12 Best Alternatives to SMART Goals That Work

Are you looking for a way to set yourself up for success and reach your goals in life? SMART goals have been the go-to system for many goal-setting processes.

But if it isn’t working out for you, other alternatives to SMART goals may better suit your needs. In this guide, we’ll discuss 12 of the best options for SMART goals and how to use them to your advantage.

You’ll learn about the different approaches and how changing them can help you achieve more. By the end, you should better understand how to ensure your goals are within reach. Let’s get started.

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are a strategic approach to establishing goals. Each letter in the acronym SMART stands for a specific criterion a goal should meet.

Specific: Goals must be well-defined and clear, leaving no room for ambiguity. It’s about answering the questions: What exactly do you want to achieve? Where will it be done?

For example, instead of a vague goal like “I want to get fit,” a more precise one would be “I want to be able to run a 5K race to improve my cardiovascular health.” Here, you understand how far you need to run and why.

Measurable: Ensure that there are concrete criteria for tracking progress and determining when the goal has been met. Determine how you’ll know when you reach success.

You should have tangible evidence to demonstrate progress. Expanding on the goal above, a measurable aspect is the ability to run a 5K race in under 30 minutes.

Attainable: This requires an honest evaluation of what is realistically possible, given your available resources and abilities. Do you have the necessary skills? Are there financial or time constraints that must be considered?

Relevant: You should look at the overall picture and consider why you are pursuing your goal in the first place. It must align with your values, needs, interests, and long-term plans. Doing so inspires you to keep pushing forward.

Time-based: Each goal should have a well-defined timeline with start and completion dates. That fosters a sense of urgency to help you stay focused. To illustrate, aiming to run the 5K race “by the end of summer” sets a strict deadline for excellence.

Why Are Alternatives to SMART Goals Needed?

While SMART goals have been widely recognized and utilized in personal and professional settings, they have limitations that necessitate exploring alternatives.

Firstly, SMART goals are often criticized for being too narrow and limiting. They encourage focusing on smaller targets, which can sometimes hinder big-picture thinking and stifle innovation.

This specificity might lead to missed opportunities for growth and exploration outside the set parameters. Secondly, SMART goals emphasize the outcome rather than the process.

This might result in a lack of intrinsic motivation if the focus is solely on meeting the specific criteria of the goal rather than enjoying the journey.

Finally, SMART goals are usually time-bound, which may create pressure and stress, potentially leading to burnout or losing interest in the goal.

That’s why alternatives like DUMB and GROW goals are needed. These models address the limitations of SMART by encouraging dream-driven objectives, focusing on the process, and fostering positive behavior change.

12 Best Alternatives to SMART Goals That Work

1. OKR Goals

OKRs is a method used to set measurable objectives, which are broken down into achievable results or “key results” to help you reach the overall aim. This way, it’s easy to keep track of progress and know when you’ve accomplished the desired target.

  • Objective: What is the big, ambitious goal?
  • Key Results: What achievable results will get you to that final goal?

2. BHAG Goals

BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This type of goal is bold, challenging, and ambitious, which gets you fired up to take action. A BHAG should be inspiring and aspirational, requiring people to step outside their comfort zone.

3. Stretch Goals

Stretch goals are the same as SMART goals but have a higher bar for success. They require you to go beyond what would be considered achievable, pushing yourself to reach the next level.

It may sound daunting at first, but stretch goals help you become comfortable with taking risks and challenging yourself—and ultimately can lead to personal growth and development.

4. One-Word Goals

One-word goals are precisely what they sound like: a single word that sums up the goal. This can be a powerful tool for setting and achieving goals, especially if you have difficulty remaining motivated.

It’s also easy to remember and refer back to when needed. Examples include words like “perseverance” or “patience.”

5. PACT Goals

PACT goals are a type of goal setting that focuses on having an overarching purpose as the driving force behind your goals and breaking them down into actionable steps with clear deadlines. It also emphasizes accountability to ensure you stay on track and don’t lose sight of your objectives.

  • Purposeful: Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
  • Actionable: How will you take action?
  • Continuous: What steps will you take to ensure this goal is part of your long-term plan?
  • Trackable: How will you measure success?

6. Growth Mindset Goals

Growth mindset traits will help you in goal setting. They encourage looking at challenges as opportunities, not failures. With growth comes the ability to look at mistakes as lessons and learn from them.

