5 Reasons Why S.M.A.R.T. Goals Don’t Work

Have you heard of S.M.A.R.T. Goals? Not goals that are intelligent or wise beyond their years. I am talking about a goal-setting strategy that has been used throughout the years as a way to create goals and achieve them. This strategy has been used by managers and employees in big business, personal development and for students who are looking to achieve goals they’ve set for themselves.

However, we rarely get to talk about what happens when the S.M.A.R.T. Goals strategy doesn’t work. In fact, 92% of people don’t achieve their goals. It’s not to say that they do or do not use this strategy. However, with this goal-setting strategy being established over 30 years ago, why is goal-setting still such a major issue? If I created a floatation device 30 years ago and a report stated 92% of all drownings occur with floatation devices, I would be questioning the effectiveness of the one I created.

Today, let’s talk about five reasons why S.M.A.R.T. Goals don’t work. We’ll also briefly cover what does work and how you can track your goals accordingly.

How SPECIFIC Did You Get?

Let’s start with the first word: specific. In order to become specific, you need to define the five W’s (who, what, where, when and why). Who is this goal supposed to be representing? What are you looking to get out of this goal? Where is this goal going to be achieved? When is this goal going to be achieved? Why did you set this as your goal? The issue with the breakdown of specificity is that there is no true way to measure if your goal is too specific or not specific enough.

For example, stating “I want to lose weight” is obviously not specific enough. However, making a statement saying “I want to lose 202.3 lbs. by running 3.56 miles on a turf field on the intersection of 1st and Broadway every Friday afternoon at 3:30pm from May 2022 – December 2022” may be a bit too specific. It is tough to be consistent if certain elements of your specific goal are out of your control. What if there is a severe thunderstorm that day? What you had a family emergency and can’t perform that exercise? Does this make your “specific” goal invalid? It doesn’t. However, you may not be as motivated as before if you stop pursuing your goal for more than a week.

What Makes Your Goal MEASUREABLE?

When you think about something that is measurable, you’re imagining yourself being able to define terms regarding your goal. Let’s go back to the weight loss example discussed earlier. The extremely specific example included the goal setter wanting to lose 202.3 lbs. in a specific location by a specific time. However, what doesn’t come into play when discussing a goal like this is the outcome of the goal itself.

As you run these miles, you will experience changes in your body. Your cardiovascular condition will improve, your shirts and pants may become less snug, you’ll have facial gains, and many other benefits will occur. However, dropping weight is something that has a ton of different factors. Meaning you may not hit your weight “goal”, but you will see other positive changes along the way.

For example, you way be a person who carries water weight more than others. This, of course, won’t read well on the scale. Also, how clean is your nutritional plan? After all, you cannot outwork a bad diet. If you’re trying to measure the loss of 202.3 lbs. by December 2022 and you come within 10 lbs. of your goal at that time, you may think you failed. You created the specific goal so anything other than crushing your numbers is unacceptable, right? What you need to look at is the amount of growth that you’ve experienced during that time period.

Losing an incredible amount of weight, regardless of the numbers, deserves praise. This issue with measuring is that you’re measuring something in absolutes with no room for failure. Life doesn’t work like this. Life is nuanced. Being able to define measurable terms is one thing. However, you may lose all hope if the number you wrote down at the beginning of your journey is just not possible during a specific time period.


As you can see, goals have a beginning and end. There is period of time and it is measured through the progress you can see and feel. However, there is an element of goal-setting that is overlooked. Going back to the weight loss example above, you will notice that we had a timeframe we were working with because it is important to have one when you’re trying to achieve a goal. But, how do you know if your goal is achievable? The answer to the question is based on logic, history and experimentation.

Only you will be able to determine if it is possible to lose that amount of weight in that amount of time. It is better to aim lower than higher, but make sure that you are growing in the process. The reason why the S.M.A.R.T. Goal strategy doesn’t work here is because it is difficult to measure what is achievable. As mentioned before, it is up to you to determine how much weight you can lose. However, there is no way to measure how much weight you can lose in that time.


Similar to being achievable, you have to determine if the goal is realistic. Once again, this is subjective because it is based on your current motivation. It is based on your willingness to be consistent and sacrifice your time and energy to make it happen. You have to decide if you can wake up every single morning at 5 am to run a couple miles. You may find that it is easy initially, but what happens if you’re tired from work the day prior? What happens if you didn’t have a satisfying meal the night before and you’re hungry? Will you still be motivated enough to do what you have to do to achieve your goal?

You must be sure to assess your commitment to the goal before setting it. This is difficult to determine because commitment is only as strong as the circumstance. If you’re of sound mind and health when setting your goal, it is possible that you may have the mindset of an overachiever. You may feel as though anything is possible and feel as though you don’t need to be realistic since you’re extremely driven. The S.M.A.R.T. Goal strategy is so rigid that there is no room for being unrealistic. There is no room for not progressing with your goal as it was set.

Is Your Goal TIME-BOUND?

This end date you have turns into a moving target when it comes to goal-setting, especially with S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, you tend to stare at the end date. The end date, with the S.M.A.R.T. Goal strategy, is as rigid as it get. With no room to change or alter the time associated with your goal, you have no choice but to succeed. However, if you’re being realistic or ensuring your goal is achievable, the time will change. We’re human and it is difficult to deal with issues outside of our control. S.M.A.R.T. Goals don’t carry a purpose or emotion. Any rigid goal that is time-bound with a strict end date will almost always fail.

What Works Instead?

Now that I am done complaining about S.M.A.R.T. Goals, it is time to discuss what might work for you instead. You probably haven’t heard of The 21:3 Method, which is considered to be the “foundation” of your new healthy lifestyle. The gist of The 21:3 Method is to provide you with actionable tools to change your habits permanently and create a starter kit for the new lifestyle you’re adopting. We believe we can help jumpstart your new lifestyle in 21 days, guaranteed. Of course, you must do the work. However, the work is easier to do if you know exactly what needs to be done. But why would this work vs. using the S.M.A.R.T. Goals method?

Begin with the next step in mind

Instead of beginning with the end in mind, we focus on the next step. The next step is the next mini-milestone that will get you one step closer to your goal. For example, instead of starting off by running, just walk a half-mile. Do this for about a week or so. Once your body and your mind have gotten used to this, progress to walking one mile. Continue this strategy until your body is used to walking the number of miles you plan on running. Once your body is ready to move to the next step, do so. However, do NOT make that kind of progression if your body isn’t ready.

Be realistic with your path through your mini-milestones. We suggest you have no less than two, but no more than five. These mini-milestones will keep you on track, help you measure progress and permit you to readjust based on what you’re experiencing at the time. Your specific goal should be based on your overall purpose. Making this connection between the goal you’ve set and the emotional reason why you’ve selected this goal will create a standard rather than a challenge. The standard should force you to push past your barriers, but you must be realistic with yourself and your own progress.

The time it takes to accomplish your goal will be based on how you progress through your mini-milestone. We advise that you create a goal with at least three weeks of an adjustment period in mind at the beginning. This will help you establish a routine that you can stick to because you would have created it based on what’s happening in your life.

You would also be granted three days of adjustment when life happens instead of feeling like a failure if you didn’t perform the same task every day. Ultimately, this realistic approach to goal setting and habit building will help you create a healthy lifestyle without the bounds of a rigid path or time. Remember, this is not a challenge. This is your new life. Your real life.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published