Anatomy of Goals: Why SMART Goals Don’t Cut it

Using SMART goal format means you are skipping the BIGGEST leverage in crushing your goals. Show of hands for all those there who have a goal. Who am I kidding? I don’t need to poll anyone to find out IF they have a goal. Perhaps a better, more concise question would be: WHAT is your goal? 

Chances are you have plenty of goals, and they vary greatly in size and scope. They range from smaller everyday items (like eating breakfast before work or saving for an all-inclusive vacation) to ambitious objectives (like scaling Mt Everest, a scholarship program for women in Tech, or circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat). So here we have these goals and now all we have to do is jam on the gas, right? Wrong.

Instinct tells us that we are more likely to attain our goals if we hit the ground running, staying in constant forward motion, at breakneck speed, not looking up until we cross the finish line. However, it’s that very same instinct that can lead us charging down the wrong path. Sure, you get somewhere, but is it where you really wanted to be?

The worst thing we can do is be faster, more productive, at getting somewhere we never truly wanted to be.

Instead of focusing on immediate productivity and the instant gratification that ensues (the little dopamine hit of checking off a task is intoxicating), we need to be clear on where you want to head. To do that we must have a clear goal.

Pick a Goal, Any Goal

To get started, you must first choose one goal you want to crush. A nice juicy goal.

Want to write a book? Grow your client roster? Do a Ted Talk? Work remotely from an Italian villa for the summer?

The above are real examples I’ve heard mentioned many times. They are 100% attainable goals for you, and I don’t even need to see your CV. I know because I’ve helped people achieve these same goals, and I can help you, too.

Have your big juicy goal in mind? Great, let’s go!

The Tools: Those You Have and Those You Don’t

It’s likely you have heard of the SMART goal format, but here is a quick review. The SMART goal format tool is a mnemonic device for goal-getters and it goes a little something like this:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time Bound

Clever, eh? I love a good mnemonic device.

And though this has been the goal-gold-standard for years, there is something missing.

First let’s start with what it does right.  

Remember what I said about our tendency to not look up until we cross the finish line? The SMART format reminds us to look up – and realign our priorities if we wander off course. It’s a simple, effective tool that everyone has at the ready.

Now I’m going to teach you about the tools most people don’t have.

Let’s get into the anatomy of it all – the What, Who, Why, and How – in that very specific order (more on that later).

Anatomy of Goals in Four Equal Parts- from PivotMe Academy


Identify YOUR goal. What is it? It is imperative you have total clarity here.

Why the emphasis on YOUR? Because in business, as in life, it’s tempting to fall into the comparison trap. All too often we look to those in comparable positions/stations in life to measure our own success. Perhaps it’s a next-door neighbor with a shiny new car, a colleague who was recently promoted, or a fellow entrepreneur who just received outside funding – and now you think it’s time to buy a new car, ask for a promotion, or seek out investment partners. That thinking is natural, and it happens to all of us.

And why not? After all, these are all perfectly acceptable, attainable goals. And on paper they all look, well… like success. But (and this is a big but) they aren’t YOUR goals. Maybe you don’t really care all that much about cars. Maybe that promotion pays better but doesn’t lead you in the direction you want to be going. Maybe taking on an investment partner creates more pressure than you are prepared to take on.  

Just for a moment I invite you to close your eyes, tune out the white noise, and instead narrow your focus only on what YOU want for YOUR life or business. What is it YOU genuinely want to achieve?


We have a greater chance of success when we aren’t navigating the path alone. It’s no secret that supportive partners and/or communities (whether virtual or in-person) are more likely to lead to goal attainment But I’m about to show you the next level.

Here is how to think of the Who.

  • Mentor: first you need a mentor. Someone ahead of you on the path. They know the ropes because they have been there. They will guide you in the process. Let’s use the example of publishing a book. This person will have already published one or more books and can help you avoid the pitfalls and fast track your success.
  • Networker: this is a person who will lend you their network. They know people, they are connected. They know publishers and literary agents. They will connect you to the people that can shortcut the process. Can the mentor and the networker be the same person? Absolutely. They often are. But they don’t have to be.
  • Buddy: This is your Accountability Buddy. They don’t need to have done whatever it is you are about to do, but they can help you stay accountable to it. They could be a dear friend that texts you every morning asking “did you get your word count in?” Or “did you send the first draft yet?” They aren’t required to know every little detail about your goal — you can simply tell them what to ask you. The social pressure, the expectation, the accountability – will spur you to take action – even if it was fabricated by you all along. When I was working on eating better, I had a cousin text me every night asking “what were your macros?” I literally told her what to ask at the beginning. And knowing I would get that text every night helped me stay on track.

There are absolutely ways to short cut success. If anyone tells you can’t short cut it- they are full of it. You can, and this is one of the ways.

The problem is, most of us are on the long path to success. We want to “hustle in silence” so we take the dirt path through the field instead of the highway. Often this is driven by ego- we are not most afraid of failing- we are most afraid of failing publicly.

Don’t let YOU get in the way of your goals.


The “Why” is where we get leverage. And leverage is key.

Powerful leverage is like having a long lever arm to lift something heavy. Powerful leverage makes the effort (your personal work) easier because the load (your goal) feels lighter. More on that in a future article.

But why does the Why matter?

