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smart goals are stupid

smart goals are stupid


I completely failed the first time as a young Sport Psychology coach.

I started working  with the a University baseball team. I had my mental toughness session all planned out and we were going to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. The word still makes me cringe.

Of course the team session went well, we did the song and dance, wrote them out, shared them and even had specific team goals. But, I quickly learned smart goals are stupid!

Well, one of the goals the entire team agreed upon was no errors for the upcoming weekend series. The very first play was a ground ball to 3rd base, which he bobbled and bam, there goes that  S.M.A.R.T goal down the drain.

Goals are exactly like fitness. We ALL know it is important and want to do it, but the first time we miss a workout, our goal now becomes a gut wrenching reminder about why we hate goals.

Goal-setting works, but SMART goals are stupid.

Shockingly, Some companies or teams still use this outdated method to motivate and hold you accountable for production? Are you kidding me?  Do people still drive to Blockbuster to rent movies?

Three reasons why SMART goals are stupid.


Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. said ” I have a mission statement” Or “I have a realistic goal?”


First, SMART Goals do not offer any type of plan. Second, they inherently make you set goals that are “realistic or achievable.”  Third, they fail because there is no emotional connection to the goals. 

1:  SMART goals are apathetic.

They offer no plan, sort of like the gym teacher who just rolls out the balls at class time. These teachers simply have different things on their mind. SMART goals are bumpers for bowling. They don’t actually help you become better. As Mark Murphy posts in his blog, only 13% of people think their goals will help them maximize their full-potential. 

2: They make you put a ceiling on the goal. 

If we reached our goal in the past, (which we did, because we are achievers) then the goal just moves a bit further out next time. It produces an assembly line of goal setting, not a way to actually make a difference.  For instance, Improve your market share for the year by 5%. How is that creative or inspiring? Set Top Gun Goals Instead…

3: There is no emotional connection.

SMART goals are similar to packing for the vacation, there is a precise to-do list and set time to get them done. However, real goals are instead all about the vacation itself and what you want to do there.We need to make an emotional connection to that goal and vision about our why, our passion. Your why has to make you cry, if it doesn’t, it’s not your why.  Check out Gia Ganesh importance of the “why.”

Here’s what to do instead:

Step #1- Set a vision.

Who do you want to become?  Not what do you want to achieve, but who do you want to become? There’s room there for only 1 or 2 goals, everything else just becomes a distraction.

Step #2- Develop habits.

First we create habits, then our habits create us. We are what we repeatedly do, so begin forming routines and beliefs that align with your vision of who you want to become. 

Step #3- Focus on the now.

Become a Millionaire is your goal; great. But, you only made $85k last year?

Focus on the short-term objectives you have for your vision. These shorter-term goals are needed for momentum. When we ride a bike, we don’t need to pedal all the time, we just need momentum.  These short-term goals need to be delved into deeper and set for us to be pleased not satisfied along our journey.

Step #4- Look at them.

Look at your vision everyday.  They have to be places where we can see them and reinforce our vision. Tanya Patrice writes about the importance of looking at the goals every day and even posting motivational quotes alongside.

Obstacles and adversity will emerge along your process of becoming who you want to become. Don’t worry about that SMART goals are stupid, instead make the commitment that nothing will keep you from it, no matter what it takes. 


top mental toughness coachDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness- 

 mentality

The Toxic Mentality

I have bad days, I get down.

I lose belief and I’ll feel like I am not good enough. I also have days where I do well, but for many reasons, I just didn’t perform up to my own standards.

I don’t like feeling like this way, so what occurs when I get like this however is I develop the toxic “at least” mentality.

“AT LEAST” I ran today, “AT LEAST” I am not as slow as that person, “AT LEAST” I showed up, “AT LEAST” we played well.

What I am really saying to myself is “at least” I am not a loser… But, I am also saying, I am not a winner…The “at least” mental state is dangerous and systemic. Once it enters our vocabulary either within ourselves or our team, it can easily seep into our core beliefs.

The “at least” attitude means we chose to make an excuse. 

Settling was okay. Mediocre wasn’t all that bad.

Going through the motions became an option. We chose to live inside the comfort zone. I basically valued my self worth as a “maybe” rather than a “yes.”

The toughest part of winning is the will to prepare.  Committing  to everything that is needed to win, means developing a winner’s mindset as opposed to an “at least” mind-set.  We must instill the belief that we deserve what we are going to achieve because of our preparation, because at no point did we settle.

However, what lacks is the belief…We develop an “at least” mentality because we wanted, we just weren’t willing… We weren’t really willing to sacrifice, willing to develop the needed focus, or willing to work on our weaknesses. We looked around us and said “I’m not all that bad.” Preparation and motivation involves the belief in oneself and that our goal or vision can be reached! Setbacks, adversity, and struggle are going to happen, but it is how we overcome these obstacles.

The bottom line is that losing happens way more than winning ever does. There is always a runner-up finish, a 2nd place team, and second best in show. The question must be asked,  is “at least” mental state an acceptable option for you?


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- 50 Ways to Win: pro Football’s Hinge Moments  

NO Deals

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At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Billy Mills would make history with his iconic sprint to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters. He was so unknown, that a Japanese reporter asked him after his win “who are you?” He is still the last American to win the Gold medal in the 10,000 meters.

However, he was going to quit.

Before the last lap, he knew he had third place locked up, so he was going to pull up and let the battle be decided by the other two runners, Ron Clarke and Mohammed Gammoudi. He knew it was “safe” to pull up, but as he looked into the stands, he saw his wife crying… He couldn’t give up. NO DEAL!

A runner/cyclist friend of mine was an athlete who admitted that he could just “show up.” He was skilled enough to compete in basically anything he did.

However, he told me that his game changed once he quit making deals with himself.

During a race or competition, he used to say to himself, “Keep up with [that guy] until this point and then let him go.” He admitted he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be mentally. Now, during a race or practice, he’ll set goals, he’ll just say, “Catch that guy.”

How often do we make deals instead of goals? 

With our children, “Honey, if you pick up your toys, you can get a snack.” With God, “lord, if you get me through this, I will never…” With ourselves, “If you [do this] then you can [do this].”

Making deals is just like a coach who uses sprints as the only means of discipline. It works, but only for a short while, the athletes soon grow to tolerate it, and not learn from it. Making deals is effective, but only for the short-term. It gets the job done, but it is not sustainable and it causes really bad habits.

When we make deals, we are limiting how good we can become. Deals do not build mental toughness. Our motivation and focus has changed. We are doing something to gain an immediate result, not long-term success. Making deals also gives us an “out”, a reason not to push further when it gets really tough…

Setting goals means having a plan of action without a fallback. It’s stating, “I will do this”, instead of  “do this, so you can.” It means keeping the focus on the immediate task at hand instead of focusing on the outcome.

Athletes don’t train for the trophy; they train for the feeling of holding the trophy. The only way to do that is to make goals, not deals.

“Good athletes practice until they get it right, great one’s practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness