Nevermind SMART - Ask whether your goals are SACRED!

You know those "SMART" Goals? Born in the early 1980s, they became all the rage during the white-collar burnout world of the 1990s and are still the cornerstone of many productivity experts. Perhaps they have a place in the cold boardrooms of money-hungry corporations, as part of the whips and chains of sales trainers and operations management. However, somehow SMART made its way into the personal development arena —and that's where I draw the line. For over 30 years we were busy being "SMART" – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound — exactly the soul-sucking life-draining PTSD-inducing activities that corporations build themselves high and mighty on.

The problem with a SMART goal is that it does not take the human biological machine into account. SMART goals are goals that can be delegated to a futuristic computer or robot with basically the same effect as having them taken care of by a human. If we base our lives on SMART goals, we sap the spirit and heart from everything we do — we are not honoring what makes a living being live. A SMART goal is begging for you to lose sight of the Why, and get mired in the activities — the busy-ness of business.

Let SMART go. It doesn't really tell you whether or not you should be doing the activity in the first place, nor does it safeguard your personal energy by tying your goal to your Why! SMART keeps you in your left brain, tied to task lists and deadlines. Think about your "To Do" list — do you look at that list with excitement, or with worry & dread? What if it became a "Want To Do" list? What if all your DEADlines became LIFElines instead?

It's high time for a goal-managing acronym for real humans. Ask yourself whether your goals are SACRED. If you want to bring SACRED to the office, you can add in timelines and measurements of achievement, but if you lose focus on your Why your tasks will bleed the very will to live out of everything you do. When your goals are truly SACRED, they're going to get done faster, they're going to get done better, they're going to make a splash. When you find yourself resisting a goal — stop asking yourself whether it's SMART. Ask yourself whether it is:

This is probably the very first thing you should ask. If there's no sense of satisfaction tied to completing your goals, why are you doing them? If it's something you really feel you "have to do", you're going to have to search deep down and find some way, some reason, to find it satisfying. Even if it's getting the elephant out of the room — Finally! If you find yourself saying "have to" it's time to find your "want to."
Rather than just aiming for goals which are Achievable, acknowledge that there are some things that it's worthy to strive for whether they can actually be achieved or not. Outstanding customer service comes to mind - you can say that improving your customer service is achievable, and set your sights on something low that's readily within reach — but if you aim for "outstanding customer service" with the acknowledgement that the journey and attempt itself is worthwhile, and regard your goal as an adventure, you can acknowledge the beneficial growth and rewards you get during the journey. The hero (you) must go through a lot to get from the beginning of the story to the end, and "happily ever after" is never a guarantee — nor is that the story, really. The real story that is worth telling is about the challenges and growth experienced along the way. (Other examples of Adventurous goals which are definitely worth pursuing but may never be achieved are "energy independence"...)
Creativity refills the lifespring of our soul. Ask whether there's a way to be creative about fulfilling your goal. Brainstorm, imagine, dream about how to tackle your goal, make it into a game. Find ways to breathe life into old tasks, make them fun, or add creativity to your repertoire. Explore other forms of creativity to meet your goals: play music, make up songs about them, sing, dance, joke around, play with your tools, find time to be a child again.
Your goals should bring you peace of mind. If your goals are draining, boring, exhausting — then perhaps it's time to check the compass and make sure your goals are taking you in the right direction. If you find the goal, project or task to be draining, you may have to dig deeper for your Why. A SACRED goal will be intensely rewarding. This is how you replenish Jing! (Jing is your most basic life energy — in Western medicine it's tied to your adrenal energies, in spirituality it's the root of your soul.) SACRED goals pour more energy into you than it takes to achieve them. At the very least, you should break even. At the end of the day working on a SACRED goal, you should have a deep and satisfying sleep.
A SACRED goal will be so exciting, it gets you up in the morning. You can't wait to see how much progress you can make on it today! You might forget your cup of coffee, you might not need the same amount of junk food to get you through the day. You're wide awake and thoroughly engaged — plugged in to your purpose, everything is in high gear — not out of fear, but for the love of what you're working on.
Your goal needs to be so exhilarating, rewarding, creative, adventurous and satisfying that you won't hesitate to start. This is the litmus test — your goal should almost have its own power of movement, something easier to do than to stop yourself from doing it. At every step of the journey, you need to be willing and able to take some actions. If you do have a moment of being stuck, determining your next step is important – even when the next step is "take a break." Here's where you check in with "Is this goal within my sphere of influence?" and "Can I make any move in that direction?" A goal of getting your friend to stop smoking is not something you yourself are "driving." It's something you're trying to get someone else to do. Keep your goals within your own personal sphere of influence, including assisting others with their goals and dreams, and you'll be SACRED in no time!

A truly SACRED goal or activity fans the fires that power our soul, and help us live in the moment. They're the goals that improve the world while they're improving us.

The next time someone asks whether or not a goal is SMART, see if you can get behind the idea of making the goal SACRED. SMART is good, but SACRED is even better.

You can even change SMART goals into SACRED goals! The clue, as I mentioned above, is hooking into the basic Why of the goal. Why do you want to increase the quarterly sales? It's not to make the business more money, not to further pad the bottom-line. No — perhaps it's to bring home a bonus check and take your spouse on a second honeymoon: visualize the warm sunny beach in Hawaii, drinking your piρa colada and staring lovingly into their eyes, the sounds of the waves, the surfers having fun out on the ocean. THAT's a Why you can get behind. Now picture you're an adventurer, hacking and slashing your way through the sales on the way to save the person of your dreams from the doldrums of everyday life and doing the dishes, to sweep them off their feet and carry them off onto the sunny beaches. It may seem like you're lying to yourself, but these fantasies are a mental mindset game that has enormous payoffs in attitude, and attitude is the difference between making the sales goals and the negativity that will lose your prospects before you close the deal.

Stay plugged in, because the daily grind becomes something entirely different when you are firmly holding on to your Why.

Check out our SMART vs. SACRED Goals Cheat Sheet.

Do you have any SACRED goals? Are you struggling with becoming more SACRED? Leave a comment below:

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