Let’s Start Setting SMIRT Goals

Two pieces of otherwise unrelated writing came across my screen this evening that have me thinking about goals.

The first is a post over at the No-Meat Athlete blog titled, “Why Everything They Told You about Goals is Wrong.” It’s a short piece that is summed up best in this passage:

If your goal is compelling (huge! ridiculous!) enough, then when those inevitable obstacles come up, you’ll plow right over them. Or around them. Or through them. And when all of those approaches don’t work, you won’t be able to sleep until you find one that does.

The second was an email from today’s listserve winner, Dan Shipton, who writes:

I had resigned to not write anything, but was gently reminded how I got this far in life by a couple word magnets strung together on the side of a fridge at my office. Those words struck a chord with me today and I want to share them with you: “build to win big”

I like these two lines of thought because of what I don’t usually get to see at schools. As a teacher, I was always hungry for something larger when I got to chime in on the drafting of the annual improvement plan. Without fail, though, we were asked to make our goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).

I could wrap my mind around SMRT, but A always struck me as mired in fear of failure. If it’s a goal you know you can achieve, you should already be doing it.

Instead, I want SMIRT goals where the I (depending on your level of comfort) stands for impossible or improbable.

Something like:

  • “Every student in this school will love reading by the end of the year.”
  • “All of the students in this algebra class will be able to explain the quadratic formula to elementary school students, and the younger kids will understand.”
  • “Our science class will develop a cure for the common cold.”
  • “No one will be sent home from school as a negative consequence for their behavior.”
  • “Every student will have enough to eat as they move through the school day.”
  • “Teachers at this school will have 100% job satisfaction.”
  • “All parents will feel proud enough of this school that they will recommend it to their friends.”

This is just a smattering. Sure, you might fail, but so might the kids fail at any of the seemingly impossible things we ask them to do in the course of growing up and mustering through schools. That doesn’t stop us from asking. The least we can do is set goals at a similar scale.

One thought on “Let’s Start Setting SMIRT Goals

  1. I haven’t commented on a blog in a long time, but I gotta take issue with this one, Zac. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I take your point about reaching higher and setting more ambitious – maybe even overly ambitious – goals. As a recovering Type A, the past me would have agreed with you wholeheartedly. But to some, maybe many people, that type of goal-setting leads to a feeling of chronic failure. In contrast, setting progressive, achievable goals provides a justifiable feeling of accomplishment which feeds itself. Setting SMIRT goals might work for you for now. But in some distant future when your seemingly limitless energy lags, remember SMART goals. 🙂

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