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Why Smart Goals May Not Be The Smartest. Thinking Outside The Smart Box In Goal Setting

Written by: Liselotte Molander, 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.


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If you’re one of the 85% of people who have already given up on your New Year’s Resolutions, there’s hope for you.

Today I want to talk about some common mistakes and illusions that can stop us from creating more than we ever thought possible.

Let's look at some standard ways to set goals. In my corporate life and my life as a small business owner, goals are not only necessary, they can seem inevitable. We learn to set SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. Some people use other words, but it's the same general structure.

When I even say these five words, I feel my energy going down.

How do you feel when you say specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound?

Do you feel a rise of energy, and a sense of, hell yes, let's go?


Me either. I've never, ever been able to set goals like this. It feels overly complicated, sucks out all of my motivation, and makes me dread even thinking about my goal.

Honestly, I already feel a sense of failure, not excitement.

There are a couple of things that make goal setting in general so tricky:

First, most goals are set in the context of what we already know, what we can calculate, and what we have been able to do before.

In our businesses, let's say that the revenue has grown by 3% per year over the past five years. So, according to the SMART layout, you set your goal based on that 3% trend and extrapolate what you think is reasonable.

This boils down to you doing what most people do: build on a historical past while setting goals for the future.

If it worked then, then it will be fine now.

You have the goal down, you checked every box. But then the thoughts arrive.

"I worked so hard last year. I can't think of working even more."

“What happens if I set the goal too high and I inevitably miss it?”

“What am I going to miss out on because I’ll be spending all my time working?”

That 3% feels safe. It feels familiar. It feels comfortable.

Your thoughts go to: “I'm in control.”

“ I'm not going to fail, because I already succeeded.”

“I’m just repeating what I already know works.”

You are faced with a juxtaposition: fear of failure if you’re more aggressive, versus what you know is safe, but secure.

It really comes down to these two thoughts.

“If I miss it, I fail.”

“If I make the 3%, I’m a success.”

What many don’t want to talk about, however, is that nagging sense of guilt when you know you could have achieved so much more than that 3%.

No one wants to talk about your level of success not fulfilling you.

This is how we try to create success on paper.

BUT your historical past says NOTHING about your future.

This historically based way of goal setting is going against what you REALLY want to create. It's not shortening the time it takes to achieve your success. It's not inviting quantum leaps forward.

A massive breakthrough might just be lingering on your horizon, waiting for you to stop doing what you're doing and trust and surrender, but you leave no space for it to happen inside your comfort zone.

Second, this old way of deciding on goals, paths, and vision for your business is a perfect setup for hustle and burnout.

While this way of goal setting is emotion-free, it’s also dispassionate.

It creates an extensive list of actions but lacks the vision to keep you motivated.

Here's the goal, strategy, and how we're going to do this, now do it.

It's a very masculine action-oriented way of being and approaching goals. If there are emotions, it is mainly anger, fear, shame, and other feelings of not being enough, with a huge helping of frustration on the side.

We go after numbers. Numbers are emotion-free, numbers can be measured.

Numbers are safe.

It's the thoughts about the numbers that are deeply connected with our emotions.

You can’t tell me a numeral brings you joy, makes you mad, or gives you a feeling of success.

In the long run, it doesn’t matter how many “figures” you make If you add a 0, two 00, even 000. Because 10K or 10 million are both just numbers.

Your thoughts about the numbers, what they mean to you, and the responsibility they represent create resistance and fear, which stops your creative flow.

So, you fall back to safety, to what is known, and settle for less.

We are energetic beings, and emotions feed us.

General George Patton gave one of the most profane speeches in recorded history during WWII, yet it is an example of one of the most motivating.

We lead with our emotions. We stay motivated with progress. We make decisions using both fact and feeling, so why do we try to eliminate feeling and energy from the goal-setting process?

We must load our goals and visions with energy. Especially as small business owners or solopreneurs, emotions in your vision and goal setting as a business are essential.

