Beyond SMART: Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs

Powerful Alternatives to SMART Goals for Women in Business

Alternatives to SMART Goals

If there’s one thing we know about goals, they have to be SMART, right?  Wrong.  Let’s explore some alternatives to SMART goal that will hopefully get you excited to start setting goals again.



For years now you have probably been told time and again that you need to set SMART goals.  I have even written other articles about it.  The only thing that matters is that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  


While that looks great on paper—and it’s easy to remember—it doesn’t go far enough for those who want to achieve big things.



Think about it. Do you want to be stuck with “attainable” and “realistic” goals when what you dream about is a 3-day workweek, frequent international travel, and enough money to fund a mission trip (or three)? Seems pretty clear that those safe, smart goals aren’t going to get you there.



They might even do worse than simply “not get you there.” They may actively hold you back. That’s why considering alternatives to SMART goals will open up your possibilities.


Setting Attainable Goals

Consider what happens when you set an “attainable” goal of earning 10% more than you did last year. You might work 10% more. You might spend 10% more on ads or product creation. You might even reach out to 10% more potential clients.



And you’ll likely earn about 10% more

“Not bad!” you say. After all, that was your goal.

But did that 10% goal inspire you to work harder? Or did it create a subconscious ceiling on your earning potential that you’re unable to break through?



Rather than focusing on goals that are attainable and realistic, savvy entrepreneurs know that the key to incredible success lies in creating lofty goals that feel out of reach—maybe even UNattainable.  



Try an Alternative to SMART goals.



They don’t strive to earn 10% more than last year. They want 50% or even 100% more. They stretch themselves. They find new—and better—ways to do things, so they don’t have to work twice as hard, but they remain open to the possibility of doing so—at least in the short term—when it’s necessary.



Of course, you cannot simply declare wild goals and expect the universe to hand them to you. And that’s exactly why putting aside those smart goals is so…smart.


When you shun the attainable in favour of the “holy cow, how will I ever do THAT?” goal, you push yourself beyond those self-imposed limits and reach for the stars.



Sure, you might not double your income, but you’re almost guaranteed to do better than a mere 10% increase. So push your boundaries. Set big, audacious goals. Even if you fail, you’ll be much further ahead than those smart goals would leave you.


There are several alternative goal-setting frameworks that individuals and organisations can use if they find that SMART goals are not effective or applicable in their particular context. 


Here are a few examples:

Alternatives to SMART Goal

  1. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results): This framework is similar to SMART goals but emphasises setting specific, measurable objectives and identifying key results that will indicate progress toward achieving those objectives. OKRs are often used in high-growth tech companies, but they can be applied to any industry.
  2. WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan): This framework was developed by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and is based on the idea that effective goal-setting involves both positive thinking and realistic planning. With WOOP, individuals identify their desired outcome, then explore the obstacles that may prevent them from achieving it before developing a specific plan to overcome those obstacles.
  3. Agile goal-setting: This approach involves setting short-term goals (often called “sprints”) that are achievable within a defined period of time (usually two weeks to one month). This approach is commonly used in software development but can be applied to other contexts as well.
  4. Strengths-based goal-setting: This approach involves identifying an individual’s unique strengths and using those strengths to set goals that align with their personal values and priorities. This approach can be especially effective for individuals who may feel unmotivated or disconnected from traditional goal-setting frameworks.

Ultimately, the most effective goal-setting framework will depend on the individual or organisation’s specific needs and context. It may be helpful to experiment with different frameworks to find the one that works best.


Another popular alternative to SMART goals is PACT.


PACT stands for Purpose, Action, Commitment, and Timeframe.

PACT Goal Setting

  • Purpose: This involves identifying the underlying motivation or reason behind the goal. What is the ultimate purpose or objective you are trying to achieve with this goal?
  • Action: This involves identifying specific actions or steps that need to be taken to achieve the goal. What are the specific actions or behaviours that will help you reach your goal?
  • Commitment: This involves committing to the goal and holding yourself accountable for your progress. How will you stay committed to your goal, and what will you do if you encounter obstacles or setbacks?
  • Timeframe: This involves setting a specific timeline for achieving the goal. When do you want to achieve the goal, and what are the milestones along the way?
PACT is a flexible framework that can be adapted to different contexts and goals. It emphasises the importance of aligning your goals with your underlying purpose or motivation, taking specific actions to achieve the goal, and holding yourself accountable for your progress. By setting a clear timeframe for achieving the goal, PACT can also help individuals stay focused and motivated over time.

When the word GOAL doesn't work


You might need a bit more than alternative to SMART goals.  I know it may seem pedantic, but I have found success in switching out the word GOAL for the word PROJECT.  And we all know that the words we tell ourselves matter.  



So the word Goal, for me, didn’t work.  I have played netball for most of my life.  Predominantly as a Goal Attack or Goal Shooter.  So I know all about Goals.  But I was always doing it for my team.  Now that I work for myself, goals don’t have the same impact.  It doesn’t resonate.  But completing projects is something I can get behind.


In my mind, I can break down a project and get to work.  So the acronym PACT works for me (I just switch out Purpose for Project).


I believe that while all of these frameworks have merit, the only way to get benefit out of any of them is to find the one that can fit into the way you work best. 


Sometimes that means bending things a little without disrupting the foundations. 

You need to find a way to set goals that work for you. Not everyone is the same, so you have to find a goal-setting system that matches your personality and what you want to achieve.


Once you figure out which framework is best for you, then comes the challenge of setting the right goals.  


For that I use F.I.V.E

The F.I.V.E Framework

The F.I.V.E Framework Infographic

By finding a goal-setting method that works for you, even and alternative to SMART goals, you are more likely to stay motivated and committed to your goals over time.

It’s important to note that the goal-setting process should be a dynamic and ongoing process, which means that individuals should always be willing to adjust their approach based on their progress and changing circumstances.

Ultimately, goal-setting is a personal and subjective process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. 

Taking the time to explore different goal-setting frameworks and finding the one that works best for your unique needs and goals, you can set yourself up for greater success and fulfilment in your personal and professional life.

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