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Moving Beyond SMART Goals to Growth Goals!

As we usher in a new year, it's the perfect time to reflect on our aspirations and set the stage for personal and professional growth. While SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) have long been a cornerstone of goal-setting, 2024 beckons us to embrace a more dynamic approach—Growth Goals.

The Limitations of SMART Goals

While SMART goals provide a structured framework, they often fall short in capturing the essence of personal development and holistic growth. The rigid criteria can sometimes stifle creativity, innovation, and the pursuit of ambitious endeavors in personal and leadership development. In an era defined by rapid change, we need goals that not only adapt to evolving circumstances but also foster a mindset of continuous improvement.

Introducing Growth Goals

Growth Goals extend beyond the confines of SMART criteria, emphasizing a broader and more flexible perspective. These goals focus on personal and professional development, encouraging individuals to cultivate new skills, expand their horizons, and embrace challenges that propel them forward. As a Growth Coach, I typically see leadership growth goals that involve strategic thinking, communications, decision-making, relationship building, influencing, executive presence, and/or emotional intelligence. Investing time in your own leadership/personal development is an investment in the overall health and prosperity of the business.

Key Components of Growth Goals:

  1. Adaptability: Growth goals recognize that life is unpredictable. Embracing change and remaining adaptable become integral components of your journey. Practice initiating change instead of waiting for it to happen.

  2. Continuous Learning: Prioritize the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. This could involve formal education, online courses, or simply dedicating time each day to reading and self-reflection. Try a new activity or approach to break free from old ways. A regular practice of reflection is one of the most powerful forms of self-learning, as a Growth Coach I recommend to all leaders.

  3. Stretching Comfort Zones: Growth often lies just beyond our comfort zones. Challenge yourself to take on tasks or projects that initially seem daunting, as they provide opportunities for significant personal and professional development.

  4. Building Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Every human has setbacks and leaders are no different yet those who are more successful reflect and learn from such experiences. Make resilience a growth goal, developing strategies to cope with challenges and emerge stronger on the other side.

Why Growth Goals Matter in 2024

As we navigate an ever-changing world, the ability to adapt and grow becomes paramount. Growth goals not only enable you to thrive in dynamic environments but also empower you to shape your future actively. By setting growth goals, you lay the groundwork for a fulfilling journey that transcends the boundaries of conventional goal-setting.

In Scaling Up by Vern Harnish, he outlines the importance of establishing personal priorities and aligning them with your professional goals. He calls it the One-Page Personal Plan (OPPP).

In Your Oxygen Mask First, expert business coach and author, Kevin Lawrence points to leveraging your growth and success through annual leadership planning focused on work, self, and life to include the following:

  1. Review and reflect on results from the previous year.

  2. Set long-range big picture goals based on your ultimate vision of an amazing life.

  3. Set mid-range objectives that lead directly to your long-term vision.

  4. Set annual goals for the coming year that lead directly to your mid-range goals.

  5. Plan your focus for the quarter.

  6. Every year, repeat this process.

Kevin goes on to say how standing still kills great leaders:

"You can't be the same person you were six months ago, and deal with the challenges your business presents today. You need to be a new person, evolving all the time, continually stepping forward to meet your new reality."

How to Implement Growth Goals:

  1. Reflect on Your Values: What truly matters to you? Align your growth goals with your core values to create a meaningful and purpose-driven roadmap.

  2. Break It Down: Divide your growth goals into manageable steps. This makes the journey less overwhelming and allows for incremental progress.

  3. Seek Feedback: Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement by seeking feedback from mentors, peers, or those who inspire you. Actively and regularly seek feedback out from trusted relationships. Help build a business culture of feedforward in a psychologically safe environment.

  4. Celebrate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate the small victories along the way. This positive reinforcement fuels motivation and reinforces the value of your growth journey. The destination will continually change as goals, targets, KPIs, etc. change – the journey provides the learning so set regular times to reflect on successes. Small successes are cumulative, leading to the bigger successes!

As a professional Growth Coach, I'm often amazed at the talent of people I'm working with regarding managing complex and large organizational projects. They often struggle with personal performance programs that become a check-box exercise rather than being growth focused. At the beginning of the year, a person can rarely predict the challenges they will encounter or the learning that may result so how can this development be effectively captured and leveraged in forward looking personal plans. Leaders I'm coaching will sometimes feel defeated when their goals have not all been met. As we discuss their learning and growth that took place outside pre-defined SMART goals, it becomes clear they have flourished and their capacity has grown.


In conclusion, as we step into 2024, let's transcend the confines of SMART goals and embrace the transformative power of Growth Goals. Cultivate adaptability, prioritize continuous learning, and fearlessly step outside your comfort zone. Your journey towards personal and professional growth awaits—make 2024 a year of unparalleled development and achievement.

Jerome Dickey


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