My biggest issue with ‘goals’ is, that there’s no ’F’ in S.M.A.R.T and I’ll explain what I mean by that shortly. If you know anything about goal-setting, then you will have come across the smart criteria, but let me run through the smart criteria for you, just in case you don’t know it or the refresher will be helpful;

We have ’S’ – for simple and specific.

Your goal needs to be simple, stated in simple terms and straightforward. It also needs to be specific. You can’t be fluffy, like big abstract things. We want to get down into the detail here.

We have ‘M’ – which is for measurable and meaningful.

You need to be able to measure the fact that you’re starting in one place and finishing in another. There should be a conceivable difference between where you are now, and where you’re going to end up. Meaningful means ‘is it meaningful to you?’

‘A’ is for achievable and acting ‘as if’.

By achievable, we mean, is it within your scope of skills that you currently have? Is it something that is achievable for you to do? By acting as if it can happen, you think the way would do if you’d already achieved it. Can you feel the emotions that you would be feeling if you achieve this thing already? Because, very often when you get yourself into the right emotional state, it helps you with the motivation to move you forward.

We have ‘R’ for realistic and responsible.

By realistic we mean within the boundaries of the world – or the universe. Whatever it is that you’re doing and where you’re doing it, is it something that is reasonable for you to be able to do? For example, if you have a goal to be able to do something that has an age limit – are you within that age limit? Responsible is all about taking full responsibility for the goal that you have set for yourself.

Then we have ’T’ for timed and towards.

Can we pinpoint the specific time by which you will have achieved this goal? Which, makes it much more focused for your brain to work in that direction and to eventually get there.  When I speak about the word ‘towards’, we’re talking about stating it in the positive.

Therefore, there’s no “F” in smart. What’s the ‘F’ for I hear you say?

Flexible – there needs to be an ‘F’ in there because in my own personal experience of goal-setting (which I’ve done many times before) I‘ve discovered that you need to be super flexible about achieving your goal because. Employees who do not work with flexibility will inevitably suffer from their mental health in the workplace. The chances are it isn’t going to show up in the way that you were expecting it to. I’m going to come back to that point shortly, but let me tell you about another issue that I have with goals.

The other problem I have with goals is that they cause us to put our mindset into the future. Instead of living in the moment, we think about the future but it’s a little bit sad to be there all the time because we’re only here for a short period of time. Goals can also cause us to become uncomfortable with failure. There are learnings are in failure, but for some reason (maybe it’s just because it’s called a goal), if we fail at a goal, we feel like we failed at life.

Some of you are ‘goal junkies’ aren’t you? You’ve got different goals on the go. You finish one, then another goal rocks up and you start working towards it. Sometimes, when we have a goal, it implies that what we have already got is not enough. I imagine living in a state of feeling you haven’t got enough in the present, is not going to make you feel too comfortable about being in the present. What I want to be able to do, is just use goals in a way that is beneficial, for the one-time events in life. Events where it might be helpful to have goals, but not to become complete junkies, whereby we are addicted to them. Where we end up making goal, after goal, after goal – and then begin beating ourselves up because we weren’t able to achieve them in the way that we thought that we would.

I scrapped the smart criteria quite some time ago. This may come as a surprise to you. What happens to me is, I have ideas, I have direction and I have plans. There are things that I think about inside my head that might be good for the future, but even still, I have to be very conscious not to live my life in my ideas for the future. I think generally, having an idea about where you want to go in life is a good thing. I think having a direction is a good thing, but what I want to really enforce upon you in this article, is that mindset of flexibility. The knowing that ideas, dreams and directions that you have, may not go completely in the way that you are expecting them to go. It’s like having all those ideas, dreams and ‘plans’, but not holding on too tightly to them. Allow yourself that flexibility to ebb and flow with life.

Here’s a good way to assess whether or not your investment in goals is maybe a little bit higher than is healthy; I want you to imagine that today is the end of your days and you are going to look back on your life. You’re going to reflect on all of the life that you’ve had up until today. If I gave you the option of not coming back, or coming back but having to do the exact same life, all over again, with all the bad bits and all the good bits, would you do it? Would it be worth it to you? You can’t change anything, you can’t do anything, any differently. You’ve got to come back and live it exactly as it was, would you do that now? This is a really interesting thing to consider because if you’re feeling is “yes, of course, I would come back and do the same”, then that tells me that you’re someone who spent most of your life, being in your life, enjoying your life day-to-day – good bits and bad bits.

However, if you’re someone who would look back on that experience of life that you’ve had so far and think. ‘Heck no, there is no way I’m going back to that, even for the good bits!’, then maybe it’s because, during that period of life that you’re experiencing the good, you weren’t really in it. If most of the time your head was off somewhere else thinking about all the things that you should have been doing instead, thinking about the future and things that you still needed to achieve, then it makes sense that you would end up feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Maybe not enjoying the moments in life, that life had to offer you, during the time that you were there.

In summary, let me say this regarding goal setting; It can work, but you don’t need to do may be quite as much of it as you have been doing. Just have a nice time whilst you’re here, go on living your life into the future day by day, having a nice time connecting with people along the way. Feeling good, enjoying what you’ve got, being satisfied, feeling grateful –  and all of those good things we can have in the here and now. If you happen to have a good idea about something that you might want to one day do in the future, then enjoy the process each day of working your way in that direction.

Then the experience is not just about the end result of getting there, but all of the joy that you can experience whilst you’re on the journey. This is the way to achieve a sense of well being in your team of employees.

By Gemma Bailey