Goals for Growth or Goals for Glory

 Soccer ball

The London Olympics are nearly here. “D” Day or Dream Day will soon be a reality for our competitors. I have watched many of the Aussie contenders interviewed and their passion, determination and commitment to their vision and goals have been both compelling and inspiring.  I have also seen the recent documentary on TV where numerous Aussie Olympic swimming heroes and medal winners had their lives fall apart after achieving their goals, consequently also losing fame and fortune. 

This has caused me to ponder about the nature of goal setting and whether we should be setting goals for “glory” or goals for “growth”. Are goals about “success” or “significance” and are these notions of goals mutually exclusive? In this article, I want to share with you a world first – On-Purpose® SMART Goals.  I formulated these some years ago but this is the first time I have shared them to the world on the web.


Traditional SMART Goals

In our On-Purpose® Personal Leadership Programs we coach our participants to set traditional SMART goals for their “Core Wants” for each of their life areas.  This includes spiritual, physical/health; intellectual and mental; family; vocational, social and financial. 

This is part of developing personal resilience, work/life integration as well as taking a proactive approach to “self-care”.

Don’t pull out on me just yet. 

This is not just another rehash on goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Goals that are set purely on the basis of logic and rationality may never be realised. History and experience show us that where people are passionate and committed, they are more likely to achieve their goal.  Witness our Olympic champions. For this reason, I like to extend the traditional idea off SMART goals to SMARTIE Goals.  The “I” is for Inspiration and the “E” for enthusiasm.  Your goals need to inspire you and you need to be really enthusiastic about them.  So as well as Logical SMART goals you need SMARTIE goals that come from the heart.

On-Purpose® SMART Goals

I have noticed in my coaching and facilitating, that there comes a time in the seasons of our lives where goals also need to involve our Purpose and valued direction. This led me to re-examine the traditional SMART Goal framework in order reflect this.  I have used this common acronym quite differently in the context of clients building onto traditional SMART goals and developing goals and priorities that are meaningful and in alignment with their Life (and Business) Purpose. They may run in parallel but with traditional SMART goals but I have a different intention for them. Here is my new take on On-Purpose ® Smart Goals.


The two takes on SMART goals bring the title of this blog into focus.  What happened to those Aussie swimming champions whose goals were to achieve high performance and international fame and glory?  They reached the pinnacle of success yet their life fell apart shortly after.  (Of course there is more to this than goal setting.)

So should our goals focus on growth or glory, success or significance?

To answer this we need to understand that our lives typically play out in two halves.  Like most team sports, you can’t “play the second half before playing the first”.

Our “first half of life” is about success.  It is the journey of ascent.  It is natural to try and “conquer our Everest”. We want to test ourselves, see how far we can go in our chosen career or job, push ourselves to the next level and “be the best we can be” at what we have chosen to “do”. This is consistent with the Egoic Journey. During this first half of life many of us are powerfully motivated by power, prestige, position, high performance and material pleasures. So having goals for success and “glory” in this “half” of life is perfectly natural.

But something happens around “half – time”. We begin to sense something is still missing even though we should be feeling that we have made it. We begin to question the importance of what we are doing and begin to explore who we are being and becoming? Is the payoff worth the effort? Something inside us says we cannot keep doing what we do. Half time is a good place to go but not a good place to stay.

If the first half of life is about success, then the second half is about significance.It is in this transition phase of our lives – moving into the second half, that we need to refocus our goal setting to On-Purpose® SMART Goals. In other words, if the first half of life has to do with getting and gaining, learning and earning, the second half has to do with yearning.

Just as the first half of our lives is about ascent and success, it is normal for many to see their second half as a journey of “descent”.  We start looking inside of ourselves for meaning and purpose. We want our lives to count for something and we want to make a difference.  We are no longer content to exchange our lives for a pay check or do meaningless work. If this were not the case why would some 40% of our workforce be looking to “downshift” – to take less pay and have less power and prestige in favour of more meaningful work?

So next time you are setting traditional SMART Goals for your life or business, first give some thought to how you can make them more inspirational by thinking of them as SMARTIE goals.  Secondly, as you transition to “second half” I invite you to use my On-Purpose® SMART goals framework as your bench mark and plumb line to help give your goals meaning and Purpose. Finally, observe which half of life you are still “playing in”. Once you have this context you will be very clear about whether your goals are for growth or glory.

© Dr Edward Gifford, On-Purpose Partners Pty Ltd, June 2012

P.S. If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away. (Henry David Thoreau)