One-year SMART goals and how to avoid their trap

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It may be surprising, but the goals you commit to at the beginning of each year set you up for failure. This article is about the most common traps of the yearly and SMART goals. We will also show you how to avoid them.

Yearly goals – one lost cause

Most people start each year with a list of New Year’s resolutions. Isn’t it strange that the next year’s list is… absolutely the same? Why? Probably because none of them is achieved, and they simply get moved to next year’s list.

In fact, 94% of people fail just in the first couple of weeks. For all of them, the accomplishments for the year become a causa perduta. So there must be something wrong with the yearly goals. Here it is what we found.

The long procrastination

The scenario often goes like this: at first you put off the real actions, merely because the whole year is ahead of you. January and February are usually quite stressful, later on follow some Holidays, and then comes the summer and vacation season…

Does it ring a bell? And just like that, suddenly half of the year is gone. At this point, you have probably forgotten about your goals. And when you do remember them, it is already too late to begin and try to catch up with the time lost. So you just leave it all for the next year.

The story could also unfold differently. Maybe you don’t forget about your goals, because the list hangs on the fridge. But when September comes and you are finally rolling your sleeves up, you run into an unexpected problem. What you set so long ago, already seems completely irrelevant. For this period of time you’ve changed – you got a new perspective, network, ideas and there’s a whole new situation to be taken care of. You need new challenges – or at least you have to formulate them anew. What could you do… So you postpone it for the year to come.

This is how years come and go without bringing much improvement.

The vague direction

But maybe we’re wrong. Maybe you’re among that 6% who stick with their plan. In this case, you manage to start working on it at the very beginning of the year. You kick off with enviable energy and then you advance step by step towards the desired results.

Then what’s wrong?

It all boils down to timing – one year is way too long of a period. Your initial enthusiasm drops gradually. There’s no end in sight – you just go on and on without having a clue whether the direction is right. You will find this out only at the end of the year. Until then you have plenty of time. Weariness and demotivation could take over. It’s not you – it’s human nature.

You can tell how this will end: most probably you’ll just give up. It could be otherwise, but we will come to this later.

SMART goals are not what they are

Do a Google search for “goal setting” and what you get in return is the very popular SMART method. What is SMART?

This “smart” goalsetting model is designed to live up to the expectations its name raises.



Achievable/ Attainable



At first glance, these characteristics seem to make perfect sense.

SMART goals are not a bad idea. We just find the idea misleading.

Where is the catch?

„SMART” model is incorrectly considered to be a universal objective formulating method. While in fact, its function is to help to define only the stages of a strategy towards long-term plans or big projects.

The hidden traps of SMART

Unfortunately, few can make the important distinction between short- and long-term goals. They set only one type and try to do so according to the SMART criteria. But your vision cannot be “smart”, it has to be “great”!

And in more detail,

SMART goals are just minor steps in your vision’s strategy implementation. They are short-term, tactical and “check-list” task like.

The issue is in the R. Realistic. If you define your vision, or even your one-year objective to be realistic, this alone is a limitation. Yes, it will sound adequate – but that’s all it will be. It won’t inspire or challenge you to gear up all your creative energy and come up with solutions. It won’t drive you to strive for the seemingly unattainable and unrealistic.

Yearly SMART goals just don’t work

Don’t get us wrong! SMART goals are better than the fuzzy ones – or none at all, for that matter.

It is just no good to set only them. Let’s see what would happen with the yearly goals if they were to be SMART:

  • First, they will have the features of short-term objectives. This will make them relevant, easy to meet and not quite aspirational.
  • Further, the time you dedicate to them will come close to the time for long-term ones.

One-year SMART goals are a bad mix which does the job, but only sort of.

Unsurprisingly, the combination of too much time and a really low bar goals doesn’t lead to particular advances. To say the least, this puts you in the mediocrity zone, unable to step up and play big.

Obviously, this type of objectives is not the best one. Then what is?

You need these two

Imagine what you can do for a year. Plenty, for sure – if you have an effective approach.

What to pick? We’ve examined dozens of goalsetting systems and came to this conclusion: In order to work, it needs two components: vision and short-term strategy.

