When SMART Goals Are Not Always Wise

Many of us have been taught about setting goals through the use of the SMART acronym.  The theory is that in order to be successful in our pursuits, our goals must be:






However, for most financial planning clients, this goal setting template is rigid and uninspiring.  It puts the concept of planning and achievement in a linear framework that appeals only to the rational side of their brains.  Goals become a list of “shoulds” that require them to be disciplined and methodical in order to reach their objectives. 

...substitute words for the SMART acronym that speak to your clients on an emotional level. Click To Tweet

As an alternative, substitute words for the SMART acronym that speak to your clients on an emotional level.  Using a more inspiring framework will engage and motivate them, and result in a goal setting process that is more successful and satisfying.  Here is an example:






SignificantGoals that resonate with what is most important to your clients will keep them motivated and bring joy to their journey as they make progress in reaching their objectives. 

MeaningfulOftentimes individuals set goals based on what others—parents, employers, teachers, society—view as important.  However, to be truly inspiring and satisfying, your clients’ goals must align with their own values and priorities.  Only then will their goals be “full of meaning” on a personal level.

AttractingOnly when your clients’ goals are both significant and personally meaningful, will they create a positive image that engages them and inspires action.  They won’t have to rely on pure grit and determination to achieve their goals, but rather a clear vision of what they want will focus their intention and guide their decisions on a day to day basis. 

RewardingSometimes our clients don’t make progress because, consciously or subconsciously, they are still weighing the costs and benefits of making a commitment to reaching their goals.  An honest appraisal and conversation about this inner conflict can bring clarity, and resolve incompatible feelings.  In a nutshell, your clients are more likely to move toward goals that bring them a clear sense of reward along the journey as well as in reaching the destination. 

TimelyDo your clients actually have the time required to commit to a specific goal?  Before embarking on this journey, encourage your clients to consider if the timing is right for them?  Likewise, when helping your clients to set goals, it is important to realize that some goals should have specific target dates and others should not. 

By imposing deadlines on your clients prematurely, you can create stress that stifles their ability to overcome obstacles in creative ways.  In addition, deadlines tend to cause individuals to set goals that are within their current reality.  More open-ended goals will encourage them to “dream big”—to stretch their imaginations and indulge in possibility thinking. 

- Carol Anderson

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  1. Think this is a great article and touches on something very important: the difference between setting goals that are “achievable” and goals that are “meaningful/wise”