Stop Using SMART Goals. They Don’t Work.

Carl Pullein
6 min readOct 19, 2022


For years, the conventional wisdom has been if you want to set a goal, your goal needs to be SMART: Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

Now, broken down in this way, you would think if you are clear about what you want to achieve and have a way to measure your progress over a given period, hitting your goals would be easy. Well, yes and no.

Setting SMART goals can and does work inside a company, and the reason for that is why SMART goals don’t work for individuals. Within an organisation, you have a natural motivation to complete the goal. A boss and colleagues will typically push each other to accomplish the goal. Failing that, there is the carrot and stick approach, where if you don’t complete your goal, you’ll be fired, and if you do, there will be a bonus.

When you set a SMART goal for yourself, you lose that accountability and motivation. You are on your own, and a SMART goal will do nothing for you when things get hard, and things will get hard. It’s too easy to give up, which is why only around 8% of people who set goals achieve them.

Setting goals is important because your goals pull you out of your comfort zone. Getting stuck inside a comfort zone leads to decay and decline. While you may not want to change, the world around you is constantly changing, and it is on us to stay ahead, stay healthy and adapt.

If SMART goals don’t work for an individual, what does work?

The part missing from SMART goals is the motivation part, which means we need to find a reason for achieving a goal. That reason will motivate you and pull you through when things get hard. At the same time, we want to change old habits that no longer serve us and develop new habits that will move us forward without it feeling like a drag.

The place to start is to think about the life you want to live. Where would you like to live? What would you like to drive? And where would you like to travel? These are great things to think about. But there is a more powerful way to discover what you want, and that is to ask yourself who you envy.

Envy is good.

Envy is where you see how someone else lives and want to have the same. Jealousy, on the other hand, is bad. Jealously is where you believe it’s unfair that someone else has something you do not have. Jealousy leads to bitterness and excuses. Envy leads to inspiration and motivates us to try harder and do things differently. It’s the ‘if they can do it, so can I’ mentality.

While initially, you may find that material things such as a house, a car or an expensive watch are motivating, long-term they don’t bring you happiness. After all, once you have that house or car or watch, what then? They don’t change you by themselves, but the journey to acquiring them will change you.

What kind of person lives in your ideal home? What kind of person drives the car you want? These questions move you towards discovering the changes you will have to make in your life for you to achieve those things.

I “envy” Tony Robbins. He runs multiple companies, has helped and inspired millions of people worldwide, and lives an extraordinarily disciplined life. He’s in a state of constant and never-ending improvement and has a loving and caring family.

This means all I need to do is to look at Tony Robbins’ life and analyse how he has built his life. How did he start? How did he create his programmes? Collecting that knowledge will give me a blueprint I can use to build my own life and develop a set of goals.

I also “envy” people like Dwayne The Rock Johnson. Why? Because of his incredible self-discipline. To maintain his physical health as he does, he exercises six to seven times a week and is meticulous about his diet.

In looking at people like Tony Robbins and Dwayne Johnson, I learn what it takes to build a successful business, maintain my physical health and live with discipline. It’s this knowledge that I can develop my own goals around. I discover the habits I need to adopt, the habits I need to change, and the strategies to build my own business that will help millions of people.

It is within these areas I can build my own goals — goals that will motivate and inspire me. On days when I am tired and ‘not in the mood’ to write, I have to remind myself that Tony Robbins would never let his “mood” stop him from helping people. If I don’t feel like going to the gym, Dwayne Johnson reminds me that to be fit, strong and healthy, you never skip a gym session.

No matter what you want in life, someone somewhere is living that life. All you need to do is find them, research them, and learn what they have done to get there. That will give you a blueprint for what you need to change about how you live your life.

When I was a teenager, I admired Sebastian Coe, the then World record holder for the 800 and 1,500 metres. I read Athletics Weekly and Runners World religiously, looking for how Sebastian Coe trained — how many times a week did he train on the track? When did he do his long runs? As a result, I built similar training programmes into my training. As a result, I achieved a relatively high level of athletic success, representing my county at 1,500 metres in the English Schools Championships.

Today, people like Rich Roll, Wim Hoff, Robin Sharma and David Goggins provide me with my blueprint. All highly disciplined people who want to help other people achieve their very best. It’s that helping people to achieve their very best that inspires me. It motivates me every day, and I know I can do it. I can see a pathway; I know what to do because others have led the way. It’s taught me what I must change about myself and what I must do each day.

As we approach the end of 2022, now is a great time to start tracking down the people you envy. The people doing what you want to do and researching how they did it. Read articles, watch interviews, and learn what they did to become the person they are today. While you are not trying to be them — you want to remain who you are — their mindset, habits and routines will tell you what you need to do to become like them, so you can achieve the things you want for yourself and others.

If you want to learn more about building the life you want to live, then I highly recommend you join my Goal Setting mini-course. This course will show you step by step what you need to do to achieve what you want.

Thank you for reading my stories! 😊 If you enjoyed this article, hit those clapping hands below many times👏 It would mean a lot to me, and it helps other people see the story.

If you would like to receive all the productivity and time management content I create each week in one convenient email, you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter here

You can also learn more about what I do here on my website

Finally, don’t forget to say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook



Carl Pullein

I help people learn to manage their lives and time better so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of.