  • The vision for the long run – it’s often formulated for 25 years ahead, but could have no deadline whatsoever. This is your big bold dream, which provides clarity, focus and confidence in your choice day in, day out.
  • 90-day goals are short-term and require actions. They are your strategy to actively work and achieve your vision.

Follow this rule and don’t waste another year

At the beginning of each year, set 90-days action goals instead of New Year’s resolutions or SMART goals. Keep up with the quarterly objectives. But be mindful of how you phrase them.

The definition of the goals is key. For each of them, you focus on your own actions, rather than on the end result, which rarely depends entirely on you.

You might be asking why 90-day goals are better than the yearly SMART ones? There are some good reasons!

90 days: the optimal time frame

Sure, 90 days are not 365 days. You have a deadline, close enough for you to not lose sight of. This kicks you into gear right away and you never lose focus again. You can take it to the bank – you won’t procrastinate and let your plan get forgotten or turn irrelevant.

You find the right path in time

In “Goal Buddy”, the review we make each 90 days is very important. It’s a must: 4 times a year we go through our strategy and how it worked for us so far. That’s the base we build our next strategy on. This allows us every 90 days to rethink our path, and if needed – to make some corrections, adaptations, fine-tuning of our end destination.

Try and you will see it yourself. In the course of three months, you might acquire more skills, knowledge, opportunities, acquaintances … You may use all your newly gained resources the best possible way for the next period. In doing so, each quarter you make these midway adjustments. Thus you make sure the direction is right and you move forward.

You stay motivated

Picture the burst of energy and enthusiasm by the accomplishment of just one of your goals for the year. Now imagine it 4 times a year. Because once per each quarter you will stop, look back and appraise how far you’ve come. This will help you step forward with more confidence and courage. Besides, what’s more motivational than success itself?

Does it get any better than this?

If you are thinking: “In this case, isn’t it better to formulate objectives for an even shorter run, say for a month?”

We don’t think so.

It’s just that 12 times a year is too much of paperwork to review and redefine targets. It’s a waste of time. That way you lose the pleasure of it all.

The best part is the mere joy and fun you have throughout the whole process.

We are convinced, that for this strategy to work out and give fruit, the 90 days are the best fit. For instance…

Here are some examples from our experience with “Goal Buddy” itself

Not just thousands, but millions!

Helping millions of people in reaching their dreams and living a happier life is our vision in the “Goal Buddy” system. Now you see how it ain’t a SMART goal… It includes elements such as website, mobile app, workshops, articles, podcast series, book etc. For each of these, we set 90-day action goals.

Sometimes it is easy:

Like with that one 90-day goal for organizing and holding a workshop. We had no experience but we did have a strict and clear-cut goal. We managed to arrange everything. Step by step we met our objective with unexpected success.

But sometimes it’s harder.

Did we take any wrong steps while working on our 90-day goals? Sure we did. But looking back, we measure the end result. If it’s not the one we wanted, we add correcting actions in the next 3-month cycle.

When we defined our purpose to develop a mobile app, it didn’t work out in the first quarter. It turned out we hadn’t foreseen the hidden obstacles, neither were we able to control our contractor’s actions. But when the three months passed, we realized what went wrong and what – right. So we reworked our strategy according to these conclusions. In the next period, our steps depended entirely on us. This is how we make progress.

The examples above illustrate our modus operandi. Meanwhile, our deep interest in the goal-setting made us do some extensive research. All that reaffirmed our belief that we provide optimal, time-proven methods and guidelines.

We hope we helped you once and for all to get rid of the SMART goals traps and start accomplishing the success you deserve! And now, some “food for thought”: do you have any of your yearly goals, which you can redefine for the next 90 days and start working on them today?

We believe so!

4 thoughts on “One-year SMART goals and how to avoid their trap

  • October 12, 2018 at 11:50

    Brilliant, thank you. I believe in your vision to help millions of people to achieve their goals and visions thereby creating better lives for themselves and others. The potential is incredible. What happens when millions of people start setting and achieving their most inspiring goals. The truth is that we don’t know what possibilities and outcomes will be created, but the potential is to dramatically improve the world.

    • October 18, 2018 at 15:37

      Hi Matthew,
      thanks so much for the great feedback. We believe that if people get better in achieving goals will live a more happy and fulfilling live. And if that happens to millions of people the world will hopefully be a better place to live 🙂

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