Better than SMART Goals

Goals.  We all need them.  We all (probably) hate the thought of writing them.  Meeee tooooo.

And if I hear the words, “set a SMART goal” one more time, I may seriously lose it.  And I’m a huge goal setter – I set them on New Year’s Day, the first day of summer, the first day of fall, the first day of school – whatever new situation brings an opportunity to set goals to get through.

I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended workshops on how to set better goals, and SMART is the acronym most often used.  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (how is this different from Achievable?), and Time Based.  YAWN.  I don’t find anything in setting a goal with those metrics that makes me want to hop out of bed and make it happen.

So I was thrilled when I found Mark Murphy and his better acronym – HARD goals.  He had me at the first word:  Heartfelt.  Animated.  Required.  Difficult.  Seriously, aren’t those better words?  Words that tie into feelings (remember the last lesson on how powerful feelings are?) and make me excited and motivated!

And really, shouldn’t goals be a little hard?  An “Achievable and Realistic” goal sort of implies that you’re not going to be in a very different spot than where you currently find yourself.  As Mark Murphy says, “a truly effective goal should push and challenge you to achieve great things.”  You know, a Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal (BHAG) – yeah, I love a good acronym.

He offers questions that can be asked within each category to help define the goal.  He changes the order to Animated, Heartfelt, Difficult, and Required as that order follows a more logical flow.

Question #1: Animated: “Think about where you want your career to be, and describe to me exactly what you’re doing (what kind of work you’re doing, who you’re working with, what your days look like, etc.) one year, three years, and five years from now.”

Question #2: Heartfelt: “Describe at least three reasons why you want this goal (note: the reasons can be intrinsic, personal, and/or extrinsic).”

Question #3: Difficult: “What are the three to five most important skills you’ll need to develop to achieve this goal? How will you develop those skills?”

Question #4: Required: “What do you need to have accomplished by the end of the next six months to keep on track toward achieving this goal? What about by the end of the next 90 days? The next 30 days? What’s one thing you can accomplish today?”

The Animated question really digs down into the feelings by asking you to define a clear picture of where you are going.  An answer like “I’d like to be rich” won’t suffice.  You’ll have to really think deeply and give specifics.  This is where your partner will help challenge you if you try to give an easy answer!

The Heartfelt question verifies whether the animated picture is truly based on deep desires.  I like the example he cites of the person whose animated picture is about being a manager – her partner can ask, “Why”, and might bring on an answer like, “Because I want more autonomy and the freedom to work more independently.”  Here we’ve reached a disconnect; management generally is the opposite of autonomy and independence!  So the Animated picture can be refined to meet these Heartfelt desires.

The Difficult question ensures that we will actually move off the starting line.  The challenge will drive motivation.  What I really like about this aspect is that it helps to put planks in the bridge across the gap by defining skills that will be needed to cross the gap.  It pushes us to grow and develop as we progress through our business.

The Required question breaks down the BHAG into manageable steps that help us stay the path.  Think of it like a road trip from Wichita to San Antonio – we know the starting and ending point and we take off down the road.  Guide posts – like a “Welcome to Texas” sign let us know we are going the right way.  Another one might be a billboard saying, “Don’t Forget The Alamo” that lets us know we’re still on the path and getting closer.  Another option to the 30, 60, and 90 days is to select three guideposts that are like mini-milestones, regardless of the time period, that when achieved are definitely steps to goal achievement.

Have fun with this!


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