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Beyond SMART Goals: Will your goals help you achieve great things?

By ClientWise | February 5, 2013



Here’s a timely question for financial advisors. Are your SMART Goals making you dumb? There’s recent intriguing research and discussion with respect to goals and goal setting, especially as they apply to SMART goals. The gist of the pushback is this. Maybe SMART goals aren’t so smart.

In a recent study by Leadership IQ, “Are SMART Goals Dumb?”, more than 4,000 individuals were studied to determine if the goal-setting process that they used actually helped them achieve “great things”. (Which is, presumably, one of the main points of having goals in the first place!)

 SMART Goal refresher course. SMART goals are goals that are: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

Here’s what they found. SMART goals were just as likely to help people achieve mediocre results, as anything else. In fact, only 15 percent of the participants in the study strongly agreed that their goals would help them achieve great things.

Moreover, this study conducted a regression analysis to discover what kinds of goals were most likely to drive people to achieve great things. The Top three factors, in statistical importance, were:


  1. “I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve my goals.”
  2. “I will have to learn new skills to achieve my goals for this year.”
  3. “My goals are absolutely necessary to help my company/firm.”


One other point jumps out from this study. To achieve “great things” with your goals, it is imperative to leave the comfort zone behind. This is a critical point when examining the relative efficacy of SMART goals, which suggest much more practical and earthbound objectives, (e.g. goals should be achievable and realistic.)


Setting Noble Goals

In a recent blog post by Dan Rockwell, “Beyond S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2013, he says much of the same thing:


  • Don’t set artificial goals.
  • Begin with noble ends.
  • Set people goals.
  • Production and profitability are useful and necessary, but not enough.


He poses two questions that go beyond the artificial:

  1. How do you want to think and feel about yourself when 2013 slips away?
  2. What contribution will you make to the way others think and feel about themselves?

 Goal Setting for Financial Advisors

For financial advisors, who have the ability to guide and influence the lives of many clients, families, and generations, including helping many others with their own planning and goal setting, we would ask the following questions:


  • What goals would you like to set for yourself that would vividly cause you to feel great when you achieve them?
  • What goals will require you to move outside of your comfort zone?
  • What goals and contributions can you make that will allow others (i.e. clients, peers, family and friends) to think differently about themselves?
  • What “courageous” course of action can you plot for yourself that instills excitement, inspiration, imagination, and maybe even a little fear?


We trust this helps. 


1. “Challenging Coaching – Going beyond traditional coaching to face the FACTS”

2. “Beyond S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2013

3. “Are SMART Goals Dumb?”



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Topics: Goals

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