Beyond SMART: Set Goals That Sustain Your Motivation

[4-Minute Read]I've created a new method of goal setting designed specifically for big, bold goals. It works like this - if you can dream it and feel it, you'll work hard to get it.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

Beyond SMART: Set Goals That Sustain Your Motivation

I’ve created a new method of goal setting designed specifically for big, bold goals. It works like this – if you can dream it and feel it, you’ll work hard to get it.

VIDEO INTRO: How to set goals that sustain your motivation.

Many of us have felt the frustration of setting SMART goals yet still struggling to achieve them. I discussed the problem in a recent email exchange with a Bruncher.

“I used the SMART method. You know that one?” he typed. “I did everything by the book but after a week or two things fell apart.”

He would write a goal, make a start on it, then his motivation would fade.

His stalling showed in obvious and subtle ways, like the days he couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed to go to the gym. But some of his goal-sabotaging habits were more clandestine. He might feel sick and postpone an important meeting or he would find excuses to work late rather than go do the thing that progressed him toward his goal.

“Is there something wrong with me?” he typed. “Or is there something I’m not understanding?”

SMART goals have limitations.

“Don’t stress,” I replied. “What you’re experiencing is healthy. SMART Goals have their limitations. The problem is with the method not you.”

The SMART goal-setting method dominates the narrative on writing goals. SMART itself stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. It’s a metric-driven goal framework first developed to improve management at a power company in the 1980s.

SMART goals are effective in short-term scenarios with few variables. If you’re hosting an event and need 150 people to buy tickets by a certain date, then SMART goals create focus. You can use them to track progress and reflect on successes and failures.

However, SMART goals fall short when it comes to guiding you toward your bigger vision.

  • They won’t sustain your motivation over a long journey.
  • They don’t easily accommodate new ideas, opportunities, or pathways.

Something greater motivates extraordinary achievers.

Here’s a fun activity for you to do this week. Go hunt down some autobiographical content from your favourite extraordinary achiever; the people you hero-worship above all others for what they have achieved. Find where they share how they motivate themselves.

A couple of favourites on my list are Ash Barty, and Cathy Freeman.

Pay attention to how they train their mindset. You’ll discover some very interesting habits in common.

Ash Barty didn’t carve her bold triumph of the Australian Open from a number. She didn’t sit down and write, “I’ll win the Australian Open, get $2 million, and reach 468,000 Instagram followers by my 25th birthday.”

Ash Barty dreamed of what it would feel like when she scored the match point and lifted the winner’s trophy.

In Freeman, Cathy describes how she mentally prepared for the 2000 Olympics. She used her mind to immerse herself in the 49 seconds of her race plan. She could feel how every muscle would move, her breath, her acceleration, and her victory.

I used the same technique during my 1300km run in 2017. I dreamed of what it would feel like to reach a patch of sand at the water’s edge, next to the Sydney Opera House. During dawn training runs in Sydney, I visited that place to absorb the sights, sounds and smells into my memory. That precious moment in time moved my feet through all the training.

Extraordinary achievers focus on the sensations tied to their ultimate moments of triumph. They use those vivid mental images as fuel for their journey. In short, they draw on a deep well of intrinsic motivation.

SENSATION goals unlock intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is a form of sustained energy that propels you forward. It is generated by your inner desires rather than external factors. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are three forms of intrinsic motivation.

The most powerful form of intrinsic motivation is self-expression. The desire to breathe life into your full range of talents and to show up in the world in the truest form of yourself. In short, that means you answer your calling.

I’ve toiled for a while trying to come up with a shorthand name for goals set using intrinsic motivation. When I first wrote about it 18 months ago, I called them vision goals. But that term falls short of describing what’s going on. The vision in your mind doesn’t generate the motivation but the sensations attached to that image.

I’m now calling them SENSATION goals and I reserve the right to change the name again if I come up with a better one.

Evoke the sensations to spike your motivation.

  1. Envision your ultimate moment. What will be happening in the moment that you live your bold goal?
  2. Elicit the feelings that will bubble up inside when you live that moment
  3. Embed that vision and those feelings in your mind by replaying them often, like re-watching a movie inside your head. It will establish an effort:reward cycle that motivates you to work hard.
  4. Evoke those feelings whenever your motivation sags and it will release your next wave of energy.

Now, it’s time to let go of the rules of SMART goals and welcome the power of SENSATION goals. Allow yourself to dream big and trust in your own inner motivation. You will achieve extraordinary things when you unlock the power within yourself. Embrace the adventure ahead, and let these sensations guide you towards the life you truly want.

And always remember, you are strong and capable. Believe in the incredible power of your inner motivation. Your exciting journey towards your ultimate dream begins right now!

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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