lipkins teaches a new goal setting method under a different acronym: CLARITY. “Setting goals is a good starting point,” Lipkins says, “but think about how many times you’ve set goals at the beginning of the year and within a few weeks you find yourself distracted, discouraged, and doubting whether or not you can really do it.” The CLARITY method is made up of the following points: Crystal clear. Linked to a bigger vision. Action-oriented. Realistic. Important. Time-bound. Your Why.

Lipkins explains that most people fall victim to the same pitfalls of setting the same goals every year, including setting goals that are too big and not knowing what they really want. By setting CLARITY goals, and making yourself deeply reflect on every point, people are forced to not only ask what a particular goal means to them, but also how they will execute it. SMART goals may work in professional and intellectual environments, but they won’t result in personal fulfillment. If every year that goes by is another year of “failing” to achieve your goals, reevaluating how and why you are setting them will allow you to enter the new year with better chances of success.

SMART goals may work for intellectual and professional goals, but they don’t work for personal ones. Reinventing the way you set your annual goals may just be the first step to actually achieving them. 

Find out more about L’areal Lipkins and CLARITY goals on her website and Instagram.

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