Think of it as unearthing the goal behind the goal.

And here is what you need to understand about leverage. Some of us are motivated by Pain, some of us are motivated by Pleasure. It is paramount, when generating momentum and urgency in your life, to understand which one- Pain or Pleasure- inspires you to take action.

Two people can both be in pursuit of losing 40 pounds. Same goal. Person A wants to lose 40 pounds because they are worried about their high blood pressure. What motivates them is the fear they may not be around long enough to see their child get married. Person B? Well, they want to look good naked. Or they can’t wait to demo those new ripped abs at the pool this summer. Both are leverage, but it’s important to know which one you are most motivated by. More leverage, easier to lift the load.

Pain or Pleasure?

Unsure which you are motivated by? Think of a goal. Any goal – health, success, money, contribution. Now consider why you want it? What really pushes you? Is it the pain of not having it (“if I don’t create that new business so many people will needlessly suffer”) or the pleasure of having it (“once I make 7 figures I will take my whole family to Croatia and kayak!”)?

Which are you motivated by?

Know it? Great! Now USE it with goal setting.

Pro tip: if you are thinking of a goal you’ve had, maybe one you had for a while, and you are struggling to get leverage or tap into your why — it may be because you aren’t that passionate about the goal. It may be that it was someone else’s goal you adopted.


“How” is the final piece of this Goal Anatomy puzzle – and its position following the other pieces was not placed in error. Let me explain.

How. It’s a seemingly benign word. An often-overlooked adverb that, once considered, erodes our psyche and all but extinguishes any spark of enthusiasm we have in thinking beyond status quo. To put it simply, “How” reduces an ocean of possibilities into a single drop of water.

“How” is where we get stuck. It’s the stumbling block to end all stumbling blocks. Yet, in our humanness, it’s the first question we ask ourselves. But how will I do it? And this is where the tires screech to a halt.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve dreamt of authoring a book for as long as you can remember. Yet, all these years pass without a single chapter, nay paragraph, written. And why is that? Because you got lost in the ”How.”

Does the following thought process sound familiar?

I want to write a book. But how? I would probably need to write at least two hours per day. Oh, but I can’t possibly do it during my child’s soccer season. And we have this looming deadline at work that will likely require overtime. And of course, I’ll need to find a publisher or a literary agent. Do I even know anyone in that world? Even if I did would they be willing to help me? It’s not like I have experience. And I’ll certainly need to be an expert in my field. I’ll need to brush up on my research. That’s another time commitment. Perhaps I should just wait a little longer before starting? Ugh.” <End Scene>

Alright. Be honest. Who has had a train of thought like this one? I certainly have.  

We can blame it on time, circumstance, and a general lack of confidence in our skill set to our heart’s content. But it all boils down to this: We don’t need anyone else to talk us out of our dreams – we do it all ourselves before we even get started!

That, my friends, is the precise reason we make “How” the caboose on this train. It is our greatest foe, our kryptonite, our Achilles heel – and, if we begin there it frequently stops us dead in our tracks.

Knowing that is half the battle. Let’s shoot this from the mountain tops:

“How” is not an impetus for getting started. It is an impediment.

You must rearrange your process if you are serious about your goal. You already have a story you tell yourself on why you can’t have it. Choose better.

What action can you take now that will move the needle forward? I implore you to keep in mind that any progress is better than no progress… do it sloppy, messy, but do something. Never underestimate the power of small steps.

It may look like sending a text to your marathon-runner friend- “hey, can we meet for coffee?”. Creating a social media post asking if anyone in your network has experience publishing books? Asking a director at your company for 20 minutes to discuss the possibility of mentoring?

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

In Summary

The following is a simple example of a goal. Sure, it’s simple, but weight loss is always an easy example. No muss, no fuss, no stumbling blocks. Feel free to use this as a jumping-off point.

What: “I want to increase my energy and lose 40 lbs. this year.”

Who: “My coworker has recently lost a bunch of weight and looks amazing. I’ll sit down with her and ask how”. My sister has committed to being my accountability buddy and is texting me daily for a progress update.”

Why: “I want to be a better role model for my kids and show them that it’s possible to make manageable, healthy changes in their lives.”

How: “I will go to bed earlier and set aside 15 extra minutes in my morning to have a good breakfast before leaving for work. I will no longer make excuses to avoid doing a quick workout during my lunch break. I will take the dogs for a brisk walk every evening after dinner – and I’ll ask the kids to join me.”

As you can see, each of the goal’s four components are vital. To be successful you cannot have one piece without the other.

Key takeaways:

  • You must have total clarity on What YOUR goal is, not How you’ll achieve it.
  • Choose someone Who can support you on your journey and fill the Mentor, Networker, and Buddy role.
  • When you connect with your Why, the rest will fall into place naturally. Spend most of your time in this box not the How box.
  • Progress dies in How. So don’t start there. Don’t leap over the other steps. Trust the process and begin with What, Who, and Why.

Follow the steps, focus on your Why and get to crushing that goal!

Get help with your productivity and high performance

Interested in learning more about crushing procrastination and getting more done in less time? Would you like to connect with April live? We are hosting a live FREE virtual event. You should be there. And maybe we’ll give you that prize we mentioned earlier. www.pivot-me.com/event

This article first appeared on April McKeegan-Garcia LinkedIn page.

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