The "A" in SMART

You’ll probably know by now that the “A” in “SMART goals” stands for Attainable. In other words a goal must be attainable for it to be worth pursuing.

The examples I gave of unattainable goals were things like taking lunch on Pluto or becoming the next king of England. These were deliberately extreme examples; but when we get closer to home where do we draw the line between what’s an attainable goal and what isn’t. If we decide a goal isn’t attainable then are we just making excuses and holding ourselves back?

Let me give you another example. Suppose you’re a high level executive and you’re considering setting a goal; “Become a CEO within 12 months”.

  • Specific – yes,
  • Measurable – yes
  • Attainable – I’ll come back to this
  • Relevant – yes
  • Timely – yes

So that just leaves attainable. At first you think this goal is relatively easily attainable; until you realize that it will take you away from your wife and young family who need your support. Eventually you come to the conclusion that this goal isn’t attainable because of family pressures.

My argument here is that this goal, and many like it, are attainable if we’re willing to pay the price. The price in this case is spending time away from the family.

In fact almost any goal, even the daft ones I mentioned above, are attainable if you’re prepared to pay the price.

So where does that leave us when trying to assess attainable goals? We need to decide:

  1. How badly we want the goal
  2. What the price will be of attaining the goal
  3. Are we willing to pay that price?

If we are willing to pay the price for attaining the goal then we must recognize that this is our choice! If we’re not willing to pay the price to attain our goal then, again, this is our choice. In exercising those choices we are empowered to shape our own future.