In business the concept of setting SMART goals are everywhere; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound. Yet I think these are one of the fundamental problems of an underachieving society, and a society where average is ok. Its the word ‘Achievable’ that keeps people in their box of being ordinary; when you set your goals, they need to be achievable.
For a long time, I thought it made sense and I was all for setting my SMART goals. But after a while I became frustrated with people around me who didn’t have any ambition for doing exceptional things or for wanting to step outside of the box. I have worked with many organisations who would achieve some national benchmarking scores and see that as a success. I questioned why are they not aiming for the best, for being better than average? Why are they not aiming for perfection? Why is average ok?
When Richard Branson had the dream that he wanted to develop Intergalactic Space Travel, how many people in his life would have thought that was not achievable? The Richard Branson who didn’t finish school because he was dyslexic. The Richard Branson who was written off by many teachers and people around him because of the stigma surrounding dyslexia. You could argue that it does seem plausible that intergalactic space travel is an unrealistic goal for someone who had no qualifications. But Richard Branson didn’t care what anyone thought, and he dreamed big. In December 2018 Virgin Galactic successfully completed its first test flight. How’s that for an ‘unachievable goal?’
Since working as a coach, I regularly reflect on my own dreams. Dreams that were squashed with people around me telling me that they weren’t realistic or achieveable. I couldn’t be an actress because the work is not reliable. I couldn’t be an RAF pilot because ‘they spend a fortune training up women who then go off and get pregnant’ – yes, I was told that. I wouldn’t be able to be a forensic psychologist because it was too competitive and difficult to get into. One by one my dreams were squashed. And on a daily basis this is what is happening all over the world. I regularly hear;
“I can’t get the job I want because I have children.”
“I can’t apply for promotion because I haven’t got enough experience.”
When goals are set that are achievable, the word ‘achievable’ actually acts as a brake from really allowing a person to dream. When we dream, we evoke hope and when we have hope, we have better mental wellbeing. When we stretch our imaginations of what we can achieve, we can really grow and evolve. How wonderful does that sound?
But wait, we must stop all that because we can only think and do what is ‘achievable’.
When I was first introduced to SMART goals, it was stressed to me the utter importance that the goal needs to be achievable because ‘we don’t want to set people up to fail.’ Thinking about that sentence provides an underlying judgement of the person’s ability. If someone is setting their goals, at what point would it ever be ok to intervene and tell them the goal is not achievable? Nobody really knows what someone else is capable. Heck most people don’t even know what they themselves are capable of. Yes, I know that if the person sets a goal and doesn’t achieve it then they may lose motivation but at the same token if they keep setting achievable goals that lead to nowhere then the same could happen. Imagine if all the people who have achieved amazing things were told that their goal was not achievable or if they had listened to the people who told them it was not possible?
So, my view is stick two fingers up to SMART goals and aim to achieve the impossible. This is where the real evolution happens. Set a big goal, a massive one and a goal that you have always dreamed of. You have the choice to either live out your dreams or watch someone else do it. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do it.
People are doing extraordinary things on a daily basis. People are doing things that others thought impossible.
- Jasmine Paris winning the 268 mile spine race (against men), whilst breastfeeding her daughter and shaving 12 hours off the previous record.
- Oprah Winfrey – born into poverty and raised by a single mother. Now one of the most famous people on the planet and North America’s first and only multi-billionaire
- Gladys Burrill completed her first marathon at the age of 86 and the Honolulu marathon at the age of 92
What they have achieved could have been perceived as impossible, but they made it happen. They are extra -frickin -ordinary !!!