Why SMART goals should actually be DUMB

So, I’m sure you’ve all been exposed to the usual New Year’s Resolutions and rhetoric by now, urging you to set goals for your life and finally get some shit done this year, right? And most of those will point you to the SMART Goal formula of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goal-setting that works for so many people.

Or does it?

According to this article in Forbes, SMART goals should actually be HARD (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, Difficult), because if your goal is too easily achieved, then what are you really accomplishing? And where’s the challenge in attaining something easily achieved?

I dig that. I get that. And ultimately, I agree with author Mark Murphy, who thinks your SMART goals should be a little, well… smarter.

In fact, I agree with the implied suggestion of his Forbes article completely: SMART goals should actually be DUMB!

Not dumb as in stupid, but dumb as in another fun acronym.

So what do DUMB goals look like?

For the TL;DR crowd, it breaks down like this:

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  • Daring
  • Unanticipated
  • Motivating
  • Bold


And for the rest of us, let’s explore this acronym a little further.



Daring goals are audacious. They are loud and proud. They urge you to do a double-take, asking yourself, “Can this really be done?

Daring goals are BIG. They’re the kinds of dreams we all have about aiming for the stars, going for the gold, and giving 150% – even though we know the real limit to any effort we can give is 100%, that gold might actually be pyrite, and the stars are really just big balls of burning gas.

Daring goals are pie in the sky dreaming, and they have every right to be. After all, why would you want to set a goal that’s easy? You could say you’re going to write a novel in a year, but why not write it in 3 days instead?

Let’s dare to dream bigger, and let’s have some fun with this whole process. Otherwise, what’s the point?




Is your New Year’s Resolution the same every year? Maybe it’s “Lose 10 pounds” or “Eat healthier.” Hey, you’re not alone: 66% of people make fitness the focus of their New Year’s Resolutions (at least according to Details Magazine).

New Year’s Resolutions are, by and large, predictable. As we get older, we tend to get a little fatter, a little slower, a little more complacent. And our goals reflect that.

But what if you really shook things up? What if you set a goal that was totally out of left field for you – something even your closest friends and relatives wouldn’t expect?

What about a goal to jump out of an airplane in three different countries this year? Or a goal of becoming fluent in Spanish so you can compete in the World Flamenco Cup at the end of the year?

Now THAT’S unanticipated.

Set at least one goal this year that startles people – including yourself.



M is really the “duh” letter in the DUMB equation. Have you ever set goals that seemed more like things you should be doing than things you actually wanted to do?

Those goals are clearly not motivating, and will be the first to fall by the wayside when life intervenes.

But what if you made your goals motivating, and not just something that sounded good or nice, but something that you were really passionate about – something you’re eager to jump out of bed each morning to get into?

Motivating goals should inspire you in new ways, and really light that fire under your ass.

But you know that. So let’s stop pretending we give a damn about improving our finances or managing stress, and instead focus on the things that really get us excited – the things that will sustain our interest and intelligence through an entire year.


AKA Fortune Favors the Bold
AKA Fortune Favors the Bold

Bold goals are slightly different than daring goals, but it’s partially a matter of semantics.

To me, a bold goal is something that’s new, different, fun, aspirational.

More than just being big and loud, bold goals are a thick line drawn in the sand, demanding you jump across to the opposite side and explore a whole new way of living your life.

If you’ve always stuck with the same old, same old, then you need to shake things up and get a little crazy. Ask yourself what you’d do if you knew you couldn’t fail. Ask yourself where you’d really like to be in another year. Ask yourself what is the one thing you’d like to pursue this year with all your heart.

Bold goals aren’t just daring, they’re also fun. So bust our your dancing shoes, buy a set of oil paints, invest in a class you’ve always wanted to take and put yourself into a new situation with the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.

What do you think?

So what do you think? Are you still going to set SMART goals this year, or is this the year you’ll give a few DUMB goals a try?

In case you still need convincing, here are a few more people who believe in the power of DUMB goals (each with their own interpretation of this acronym!):

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One Comment

  • Tor Refsland

    Hey Laura,

    great article and thanks for the mention.

    I really appreciate it.

    Actually, I have created a system called The DUMB SMART System, where you take a big hairy goal and break it down into smaller manageable goals.

    Then you take each manageable goal and identify which specific activities you need to do every month, week and day, to accomplish your SMART goals.

    And when you crush your SMART goals, you finally crush your big hairy goal.

    I used this tactic when I managed to get featured on 85 blogs in my first year of blogging.

    It works like a charm ;)

    Have an awesome day!