Most people who have been involved in leadership or coaching would be aware of SMART goals.

The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely and if your goals meet these criteria, you are on the right track.

Alternatively, there are DUMB goals.

These are the unhelpful goals that I see people setting for themselves or their organisations far too often.

What does DUMB stand for?

D is for Delusional – I constantly encourage people to set audacious goals, but try not to be delusional when you set them or you’ll feel defeated before you even start taking action towards them.

I remember years ago asking one of my employees what his aspirations were.  With a straight face he responded that he wanted to be a rock star.  The problem was that he was over 40, had very limited musical ability and didn’t really have a rock star persona.  Frankly, he was delusional and by setting such a goal he became distracted from setting more realistic goals that he could take action towards and that could help his situation.

U is for Unclear – One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to have goals that aren’t entirely clear.  You need to have time-frames and measures attached to your goals or you run the risk of not knowing if you’ve reached your goal or getting too easily distracted from what you want to achieve.

For example, “I want to lose weight” is unclear.  I could weigh myself this morning, skip a couple of meals, weigh myself again tomorrow and I most likely would have lost a small amount of weight.  But is that the intention of the goal?  Have I really been successful?

Alternatively, “I will lose 10 kilograms by the end of the year” is a clear goal that I can make a plan and take meaningful action towards. There are three simple principles in this goal:

  • “I will” is more intentional and powerful than “I want to.”
  • “lose 10 kilograms” is a specific measurable outcome.  I will know when I have been successful and it will take discipline and a change in habits to achieve it.
  • “by the end of the year” is an end date that requires me to take action now.  I can’t put it off forever because I have a deadline and I can’t wait until mid-December to start as it won’t give me enough time to reach my goal.

M is for Mediocre – Whilst you don’t want to be delusional with your goal setting, I would also caution against setting mediocre goals.  Set yourself a challenge that will require discipline and hard work.  Set the bar high so that you will need to stretch yourself and set goals that inspire and motivate you.

Achieving mediocre goals isn’t worth celebrating, but achieving remarkable deeds is a terrific accomplishment that will assist you to become more successful and help you to fully develop your skills.

B is for Beige – Beige is one of those colours that just blends in with everything else.  It’s average, it’s conforming and no-one notices it.  Can’t decide what colour to paint your walls?  Just go with beige, everyone else does.

You have a unique combination of skills, experiences, passions and personality that require goals that inspire you to maximise your own purpose and potential.

So don’t set goals that others expect from you or cut and paste from what other successful people do.  Aim for targets that help you to stand out in your field and that motivate you to be the best that you can be.

Goal-setting is important, but aiming for goals that are delusional, unclear, mediocre or beige will neither challenge you nor inspire you.

What DUMB goals have you set in the past?

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