Beyond SMART: Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs

If there’s one thing we know about goals, they have to be SMART, right? After all, that’s what we’ve been told for years. We have been told that if we want to succeed, our goals MUST be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

This acronym looks great on paper—and clearly, it’s easy to remember— but does it go far enough for those of us who want to achieve big things?

Let’s be honest with ourselves: do you really want to be stuck with “attainable” and “realistic” goals? Are your dreams to be living in a three-bedroom apartment, or a stunning three-bedroom home with a huge yard for your six rescue dogs to play in? Do your dreams include weekend trips down-state or multi-week international vacations to beautiful and exotic places?



SMART goals are certainly attainable, nothing to argue there, but are they going to make you happy or satisfied? Do realistic goals help us move up in the world, or do they keep us from moving on to bigger and better things?

In reality, sticking to what is “realistic” may actively hold you back, not help you reach your full potential. Setting realistic goals might mean you see results fast, but those results won’t get you where you want to be in the long-run and could leave you questioning why you aren’t able to achieve more. So why have we all been told to be “realistic” about our goals?

Consider what might happen if you set an “attainable” goal of earning 10% more than you did last year. To achieve this, you might work 10% harder, spend 10% more on ads, or reach out to 10% more client leads. With a little extra work, chances are good you will make that 10% more, but will it have mattered in the grand scheme of your business?

Did achieving that 10% increase inspire you to work harder? Did setting and completing a “realistic” goal spur you to newer, greener pastures? Or did you simply create a subconscious ceiling on your earning potential?

By choosing to focus only on SMART goals, you risk ignoring golden opportunities. By avoiding risk, you take yourself out of the race entirely, leaving your lane open for others to speed past you and snag those golden opportunities right out from under your nose.

Imagine if no one had ever set lofty goals for themselves? At one time, flying was something you only did in your dreams. Now hundreds of thousands of people fly all over the world each and every day. At one time, having a radio was considered a luxury. Now, billions of people carry smartphones with them everywhere they go and have constant contact with the rest of the world.

Without big, bold, unrealistic ideas, many of the world’s most important inventions would never have been created. Without big, bold, unrealistic goals, innovation would never be possible, and the world would be a much more boring place.

Rather than focusing on goals that are attainable and realistic, savvy entrepreneurs know that the key to incredible success lies in creating lofty goals that feel out of reach—maybe even UN-attainable. Entrepreneurs with dreams of reaching the top aim for the top, not the middle. By choosing to reach for the middle, you prevent yourself from even seeing the top, creating a cap on your own success.

If you want to reach the top, you can’t simply strive to earn 10% more; you need to want to earn 50%, or 75%, or 100% more! You need to set yourself goals that stretch you, that require you to create new, better, more efficient ways of doing things. Setting “unattainable” goals will help you see your true potential and set you free from the constraints you put on yourself by being SMART.


Of course, setting lofting goals is not the only key to success. You cannot simply declare crazy goals and expect the universe to place success in your lap, but by declaring your goals, you create a new earning potential for yourself. To reach the top you must believe you can make it to the top, and then you need to work at it.

When you shun the attainable in favor of the “holy cow, how will I ever do THAT?” goal, you allow yourself to be pushed beyond your self-imposed limits and reach for the stars. Sure, you might not double your income, but you are almost guaranteed to do better than a mere 10% increase.

So here is your challenge: push your boundaries! Set big, audacious goals! Challenge yourself to achieve more than what is “realistically attainable”. Envision where you want to be, then aim to get there. Knowing where you want to go is the first step to finding the path. Set your sights on a goal you could only dream of achieving, you might surprise yourself with how close you come.

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