Author: Henrico Hanekom – Neuro-Marketer – © 2017

Looking at goal setting from a Neuro-science perspective

I realise I’m treading on dangerous grounds when I say that SMART goals will give you dumb results. Especially since the SMART model is so widely used by coaches…but evidently it doesn’t produce the results one would hope for.

An alternative perspective on goal setting may help you to experience a sense of fulfilment and happiness in your day to day life and work.

Why are SMART goals not so smart?

When last did you achieve a SMART goal? For me personally and for many of the people I work with, SMART goals tend create a gap of discontent. The argument has always been that this gap is what motivates one to achieve your goals. The problem is it’s a hit or miss affair. If you don’t achieve that goal or until you reach it you are probably out of sorts or even mildly depressed. Based on the latest in Neuro-science, my understanding is that success and achievement is more a state than a destination.

So what is a SMART goal?

The SMART goal approach states that a goal must be:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Time-bound


Here’s an example of how DUMB results play out after setting a SMART goal:

Let’s set a goal right now!

Say for example you want to drive the latest C-class Mercedes or you want to summit Everest. To make it a SMART goal it would need to sound something like this: By a certain date, I’ll be driving a White 6.2L Mercedes coupe given that it’s realistic and achievable.

Until you get there, you are discontent, right? If you never get there, you won’t be happy or fulfilled and may start doubting your ability or your dreams. Since everything is set and decided with SMART goals – it may also cause boredom.


Did you know? It takes a journey of +- 40 days to climb mount Everest and one typically only spend a few minutes at the summit. Should the goal be summiting? The journey? …or the State that you want to experience?


Another nasty side-effect of the SMART-approach is that it gives you tunnel vision. Because you believe only one specific, time-bound event translates into success, your brain’s RAS (Reticular Activated System) will assist you in seeing what you are looking for – but the downside is that it will make you oblivious of other opportunities that may cross your path and that can produce surprising and spectacular outcomes that may be just as amazing or even better than you could have ever imagined! How can new awareness be gained by following a SMART goal? I can’t think of anything significant in history that started out as a SMART goal….

Consider an alternative approach to goal setting

It may help to ask: What has worked for me in the past in achieving my dreams, goals and aspirations? How did I arrive at special moments and memories?

Let me introduce you to what I like to call STATE goals.

Thinking about our Mercedes or Everest example, what is it you imagine you will feel when climbing into and driving that C-class Mercedes? What is the STATE that you imagine yourself to be in?

  • Pride?
  • A sense of achievement?
  • Abundance?

Now my questions to you are:

  • Why can’t you experience this STATE of being in other scenarios as well?
  • Would you still want the Merc without the STATE?
  • Where in your life can you experience this STATE right now?

A STATE goal will sound something like: I experience a sense of achievement in my life.

Notice how the STATE goal is stated in the present…it’s not a one day, some way hit or miss.
The elements that contribute to discovering your STATE goals are:

SSay the STATE. What it is that you like about the thing you aspire to. What is the desired STATE?
T Truth – is this truly and authentically what I want or was I perhaps conditioned to think it’s important?

A Awareness – will this goal help me to stay open to gain new awareness and approach life as an adventure?
Time test – is this goal time bound or will it be forever true and relevant for me? The latter is STATE based.

EEvaluate the results this STATE creates in my life and if it’s working for me in order to stay flexible.

With such ‘goals’ and wide eyed expectation of life you start to become aware of opportunities around you today where you may experience a STATE that you aspire to and as you revel in it more and more it eventually becomes a comfortable thinking pattern or paradigm. As the Neuro-scientists say: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” In this STATE, by some seemingly magical way, you will start manifesting and producing more of what you want whilst feeling the wind is at your back and the sun in your face. You will be fulfilled and happy and even resilient to the inevitable challenges that you may face on your journey.

Dr. John Demartini puts it well when he says “What we think about and thank about we bring about” .

It’s the difference between merely achieving and truly being. Achieving by means of SMART goals requires force, conversely, achieving by means of being in the right STATE unfolds naturally from a place of true power.

The truth is that you are already a success! You were born a success!

SMART goals aren’t all wrong, it’s all about how you apply them

Whilst operating in your ideal STATE(s) it will make sense to have some SMART goal-POSTS to check your progress and growth but now it’s different: because they’re goal-posts and not the end game it will not define you or polarise you to ultimate failure or success based on outcomes. Seeing them as goal-posts is a much SMARTER way to apply the SMART methodology. Your SMART goal-posts must be inspired by buoyant STATE goals.

Discover what drives you

May I encourage you to reconsider your goals and ask yourself what lies behind it all? What drives you? What makes you tick so to speak? What is the STATE(s) that you desire?

My wish for you is to have the wind at your back and the sun in your face while you live an inspired and purposeful life! There is no reason why you can’t start today.

Author: Henrico Hanekom – Neuro-Marketer – © 2017

Henrico Hanekom is a Neuro-Marketer who empowers leaders in business to better influence their target audience so that they can reach more people with their message and generate more revenue.


One thought on “Why SMART goals will give you DUMB results

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *