How to set better goals

Charles Kingsmill on July 13, 2015

In a previous post, I listed four reasons why SMART goals don’t work.

Here’s my list of four ways to make sure that you do achieve your goals. Feel free to add to them or argue abut them.

1. Why not make your goals INSPIRING?

SMART goals are emotion-free. But we are emotional creatures. Sales people have always known that we buy on emotion and post-rationalise our purchases. So it is with goals.

Emotions play a huge part in decision-making. Changing people’s minds often involves changing the way they feel first.

There are two obvious ways to build an emotional component into goals. One is to consider the unpleasant emotional consequences of NOT achieving the goal. These emotions might include tension, confusion, fatigue, annoyance, disconnection, anger, aversion, embarrassment, fear, pain, sadness, vulnerability, disquiet or yearning.

The other is to link your goal to an inspiring destination. Here the positive emotions might include excitement, exhilaration, joy, peace, confidence, engagement, gratitude, hope or rejuvenation.

So take one of your goals and consider: how could you ramp up the emotions involved in achieving it And in NOT achieving it?

2. How about making sure that your goals APPEAL TO YOUR VALUES?

Behaviour is contagious. We look at others to check how we should behave. We also strive to act in accordance with our self-image.

Think about your values (and the real – not stated – values of your organisation, if relevant). How could you re-state your goals to make you feel proud and heroic about achieving them?

3. Are you prepared to MAKE YOUR GOALS PUBLIC?

A gentleman’s agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

It’s the same with private goals.

Tell the people around you what you want to achieve. Whether they support you actively or passively, the effect will be that you feel more committed to your goal.


This has three advantages. Firstly, it means breaking big overwhelming goals down into achievable chunks.  Secondly, it encourages good habits. Thirdly, it helps you create momentum.

Big changes are daunting. Small steps are not, and as you make progress, you build confidence.


There’s one advantage of SMART goals: they have a good acronym.

Can you come up with an improvement to IVBPSSBD (inspiring, values-based, public, small-steps-big-destination) goals?!

And, more importantly, what do you do to set better Goals?

This blog was originally published here