Setting SMARTer Goals

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By Raju Mandhyan

IT IS WELL understood that S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. In my book, The HeART of the Close, there is an offer to make goal-setting SMARTer.

What do we mean when we say specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound? Let’s look at the illustration as we speak.

First, let’s talk about specificity from the perspective of your true intentions. Answer the question: What do you want? Take the necessary pause, think deeply, and answer the question again. What is it that you truly want?

Answering “I don’t want to be living on a month-to-month income” does not help. Your triune brain will have an internal conversation and will bring up an image of, “living on a month-to-month income.” The triune brain will not know how to negate an idea or image. It does not know the concept of “do not” want. For example, if I tell you do not think of a pink elephant, what does your triune brain do? It conjures up a picture of a pink elephant in your mind. It can try but will be unsuccessful in erasing it.

So, when stating a goal, state it as a positive statement. Instead of the above negative statement, recast the thought to something like “I want enough personal cash reserves to sustain my living style for at least five months.” Now that is positively stated, but it is ambiguous. You need to give it specificity.

Question: What is it that you truly want?

Wrong answer: “I don’t want to be living on a month-to-month basis.”

Right answer: “I want to have enough to live by for five months.

Right, specific answer: “I want consistent, available cash of P100,000 in my bank.” Specify the answer by stating P100,000.

That now is a specific want expressed as a goal. It can get more detailed by expressing the name of the bank but we can settle for this much specificity for now.

Now, let’s talk about the measurability of a set goal. With measurability, we need to answer the question of “How?”

Question: How do you get that P100,000 as a consistent cash reserve?

Answer: We get there by saving up P5,000 every week. The goal setter has answered the specific and measurable part of the goal setting process.

The next detail we need to fill in is the question of being attainable.

Question: Can you save up P5,000? Answer: Yes.

Question: How exactly? Answer: I will dine out twice a month instead of twice a week. I will take the bus to work every day instead of a cab. I will limit personal shopping expenses from P20,000 a month to P10,000 a month. I will move into an apartment costing P35,000 a month instead of the one I am currently renting at P50,000 a month. I will connect with 20 new prospects every week. This is how you probe and detail answers to the question “Is the goal attainable?” The more drilled down to finer details it gets, the better it is for it to be etched into your triune brain: Rational, Romantic, and Reactive.

The Relevancy portion of the goal setting taps into the Romantic and the Reptilian brain parts of the triune brain and it answers the question “Why?” in the goal setting process.

Question: Why is the goal important to you?

Wrong answer No. 1: Well, as I said, I don’t want to be living on a month-to-month cash flow. Wrong answer No. 2: I want to be more successful than the Joneses.

Right answer: I believe the security of having cash easily available will keep me peaceful, happy and more productive.

The Relevancy part of the goal setting process must have meaning and value to the goal setter and must be an intention and desire initiated by her. You, as a sales manager, can set business targets and quarterly sales quotas for your salesperson, but the desire needs to be ignited by her. You can assess the potential and coach her into clarity of thought and creativity of planning, but she needs to take all the actions — internal and external.

The question of a goal being time-bound is partially answered when we test the size and the attainability of the goal.

So your salesperson needs to put aside an exact amount of P100,000 in 10 weeks. This is her personal goal. And, part of the work that needs to be done to attain this goal falls under your guidance and management. That is the part about her making connections with 20 new prospects every week. This is important to you as far as your client or your team’s performance is concerned.

Now, let’s move on to the “er” part in SMARTer goal setting. “er” stands for “Ecologically Right” goals. For goals to be SMARTer we need to consider the principles of congruence and ecology of systems.

By the SMART process of goal setting, we’ve covered the internal values and the external actions the goal setting salesperson needs to take towards congruency. The Ecologically Right parameter of goal setting means as the individual passionately and persistently chases after and achieves her goal, it should not cause stress, suffering or damage to herself, to her relationships and to all her systemic linkages.

For example, while chasing the goal of saving up P100,000 in 10 weeks, she takes up commuting rather than taking a cab or driving. This is physically challenging and exhausting for her. At the end of the 10 weeks, say she does save up P100,000 but gets ill and needs medical care. Say that medical care uses up P70,000 of her savings. Her goal was achieved but collateral damage has been done. Or, let us say she does not fall ill but her commuting takes up thrice as much time as taking a cab or driving and that time becomes quality time taken away from her loved ones and that strains her relationships. In both cases the goal set was SMART but not SMARTer.

The New Year is here and whether you are setting new goals for yourself or helping others move up in life, do not just think SMART but set SMARTer goals and change lives for good.


Raju Mandhyan author, coach and learning facilitator.