Do you set goals within the comfort zone - or where they make a difference?

I am sure you have heard about the SMART goal setting. Everyone in the corporate world  - and many outside of it - have learned that goals should be:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-related

I gave this up long ago. Why? Because the A and the R make the goals so booooring.

Perhaps you have, like myself, goals in your organization that are something like:
  • Decrease the number of errors reported by customers by 10%
  • Increase profitability by 15% in two years
  • Increase the amount of women in leadership positions to 23%

Oh, sorry, did I hear a snore? If you fell asleep I understand you fully. SMART goals may be easy to define and measure, but they are rarely fun and inspiring.

Goals are meant to lift us high, so we can fly above the hurdles without even noticing them. Or, as Henry Ford put it:

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal"

To keep your eyes on the goal, the goal needs to be inspiring, scary and exciting. Not realistic and achievable. Not something we can measure and tick of as either achieved or failed. SMART goals will always be within, or possibly on the edge of your comfort zone. While we all know the magic happens outside of it.

Woman standing on red rocks celebrating success. Stokpic.com

Are you afraid of setting the crazy goals? For yourself or maybe for your employees?
If you are, consider the outcome of the study conducted by Leadership IQ.

The study concluded that employees who said their boss pushed them harder than they would push themselves, were more likely to consider themselves to be high performers. Since their boss thought they could go far - they thought so themselves.

Afraid of failing if you set the bar too high? Consider what Winston Churchill said:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Forget the SMART goals - go for the FUN ones. And create magic.

More info on this subject:
Why you want to be stretched outside your comfort zone

Failure is the key to success


  1. Thanks for sharing this! It resonates perfectly with my experience! It also reminds me of Peter Senge's classic "The fifth dicipline" (Summary in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Discipline) and its 3rd discipline: "Building a shared vision" and John Kotter's "Leading change". Both arguing along the lines that if we understand the goal of what we are doing, and find it desirable, magic can happen. The Henry Ford quote is one good example. And there might be many ways to get to that exiting goal. Some of them might not be so obvious in an upfront SMART goal setting activity on sub-goals.

    1. I am happy to hear you liked the post Mats :). Thanks for your tips on related books and articles.