The SMART acronym is probably the most popular and widely accepted tool for goal-setters around the world.
I have been using the SMART approach for years in order to set and achieve most of the goals in my life.
However, recently I came across a new and rather intriguing method for goal setting, which makes a great addition to any goal-setter’s toolkit.
It’s called “Well-Formed Outcome” and has been used with great success by leadership expert Anita Findon. I managed to sit down with Anita not too long ago.
This blog will dive into the Well-Formed Outcome method that Anita uses, explain how it differs from SMART goals and why it’s so effective.
You can also listen to our full conversation by tuning in to episode two of my weekly podcast, “Goals Do Come True”.
Let’s get started.
SMART goals explained
Anita: “Goal setting is a huge part of the coaching process, and so part of my job is enabling people to set goals and to show them how they can reach them.
Along with learning all about SMART goals, my training also opened me to other methods of goal setting, one of which is called a ‘Well-Formed Outcome’. This is a method I use at the beginning of every coaching session.
Let me show you how it differs from SMART goals and why I prefer to use it.
Let’s say you had one big goal in mind: to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
(I actually did climb it for my local charity, and it was amazing!)
If we were going to put that goal through the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound), it would look something like this…”
I made this simple Q&A table that sums up Anita’s excellent example of the SMART system:
Q: What do I want to accomplish?
A: Climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
Q: Why is this goal important?
A: Fitness, sense of accomplishment, doing it for charity, etc.
Q: Who’s involved?
A: Friends, colleagues, etc.
Q: Can you measure the progress/success of the goal?
A: Yes, because I’m going to do it on a specific date, and I will know that I’ve achieved it once I’ve reached the summit.
Q: Is this goal realistically achievable?
A: Yes, because people have done it before. If I train for it and break it down into stages, it’s definitely achievable.
Q: Is this goal relevant to you?
A: It’s very relevant because I want to raise money for charity, get fit, make my family proud, etc.
Q: When do I want to do it?
A: I want to achieve this in X months/years.
Anita: “This is a simple example of how SMART goals work. They get you forming a goal and provide you with some basic information on where you want to be.
The Well-Formed Outcome explained
The Well-Formed Outcome is a little different. It can provide you with a much richer context for your goals.
Let me explain.
Step #1: One short, positive sentence
First of all, I’ll ask somebody to raise their goal into a positive, short sentence (the fewer words, the better):
‘I will climb Mt Kilimanjaro.’
Step #2: Is it your own goal?
Then, I will ask them if this is a goal they have initiated themselves?
If it’s a goal that someone else has given you, for example, your friends, boss or colleagues, and you’re not really committed to it, then you’re less likely to achieve it. So, it’s crucial that you set the goal.
Step #3: Can you maintain this goal?
The next step is finding out if this is a goal that you can maintain. This means you can actually see it through to fruition and are fully committed to each step.”
Apart from achieving the goal itself, the best thing about setting a goal is all the byproducts that come with it. I think the more you can visualise these and live in them, the more likely you are to get to where you want to go, and the Well-Formed Outcome method that Anita uses helps you to do that brilliantly.
Step #4: Imagine the people around you
Anita: “The next step is where it starts to move away from SMART goals. I spend a long time putting the client in the place of having that goal already met.
Next, I will have you go through all the people who will be impacted by you achieving your goal.
What will your friends or partner say once you’ve completed training and lost all that weight?
What will your local charity say once you’ve raised all those funds?
Step #5: Imagine yourself already achieving the goal
Then, once you’ve met your goal, what will you see? What does reaching the summit look like? What’s the scene? What will you hear?
And finally, how will that make you feel? Probably on top of the world, literally and metaphorically!
You need to put yourself into that place to live in the outcome. If you do, two very powerful things happen.
First, you can visualise success and know the exact moment you have achieved your goal.
Second, you also start to get those positive feelings that come from achieving your goal before you’ve even started!
So, SMART goals are great, but they don’t go into as much detail to visualise the outcome in the same way. That’s why I prefer to use the Well-Formed Outcome.”
Handwriting your goals
I think the method Anita uses is an incredibly useful addition to goal setting. When I set my goals, I write them down as if I have already achieved them, and this Well-Formed Outcome method is an enormous step towards giving you that mindset of already having achieved your goals.
One simple technique I have always used to help me visualise my goals is handwriting them down somewhere. Knowing how well it worked for me, I was curious to learn if this is something Anita also uses in her approach:
Anita: “I do this for both my personal goals and with my clients – I ask them to handwrite their goals.
First of all, it serves as a powerful memory aid, and you can have your goals in front of you in your office or on a vision board somewhere.
Secondly, handwriting activates your brain’s left and right parts and gets embedded into your subconscious, which is a massive help. When things are in your subconscious, they become a part of you, and they start to influence the way you behave, so it’s always worth writing down any goal you have.”
So, whether you are using it alongside the SMART approach or on its own, the Well-Formed Outcome method Anita uses is worth considering the next time you want to plan out your goals.
Make your goals big, hairy and audacious
I asked Anita for some final words on goal setting:
Anita: “Dream big! It’s very easy to stay in our comfort zone, but to do the things you want to achieve, you have to be brave and do challenging things.”
Wise words from Anita there. I always say that goals need to be BHAG: Big, Hairy and Audacious Goals!
It’s surprising what we’re capable of if we decide that we want to do something. We just need the right support and the right plan to get there.
And someone like Anita is well placed to help you!
To learn more about Anita and her leadership training, feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn, or email her on >.
You can also hear more from Anita and me on setting goals by tuning in to episode two of my weekly podcast “Goals Do Come True”. Or to get in touch with me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More to come next week!