July 28, 2023

Why SMART Isn’t Always Smart: My Personal Shift to TRAIL Goals

Learn about TRAIL Goals, a fresh approach to goal-setting that's Targeted, Realistic, Action-oriented, Inspiring, and Limited in Time. TRAIL goals improve focus, encourage growth, and boost the likelihood of achieving your dreams.

Have you ever set a goal, only to see it remain unfulfilled? Or perhaps you’ve had big dreams but have been unable to turn them into reality. You are not alone in this predicament. Studies suggest that 80% of people don’t set any tangible goals in life. Of the 20% that do, about 70% of them never manage to bring these goals to fruition.

Clearly, there needs to be more connection between dreams, ideas, the formulation of goals, and most important part, achieving these goals.
The big question is – why?

While I cannot claim to have all the answers (if I did, I would be earning millions as a top trainer instead of penning this blog!), I can certainly share some insights on how to tilt the odds in your favour.
Let’s begin with understanding what a goal really is. A goal without a plan is merely a dream. Dreams are undoubtedly wonderful, but if you wish to achieve them, you must take concrete steps.

Not so SMART

An industry leader in the field of goal setting is the SMART framework, which is highly familiar to those in corporate environments. The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Yet, I sometimes find myself questioning the effectiveness of SMART goals. If they work for you, fantastic! But in my case, they often fell short.

Creating SMART goals was a task in itself, and each time I failed to reach them, it felt like I was labelled a failure, even when there were clear advancements. Moreover, these goals sometimes failed to drive me with the needed passion, limiting my vision to my initial ideas. What I craved was a journey, not just an endpoint.
I believe the SMART approach lacks two crucial components – the set of actions needed to reach your goal, and most importantly, your “why”.

I’m not talking about a casual “it would be good for me to achieve this”, but a deeply-seated reason for your goal. We are all aware that we should adopt healthier eating habits and exercise regularly, but yet we often fail to do so. You need to deeply desire to achieve your goal for it to truly stick. If your motivation isn’t strong enough, you may give up at the first obstacle.

Moving forward

I personally found the PACT system more attuned to my needs. PACT is an acronym for Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable. It pushes you to not only set a specific goal (Purposeful) but also outline the steps to get there (Actionable), regularly review and modify if needed (Continuous), and measure progress over time (Trackable).
Still, I felt there were elements lacking that could make goal setting more concrete and tangible. Hence, I introduced the TRAIL model of goal setting. TRAIL stands for Targeted, Realistic, Action-oriented, Inspiring, and Limited in Time. TRAIL goals guide you on your journey to success by ensuring your objectives are clear, achievable, have concrete steps, motivate you, and have a set deadline. This approach encourages focus, persistence, and personal growth, thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving your aspirations.

Here’s a simple guide to setting TRAIL goals:

Targeted: Be specific about what you want to achieve. The more detailed your goal, the better. For example, instead of saying “I want to get fit”, a targeted goal could be “I want to be able to run 5 kilometers without stopping”.

Realistic: Ensure your goal is attainable given your current resources, abilities, and circumstances. If you’ve never run before, aiming to complete a marathon in a month might be unrealistic. However, training to run 5 kilometers in 3 months could be more achievable.

Action-oriented: Identify the specific actions you will take to reach your goal. Break your goal into smaller, manageable tasks. For instance, you could “run three times a week, gradually increasing distance” to achieve your running goal.

Inspiring: Your goal should excite you and align with your long-term aspirations or values. Running 5 kilometers might be your stepping stone towards running 10k for a charity you support.

Limited in Time: Set a specific deadline for your goal to instill a sense of urgency and keep your motivation up. Saying “I want to be able to run 5 kilometers without stopping in 3 months” gives you a clear timeframe to work towards.

Now that you’ve set some goals, remember, while TRAIL is a fantastic system, it requires commitment. This is where accountability becomes crucial. Having a Business Mentor to guide you towards achieving your big goal and keep you on track is a valuable asset. A business mentor can serve as a beneficial guide and accountability partner, especially for business owners, who often find themselves without a boss to hold them accountable.