The SMART Path

It is not a new concept, at this time of year, to decide to make a change and set a few goals for ourselves.  Some may call the resolutions. Others may just consider them to be a to-do or bucket list for the upcoming year (or month or however long one sticks with it).

It has been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. When figuring out how to actually see or goal become reality and check it off as complete, we are commonly encouraged to set them up in SMART goal fashion. In fact, as a physical therapist and health coach, this is the typical framework I use with most of my clients.

What are SMART goals?






What is so good about being SMART?

As you can imagine from the format listed above, using SMART goals has its benefits. First, it’s really hard to meet a goal if you don’t actually define it.  Being specific about the change you are hoping to see will make it that much easier to recognize when you have actually “gotten there.”  For instance, if a goal is general like “I want to be healthier” then the next logical question would be, “how do I know when I am healthier?”  If, however, a goal is specific like “I want to lower my cholesterol by 10 points,” then we know when we have actually met that goal. It is both specific and measurable.

Those last couple letters in the acronym are really where this SMART path might get a little shaky for some. I would propose that for most people, we do well when we can see a goal is definitely within our reach.  In fact, asking someone to stretch too far out of their comfort zone may instead have a more reverse effect and cause the person to shy away from even stepping forward onto the path at all.

In a group of others, though, feeling constrained to only achievable and relevant in a certain amount of time is suffocating and paralyzing too. That is when those individuals may opt to play it DUMB.


DUMB looks good on you

Okay, okay. Let me be clear, I am not saying YOU are dumb. Sometimes we just need to jazz up our goal setting to make it fit who we are, to help us chart our course, stick to the plan and meet those goals.  That is where DUMB goals might be of use.

What are DUMB goals (as defined by Brendon Burchard, author and public speaker)?




B-behavior triggered

Looking at this list you might think it is the complete opposite of a SMART goal. I actually tend to think of a DUMB goal as the mountain top view in our goal journey and the SMART goals are sort of the camps along the way to the majestic view.

Remember when we weren’t afraid to dream big and reach for the moon? That’s what a dream-driven goal looks like. What is that big, scary, gets-your-blood-excited goal that just seems crazy?  Yep, say it out loud and put it on paper. Want to run a marathon? Climb Mt Everest? Open your own business? It can be anything, but it HAS to be positive.  That’s the uplifting part.  Do you really want to work tirelessly toward a goal that doesn’t get you excited??  Someone might want to lower their cholesterol 10 points to be healthier, but other folks need a little more umph to keep themselves on track, like finishing that marathon they have always wanted to do. Will their cholesterol numbers come down?  Probably. But the goal, the carrot that gets that person out of bed every day to lace up or to choose the best food to fuel their body…it’s going to be the DUMB goal.

SMART and DUMB collide

Method-friendly and behavior driven are sort of the hiking paths to the top of our mountain, and could really be described in some ways as pseudo-SMART goals (in my opinion). Developing methods and habits to keep us moving in the right direction and having behaviors that trigger action. Tracking our miles while we train for our “marathon” (whatever that marathon is for you) is a habit. Treating ourselves with new gear when we meet preset milestones may be the trigger that keeps us steadily moving toward our big, scary goal.  In the process, we have made smaller achievable and relevant steps that we can soar past on the way to landing on the mountain top!

There you have it. If you are someone that finds themselves feeling unmotivated by the achievable and relevant, I challenge you to think big. Tap into the creative dreamer deep inside and tell that doubting voice to pipe down. Using dumber smart goals to unlock the healthiest you in 2021 could be just what the health coach ordered.