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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Replace your SMART goal with a PACT

A system without a goal is like a marathon without a finish line. But a system with a bad goal will result in a bad outcome. Traditional goal-setting methods use the SMART framework.

Specific. Your goal should be well defined, clear, and unambiguous.

Measurable. You can easily measure your progress towards the accomplishment of the goal.

Achievable. The goal should seem attainable and not impossible to achieve.

Relevant. The goal should be aligned with your current priorities.

Timely. Your goal should have a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target end date.

Each of the SMART components is needed in order for your goal to have clarity and focus. Clarity and focus are the driving force behind achieving your goal. Without clarity you wouldn’t know what to do; without focus, you wouldn’t have a reason to do it.

Instead of SMART goals, which don’t encourage ambitious, long-term endeavors, I prefer to make a PACT with myself. While a SMART goal focuses on the outcome, the PACT approach focuses on the output. It’s about continuous growth rather than the pursuit of a well-defined achievement. Which makes it a great alternative to SMART goals.

PACT stands for Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable—the four factors that make for great goals:

Purposeful. Your goal should be meaningful to your long-term purpose in life, not just relevant to you right now. It will be much harder to stick to your goal if you don’t actually care. When a goal is aligned with your passions and your objectives in life, you are feeling much more motivated. (many tasks don’t feel purposeful but need to be done in order to achieve a meaningful long-term goal, and that’s fine—they are tasks, not goals)

Actionable. A good goal is based on outputs you can control. Your goal should be actionable and controllable. It’s all about shifting your mindset from distant outcomes in the future to present outputs you can control and that are within your reach, taking action today rather than overplanning for tomorrow.

Continuous. It’s important that the actions you take towards your goal are simple and repeatable. So many goals are not achieved because of what’s called choice paralysis. That’s when there are so many options that you end up spending more time doing research than actually doing stuff that will make you progress towards your goal. The good thing about continuous goals is their flexibility. What you need to do is get started, and as you learn more, you can adapt your approach. It’s about continuous improvement rather than reaching a supposed end goal.

Trackable. Not measurable. Stats can be overrated and don’t apply to lots of different types of goals. More of a “yes” or “no” approach, not measurable; ask yourself have you done the thing today? Have you coded today? Have you called three potential customers? Have you published your weekly blog post? Yes or no? This makes your progress easy to track.

While goal-setting methods come in many different forms, there is no one goal-setting technique that works for every person in every situation. Some people say SMART Goals are outdated and PACT goals are too ambitious, so if either of these methods aren’t for you, research some other strategies and try out a few until you find a good fit. Being able to set realistic, attainable goals is a very useful skill you should have as it’s a skill that can set you up for long-term success.

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