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Are S.M.A.R.T Goals Enough Towards Happiness And Success?

Written by: Anila Bashllari, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Most of large corporations and businesses use SMART goals as a clear and simple framework for defining and managing goals and objectives, even on long-term. Despite its critics, the SMART approach has impacted deeply the way we set and measure goals.

bulls eye on dart board.
“Instead of focusing on what we can live with, we should focus on what we cannot live without. – Ebony Carter

For curious readers, the concept of SMART goals was developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in their 1981 article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives”.

But I frequently was raising the question: Are S.M.A.R.T goals enough towards success? And later on, when started to study happiness I was asking the same question but this time adding happiness.

I recall myself the year 2003 when I had my “un-explaining” burning out. That time I just understood my tiredness, lack of energy and engagement in things that used to love the most. Now, I realize that having only S.M.A.R.T goals does not necessarily make you happy for according to most recent scientific studies, happiness is connected directly with Self-concordant goals and personal strengths, in other words what do we really, really want and where we are at our best.

I guess that most of readers here are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ¹ grouped in Physiological – Safety – Love and belonging – Esteem and Self-actualization. In fact, needs are what we value the most and every organization, regardless the size ought to focus on high culture performance values, where people find the space for expressing and developing their personal values and talents. Only when corporate values are aligned with personal values, people are motivated, perform the best and unleash their talents.

So, in order to make sure we find motivation as a driver for achieving corporate goals, we need to add another ingredient: Self Concordant Goals (SCG) that define themselves through three conditions as Affection, Authenticity and Autonomy. This way, S.M.A.R.T goals and Self-concordant goals (SCG) create the premises to reach happiness and success.

When we achieve only corporate/organization S.M.A.R.T goals we ask ourselves: SO, WHAT? Am I feeling happy and successful? Am I doing what do I really want?

Only when S.M.A.R.T goals align with Self Concordant Goals (purposeful goals as our destination) and utilizing our strengths (our journey) we can achieve happiness and as result of it, success.

(S.M.A.R.T + SCG) goals + Strengths = Happiness and Success

While most of you know the meaning of S.M.A.R.T goals and apply them regularly in your work, probably Self-concordant goals, very few are aware of the real meaning and distinction of strengths. I was one of you till got acknowledged with the two types of strengths:

  • Performance strengths related to what we are good at and our talents while

  • Passionate strengths that relate to what energizes us, fuel us.

We need the awareness of both performance and passionate strengths and utilizing them in combination with S.M.A.R.T and SCG.

Becoming self-concordant as individual or organization is a difficult skill, requiring both accurate self- perceptual abilities, and the ability to resist social pressures that may sometimes push one in appropriate direction.

In recent years there has showed up a growing interest in research related to Self- concordant goals and the use of strengths. Positive psychology is focused on research on this particular topic: patterns of thought, feelings and behavior that are bringing more energy or suck it from us that lead to maximum effectiveness or not.

Researchers from the past have consistently observed the correlation between using strengths and higher performance and greater well-being, but unable to provide any scientific support on that. Only recently, ² researchers were able to study this correlation and come up to the conclusion of straight correlation between strengths, goals progress, high performance, happiness, and wellbeing.

It is noteworthy that not all goal progress is associated with wellbeing. Self-concordant goals are a special case of enhanced well-being. The use of personal strengths appears to be inherently self-concordant and, as a result, leads to better goal progress and greater feelings of well-being, thereby providing a solid empirical base to support practitioners across many fields who are using strengths approaches in their work.

So, after reading this article, do you think S.M.A.R.T goals are enough towards happiness and success? What can you bring to your life/organization to bring happiness and reach success?

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Anila Bashllari, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Anila Bashllari is an Executive and Business Coach on mindset enhancement, mental fitness and high performance. She coaches business leaders worldwide on Conscious Leader Framework, supporting them to live a holistic life, grows their business, become real manifestos of their dreams and vision, reconciles the conditioning patterns with true deep inside values through Inner and Outer Game. She has developed strategies how to enhance the mindset for creative thinking and achievement, feel resourceful, manage the inner energy to achieve a meaningful life and purposeful business and thrive during adversity times. Her mission is to create future leaders.



[1] Maslow was almost the first psychologists that was talking about happiness and how people feel about the future, not only for the past. [2] Govindji, R., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for strengths coaching and coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (2), 143-153.

Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burke, D., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Enhancing goal self-concordance through coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2 (1), 62-69.



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