How to set achievable goals


You’ve set your goals for 2020, but what is the best approach to take so that you actually achieve them? A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found people make the same resolution 10 times without success, and yet SMART goal setting frameworks are still touted each and every January. Perhaps it’s time for a shake-up? We’ve taken a look at new ways to up your goal game.

‘A truly effective goal should push and challenge you to achieve great things,’ writes Mark Murphy, author of HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be in a recent Forbes article.

Murphy suggests that SMART goals, with their focus on being realistic and achievable, encourage us to stay within the limits of our abilities. Even worse, they lack the emotional connection to trigger transformation – whether you’re chasing a fitness target, a financial milestone or #couplegoals. He suggests HARD goals deliver better outcomes because they are intrinsically tied to your motivations.

SMART goals vs. HARD goals

What are SMART goals?
You’ve probably heard it all before: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely. But there’s a reason that 92 per cent of people who set goals in the New Year never achieve them. Perhaps those SMART goals aren’t so clever.

The SMART goal approach
The gold standard of goal setting, but does it actually work for goal achieving? This framework is ideal for rational, linear thinkers – those who select a course of action and don’t deviate. What the SMART framework lacks is emotional connection to the goal –  so when the going gets tough, many abort their mission.

Pros and cons
Pros: Clear-cut and objective. You either achieved the goal or you didn’t.

Cons: Lacks emotional resonance. May lack sustainability because the focus is on achieving a singular outcome, rather than behavioural change.

Ideal for: Financial goals. If you’re saving for a home deposit, you’ll want a definitive, unemotional, tangible plan of action. Get SMART about saving and start banking those dollars.

What are HARD goals?
HARD goal setting is a management concept made mainstream.

How it works:
Heartfelt – What is your underlying motivation? This is something you need to do rather than something you feel you should do. If becoming an entrepreneur will result in freedom, passion and unlimited creativity, you’ll stick with the goal despite the initial long hours for poor pay.

Animated – How will it feel to kick this goal? The more colourful and vivid your vision, the better. If you’re saving for a house, think about how it will look, how it will feel when you come home from work, how you will entertain your friends on the patio and how you will spend your weekends there. Creating a powerful visualisation will drive you to save every possible dollar – even when the January sales loom.

Required – Why is this goal more important than anything else in your life? If you can’t stop thinking about creating your own brand, you’ll put it before all other priorities – including trips away, nights out with the girls or a lazy Sunday sleep-in.

Difficult – There’s no victory in the easy win. Identify the skills you need to learn and the traits you’ll need to develop and how hard you’ll need to push to hit that goal.

The HARD goal approach
Ask yourself, ‘What is it that sets me on fire, that I can’t stop thinking about?’. Visualise yourself achieving that goal, unpack the skills you’ll need to crush it, then create urgency to get it done.

Pros and cons
Pros: Passion fuels action. Accomplishment generates momentum – you’ll not only smack that goal, you’ll sustain your excitement as you unlock your potential.

Cons: It’s hard. Getting real with your true ‘why’, being honest about your current limitations and refusing to settle takes mental, physical and emotional commitment.

Ideal for: Turning your side hustle into your main hustle. When you’re burning the midnight oil and sidelining your social life, you’ll need a reminder of why this will all be worth it.

For a range of other approaches to suit your goal and personality, read the full feature in our December/January edition of the magazine.