It’s been a little while since I last mentioned goals, but I wanted to address something I’ve noticed that holds a lot of people back from achieving what they’re truly capable of: the advice to set SMART goals.

In case you’ve forgotten, SMART goals are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

And while this is a great starting point for someone who doesn’t usually set goals, the formula is fundamentally flawed and not set up to stretch us to what we’re truly capable of.

The biggest problem with SMART goals is that they are based on your perception of what’s possible (measurable) and what you are capable of (attainable). They don’t allow for possibility and the unforeseen opportunities that come along when you begin to think bigger.

And, if someone doesn’t have a strong sense of self-belief to begin with, they are not going to set goals that really challenge them.

While I do think goals should be Specific, Relevant and Time-bound (via strong deadlines), there is another approach to setting goals that moves us forward faster, and that is to set impossible goals. Here’s how to do so.

6 Steps to Set an Impossible Goal

Rich Litvin is an expert on the idea of impossible goals and he describes a 6-step process for setting yours:

  1. Think of something you’d love to create that literally seems impossible right now.
  2. An Impossible Goal is NOT an “I’ll be happy when…” goal. Ask yourself, “Will I be fine whether I achieve this or not?” If it turns out that your life, your happiness or your relationships depend on you achieving it, it’s not an Impossible Goal. It might be a useful project but not for the purpose of this exercise. Return to Step 1.
  3. There’s a fine line between excitement and fear. Your Impossible Goal should place you right on that line. Excited enough that you’ll take action, not too excited that you’re not grounded. Enough fear to be a clue that you really want this, not so much that it causes you to panic and freeze.
  4. Ask yourself what the cost of achieving this goal could be. And then add a few words to your Impossible Goal to address this. (For example: “I make $480,000—and it’s fun and easy.” “I have a 7-figure business—that creates more fun, freedom and time with my family.”
  5. Now, ask yourself this question every day about your Impossible Goal: “Who do I have to BE to make this happen?”
  6. Finally, find someone to hold this Impossible Goal for you—someone who believes in you. A coach, a mentor, a colleague.

What’s important to keep in mind is that you don’t have to immediately start wondering how you’re ever going to achieve the impossible goal. That’s not the point.

In fact, as soon as you start thinking about the how, you know it’s not an impossible goal. That’s because an impossible goal is not a place to get to, it’s a place to come from. It’s about who it forces us to become, and not about actually reaching the goal itself.

And, once you orientate yourself towards an impossible goal, you’ll find yourself achieving way more than any SMART formula could have created for you.


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