If we don't have an energetic charge, we disconnect from the bigger picture.

Third, we hold ourselves either in the past or live in the story of the past.

When we use historically based methods for goal setting, we inevitably also carry into the future all the pain and all the wounds and all the sad things that happened in the past. Yes, there are good things, too, but our brains are naturally inclined to comfort. That means we remember 1 negative comment out rather than the 9 positive comments. Since our brains crave comfort, we remember the uncomfortable thing to avoid it in the future rather than embracing the positive.

We are incredibly cognizant of each and every failure, each person who wronged us or hurt us.

This can create a fictional version of the future that may or may not come true which is still based on the past!

Invariably, to keep yourself safe, ensure success, and avoid failure, you limit your vision, and you go for less than you know in your heart is possible.

Friend, settling for less is not a great way to access the quantum field of creation. Imagine this infinite, unlimited field of creation that goes through all life on this earth it’s a field of possibilities available for all of us.

It is there, waiting for you.

It's on hold until you have realized that most of what you think and do are bound to illusions and beliefs. You unconsciously act against the infinite field of possibilities until you have discovered and disempowered your illusions.

Then, you can act differently and choose a different way of thinking.

Accessing this field of creation is not something that you can do by pure muscle power, hustle.

The quantum field is unpredictable. If you want to include it and the equation of your success, you must practice being in the NOW.

The NOW is good. Just here, now, in this very moment, you're fine.

But I want this; I want that?

No, stay with me. Stay here, don't go for all that, it’s not good, it’s not working.

Be here. Be now.

Let go, surrender to the present moment. Trust. Give space.

Skip the predictable. Allow yourself to be amazed. Allow flow.

It doesn't mean you should sit all day and meditate.

You need to act on your vision. Take purposeful, aligned actions and steps toward making your vision a reality.

Be aware when you drift away from here and now. Return to presence.

It's not a question of always being in the NOW.

It's a question of how quickly you can come back to here and now, to ease and flow in your own natural energy, your own unique state of genius.

You're not in the memories of the past or your imaginary future in the moment of now. You give yourself permission to be genuine, to be wholly yourself, in all of your fearsome, flawed, fantasticness.

I’m not dismissing learning from the past, nor am I saying to not prepare for the future.

I'm saying that you draw on experiences and emotions connected to the past, and on those negative thoughts and emotions, you build something inherently for the positive future you want.

On top of that, you think that you're not allowed to think negative thoughts, so you try to stop the negative thoughts. So it creates a false sense of positivity, while under the surface there is all this growing negativity you’re trying to avoid.

No wonder it's a total mess, and your results come in so much slower than what is possible. Surrender, trust, let go, let go, trust, surrender, relax, breathe.

Don't wait for the evidence to be here. This might be one of the trickiest things ever, to trust and act without concrete proof that it works.

Life happens. You are not meant to sit still and meditate all day long. We are living, working, breathing, living life. We are dealing with what happens. Refrain from falling into "Oh no, I did it again, I lost myself in the past, it's so hard, I can't do this".

Practice how quickly you come back to here and now. Have fun with it.

The secret is to embrace who you are in the present, so you can grow into who you will be in the future.

You got this. Seriously. You do. Because it’s you!

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Liselotte Molander, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Liselotte supports leaders and their teams in taking full ownership for their lives, goals, and both personal and professional performance. She believes the answers you need are already inside you, locked down by your past experiences, how your own personal culture has been created, and beliefs that are not going to allow you to progress into your future self.

She believes in equipping today’s leaders to evolve their organization from good to excellent and that organizations are creating space for conscious growth, in their corporate culture and their communities.

Her firm belief is that leaders who are empowered to embrace their unique and boundless brilliance will lead the way for improved corporate culture, employee engagement, fearless creativity, and mission-focused passion ‒ which leads, inevitably, to increased financial outcomes, as all true change can only happen from the inside out.



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