SMART Goals Aren’t So Smart!

New Decade, New Beginning

I don’t know why but there is something different about starting this new year. There’s no doubt I’ve had a lot of change the last couple years – left my 25 year corporate career, started my own coaching practice, wrote a book about my journey and stretched myself in more ways than I can count – but still, the beginning of 2020 just feels different.

For the majority of my own career and then naturally in my work as a leadership coach, the start of each new year is the perfect time for annual goal setting. And when you’re in the corporate world, annual goals are designed to be accountability measures that support the strategic direction of the organization (you know, strategic objectives, company pillars, big rocks…whatever your organization calls them!). We are taught to set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound; and even with this level of simplification, we often struggle. It feels impossible to whittle down all that is important to 3 to 5 specific and measurable goals! 

This detailed drill down is designed to ensure focus against the specific action that we need to take and the “to-do” list we need to check off during the course of the year. Ironically, this level of precision causes us to actually lose focus…focus on the big picture, on where we are headed, on what excites us and motivates us each day about the future. 

For me, Jan 1, 2020 felt different and it was different. I started the year focused less on SMART goals and what would become my “to-do’s” for the year; and more on my intention for 2020. What do I see for myself come December 2020? How do I want to be showing up – as a parent, as a friend, as a business woman, as a leader? 

Starting with intention (rather than goals) can help you envision something for yourself that your goal-oriented mind could never dream. It aligns you to your journey ahead and the outcomes you wish to achieve – of where you want to be, how you want to feel by the end of the year.

As a coach, my job is to help clients develop possibilities for themselves that, in some cases, they never dreamed were possible. I hold this intention in the highest regard and remind them of where they are going when they forget, or become too focused on the day to day and lose track.

Sure, goals are important, but it is your intention for yourself – your whole self – that keeps you focused forward, inspired and motivated by the direction you are headed. Goals become the means for accountability in achieving that intention.

Setting intention is important for the following reasons:

  • Intention provides clarity on where you are headed: High performers seek clarity and intentions provide just this. They set the course and help determine the direction you are headed and ultimately, what it is you want and who you want to be.
  • Intentions allow you to live in your values: They act as guiding principles for your choices each day, moving you closer to what you want for yourself…all the while, helping you discern what isn’t aligned with your values and who you are. Checking in on your intentions helps you see what isn’t serving you or the leader you want to be. 
  • Intentions help you maintain a productive mindset: Mindful intentions allow you to shift focus from the problem at hand or the limitation/challenge you are facing in the moment to something that will have a positive impact on your life. Having intention or purpose for yourself helps you put in perspective the day to day pressures you are facing and maintain a productive & positive mindset.

One simple way to get started in setting intention for yourself is through mind mapping. I have used this with many of my clients this year to create a picture of their intentions for 2020.  Mind mapping is a great tool in business and maybe you have had exposure to it in your workplace – when aligning teams on actions, brainstorming new ideas, presenting complex information in a creative way. Mind mapping has become an important tool in my coaching toolbox to help clients create a holistic picture of what they want for themselves in a new year.

HOW TO: On a blank piece of paper, start in the center with “2020 Intentions”. Allow your mind to wander creating main themes from the center and multiple branches from here writing words and thoughts, creating a visual connection to the intentions that come to you.  Use color, get creative and have fun!

This is a visual representation of your intentions for 2020 that you can display on your wall to remind you who you want to be and how you want to contribute in 2020!

If you have never done a mind map before, there are plenty of resources and videos out there to help. You can do this exercise yourself and of course, if you would like a coach and strong accountability partner to support you in staying true and achieving this intention for yourself in 2020, I can help!

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