Following on from Jim Bright’s post about applying the Chaos Theory of Careers to work with clients, I wanted to pick up on the thought that goal-setting is not always the right thing to do.
Being of more ‘spontaneous and unstructured’ nature, I find it quite oppressive when coaches and trainers bang on about the need to set SMART objectives. You all know the acronym:
- Specific (or is it Significant? Simple?)
- Measurable (or perhaps Manageable? Motivational?)
- Attainable (or is it Achievable? Acceptable? Appropriate? Agreed? Ambitious?)
- Relevant (or is it Realistic? Resourced?)
- Time-limited (maybe Timely?)
All this hyper-focused-ness makes me want to scream sometimes.
These conditions seem to assume that nothing is going to change; that the goal is somehow separate from the context in which it has been defined. They assume that life is not complex, that you can plot a course and just follow it.
But life isn’t like that. It’s messy. Things change. Unexpected things happen.
Perhaps it’s time for a different type of SMART objective.
Here is my first attempt at redefining SMART for the complexity of real life, for the world of chaos.
My SMART stands for:
- Situational — Recognising that goals are always formed within a particular context, under particular conditions. Recognising that those conditions are likely to change and that might change the nature of the goal, maybe even invalidate it altogether.
- Multi-faceted — Having only one possible acceptable outcome and one way of achieving it makes it more likely that you will fail in chaotic conditions. Maintaining alternative possible goals and having alternative methods increases your chances of success. If you can make choices you can make progress.
- Adaptable — Situations change and so will you, especially as you pursue your goals. As you formulate your goals, think about how they might change over time. Make sure you can tell the difference between the elements of your objectives that are fixed and those which can be changed.
- Risk-taking — In changeable circumstances there is no certainty and no playing safe. There are always going to be risks. You can try to anticipate them, but you won’t be able to predict them all. Knowing that you are taking risks whatever you do, can enable you to choose more ambitious goals.
- Transformational — Pursuing any goal involves making a journey. Along that journey you will encounter new experiences, meet new people. You will discover new things about yourself and about the world. The more ambitious your goals, the more you are likely to change. Don’t just think about what you would like to achieve through your goals. Think about who you would like to be — but be prepared for surprises.
OK, that’s my attempt. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s a starting point. I’m sure you could do better. Please send me your ideas.