A growth mindset also leads to greater persistence when things get tough. You’ll be willing to try new things and take risks to meet desired outcomes. This can keep you motivated in the face of setbacks and allow you to move forward more clearly.

7. WISE Goals

WISE goals is an approach to goal setting that involves looking at the big picture and determining how each goal fits into that larger vision. It helps to ensure that your goals will drive you toward the overall success of your project or business.

  • Written: Are the goals written down somewhere?
  • Integrated: Is it connected to a larger purpose or mission?
  • Synergetic: Do the goals work together to form an even greater whole?
  • Expansive: Will they lead to further growth and development?

8. HARD Goals

HARD goals are another form of goal setting that emphasizes clarity, challenge, and commitment. It also encourages you to think critically about the goal itself and how you will achieve it.

  • Heartfelt: What is the personal motivation behind this goal?
  • Animated: How will achieving this goal make you feel?
  • Required: Why is it important to take action on this goal?
  • Difficult: What level of difficulty are you setting for yourself?

9. FAST Goals

FAST is a goal-setting strategy to promote innovation and higher performance, especially in teams. It is focused on creating an environment where team members feel comfortable challenging each other and taking risks. Everyone is encouraged to speak up and share their ideas.

  • Frequently discussed: Do you regularly talk about the goal with your team or accountability partner?
  • Ambitious: How challenging is the goal that you have set for yourself?
  • Specific: Is the goal clear and easy to understand?
  • Transparent: Is the current performance visible for everyone to see?

10. GROW Goals

GROW is a goal-setting method that focuses on setting goals based on reflection and understanding. It pushes you to take the time to think through your current circumstances, including obstacles and resources, before deciding on a course of action.

  • Goal: What is the desired outcome you’re trying to accomplish?
  • Reality: What is the current reality or current state of affairs?
  • Obstacles: What are the barriers preventing you from success?
  • Will: What action will you take to overcome the difficulties?

11. DUMB Goals

The DUMB template is meant to be more motivational than all of the other goal-setting methods. It focuses on creating achievable and inspiring goals, inspiring you to take action while keeping it doable.

  • Dream-driven: Does your goal start with a dream or a big vision? Is it something that seems impossible but motivates you?
  • Uplifting: How does this goal make you feel? Good? Energized?
  • Method-friendly: Can you use a roadmap or plan to realize your desired outcomes?
  • Behavior-driven: Does it help you develop habits that support your goal?

12. CLEAR Goals

CLEAR goals are created with collaboration in mind. This system encourages people to work together, enhancing communication and engagement while ensuring everyone is on the same page.

  • Collaborative: How do you involve others in setting and achieving the goal?
  • Limited: Is the goal achievable within a reasonable amount of time or resources?
  • Emotional: What emotions are associated with trying to meet the target?
  • Appreciable: Does this goal make sense to everyone involved, and is it something they can get behind?
  • Refinable: Does the goal have room to be improved or edited as you progress?

Tips for Setting and Achieving Goals

Once you’ve chosen a goal-setting method that works for you, taking action and staying consistent is important. Here are some tips to remain motivated:

  1. Start with the end in mind. Visualize the desired outcome and break it down into achievable steps or milestones. Think about what success looks like and how you can make it happen.
  2. Celebrate small successes. Acknowledge each milestone as achieved and use positive reinforcement to motivate yourself to continue towards the end goal.
  3. Reflect and reassess. Review your progress regularly and make any necessary changes to the plan or timeline.
  4. Prioritize tasks according to importance. Think about which tasks must be completed first to achieve your goal, then ensure they are done before moving on to the rest of the list.
  5. Stay focused on the present moment. Don’t get overwhelmed by what you could be doing in the future. Take it one step at a time and remain mindful of your progress in real-time.

Goals are essential to any successful business, team, or individual journey. By thinking through different goal-setting strategies and finding ones that work for you, you’ll be better equipped to achieve excellence.

Final Thoughts

The SMART system isn’t the only way to establish goals; there are a lot of alternative methods out there. Each system has its own pros and cons, from the collaborative nature of CLEAR to the motivational framework of DUMB.

No matter which goal-setting system you choose, the most important thing is that it’s meaningful and purposeful for you. Your goals should be something that excites you and gets you out of bed in the morning.

Pick strategies that align with your values and passions so that taking action will feel effortless and rewarding. Then, free up time daily to review your goals. You’ll be successful in no time with the proper method and motivation.

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Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.