Why Realistic Goals Will Get You Nowhere

It's time to rethink SMART goals by creating unrealistic goals. Having realistic goals is holding you back from your true potential.

Throughout my time in corporate America, right around evaluation time, all I heard about were S.M.A.R.T. goals. Especially being in HR, I heard it even more because our job was to sell the idea to the managers and directors that S.M.A.R.T. goals was the way to properly help their subordinates grow.

Being an active follower of politics as a whole, I always despised the notion of “flip-flopping”. I didn’t care who was doing it, I just never liked the idea of it. Well, today, I am officially calling myself a flip-flopper and I couldn’t be happier. I am announcing my hatred towards the whole notion of traditional S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Now, for those of you who follow my site and blog know, I’ve written about SMART goals before and have even praised them and I’m okay with calling myself out. This is part of the self-reflection that I consistently do and I would recommend everyone do it as well; don’t be afraid to challenge even your own arguments. For those of you who are unaware or simply need a refresher, SMART stands for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measureable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timely

Some of you might say that “realistic” is supposed to be “relevant”. Well, that all depends on who you are talking to. The original SMART goals list created by George T. Doran had “R” as realistic and he defined it as, “…state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.”

Well, George couldn’t have been more wrong and it wouldn’t matter even if you substituted in Relevant, it would still be bad. Having realistic goals is the equivalency of having mediocre goals. Goals that are realistic are ones that are easily attainable. This is why realistic goals will get you nowhere and why you need to start creating unrealistic goals. Now, I know what your initial thoughts are… Marc, I will not have world domination and/or Marc, there is no way I will invent time travel. Yes, I agree, those are a bit preposterous. Perhaps, an example would help?

Realistic goal: “I want to be a millionaire”
Unrealistic goal: “I want to be a billionaire”.

Realistic goal: “I want to be promoted to the next level”
Unrealistic goal: “I want to be a CEO”

The point? Strive for more! Having a realistic goal is one that can be accomplished with just time. An unrealistic goal takes hard work, dedication and persistence, but more importantly, it takes believing. Believing in yourself that you can accomplish something bigger, something that seems unattainable.

You must be willing to believe in your unrealistic goal. Every morning, when you wake up, you must declare what you want; speak it into existence. Convince yourself that you will shatter your realistic goals and go for your unrealistic goals. When you do this, it will seem as if the world is conspiring with you. Simply speaking your unrealistic goals will help you visualize them and when you can see something, they don’t seem so unrealistic anymore.

So, does this mean SMART goals are done for? Absolutely not, I simply mean we should rethink them. Instead of forcing SMART goals onto corporate America, we should want to help people achieve end goals. Ultimately, SMART goals are means goals, they get you from point A to point B. Unfortunately, that is mostly all corporate America cares about; learn this new skill, become proficient in it and then we will consider promoting you, but once promoted, you will need to learn new skills. After you learn these skills, we can not guarantee you any results or further promotions, but congratulations, you are now smarter. These are essentially means goals, they define one of many paths you can take to reach your end goals. Because corporate America puts an emphasis on means goals, they produce workers who are unmotivated and lack ambition. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has end goals, whether they have defined them or not. By forcing people to focus on means goals, they will begin to lack the drive to want to strive for more which will lead them into the perception that they are bad performers. Why? They see no reason to work hard because it is not getting them closer to their end goals.

Now, let’s imagine a corporate America that focused on end goals where you’re unwilling to compromise on your outcomes… your unrealistic goals. Instead of management focusing on short-term goals, it would, instead, focus on the individuals unrealistic goals; their end goals. This would mean that every manager would need to get to know their employees on a personal level and I know that alone is a massive undertaking, however not impossible. Through these discussions, the manager would learn what that individual wants to do with their life; what they want to experience, how they want to grow and how they want to contribute back. Once a manager can truly understand the individuals motives, then they can begin a transformation within the individual. Focusing on the end goals, proves to the individual that care about their personal satisfaction and this will result in them giving you 110%. Corporate America needs to learn that focusing on the individuals personal and professional end goals will create more motivated, loyal, innovative and passionate employees. It will be these employees that will become the future leaders of America.

There is no reason why your goal of wanting to become CEO or a billionaire should be laughed at or seem impossible. When Sir Richard Branson quit school at 16 years old, his dad’s response to him was, “well at least you know what you want to do with your life”. You end goals should seem impossible to you at the time of writing them, but if you work at them every day, they will come to fruition.

First, define your end goals. Over time, you will find that your means goals will define themselves. Focus everyday on achieving your end goals, speak them into existence, let the world conspire with you and you will find that your unrealistic goal from years ago will become a true reality.

It’s time to unleash your potential and drop your realistic goals. Strive for more!!! Start thinking of unrealistic goals and works towards them!



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