How a SMARTS Goal Helped Me Conquer My Greatest Weakness

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“Filmmaking isn’t about the little details, it’s about the big picture!” – Johnny Depp, portraying Ed Wood. A.K.A the worst filmmaker of all time.

All my life I've been a big picture thinker.

I've tried to achieve a grand vision... Create a disruptive innovation... And, of course, change the world.

This perspective has helped me immensely in handling setbacks, pushing through struggles, and remembering to see the forest instead of the trees.

However, the devil is in the details. And I've had a lot of devils come up and bite me because of my focus on the big picture.

But, at the beginning of 2018, I set a 'SMARTS' goal to focus on both the forest and the trees.

Here are the 6 Key Questions from the Set SMARTS Goals program that guided my journey:


The first step in setting a SMARTS Goal is to be concrete about the specific behaviors you want to change.

Ironically, just setting a goal to "focus on the details," isn't very detail oriented. It leaves way too much wiggle room.

Instead, the Set SMARTS Goals program forced me to identify the specific behaviors I needed to adopt, such as tracking my time, managing my tasks, and measuring our company’s progress.

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When setting your own goals, always ask yourself, "What specific behavior do I need to follow to achieve my goal?"


Next is to understand your motivation for accomplishing your goal.

In the moment, it is easy to allow boredom, frustration, or procrastination to get the better of you.

But it’s in those moments when you need to know why you are doing this.

By using Set SMARTS Goals, I could articulate why it was essential to get the details right. Specifying that purpose helped me focus on the details when it mattered most.

Before setting out to achieve your next goal, ask yourself, why is this worth my best effort?


The next step in Set SMARTS Goals is to assess whether or not your goal is achievable.

But rather than looking at your upcoming schedule to see if you have time for something like this, review your past results.

By looking back on what I'd achieved in the past, I saw a lot of stupid mistakes where I glossed over the details. But I also identified the area where I got the details right consistently – automation.

In any instance where I took the time to automate a process, I also got the details right in that area. Thus, I now had a clear path to achieve my goal.

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Before setting out to achieve new goals, look at what you've accomplished in the past. When did you set a similar goal in the past? Were you successful? Why or why not?

The answers to these questions can be painful. We don’t like reminders of our failures.

However, it is these failures that teach us the most. And reviewing them is not nearly as painful as setting yourself up for yet another failure.


Next on the list is to see the bigger picture beyond the goal.

For me, I knew I would never accomplish my purpose of bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding if I wasn't willing to get the details right.

With that bigger picture in my mind, I had more motivation to execute brilliantly on the small piece of the puzzle.

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With any goal you may have, take the time to remember the relevance of this small part of your broader vision.


Setbacks are inevitable.

The great thing about tracking your progress is that you see that setbacks for what they are – a flat tire. Not the end of your journey.

Since starting this goal at the beginning of the year, I have missed several details along the way. But I can see that overall I'm getting much more detail oriented.

There is no more significant motivator than progress. Remember that when setting a goal, and prepare ahead of time to handle any setbacks along the way.


Humans are social creatures.

We supply encouragement to each other... We provide resources to each other... We provide accountability to each other.

Set SMARTS Goals allowed me to reach out and share with my best friend my decision to become more detail oriented.

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Just knowing that he will be there checking in on me has helped me find motivation when I need it the most.

It can feel awkward and vulnerable to share your goals with others. But remember that just like you want what’s best for them, they want what’s best for you. So don’t be afraid to share your goals or take their help.


The simple decision to set a SMARTS Goal at the beginning of this year set in motion this dashboard:


It shows where I am spending my time versus where I should be spending my time.

A great example of how this helps is shown by the first 6 steps (our sales pipeline) because now I know what I need to prioritize to help Educo flourish.

I used to gloss over the details like this in our pipeline, but now I can’t ignore the brutal facts.

Even this dashboard is not perfect when it comes to details. But it is a significant improvement.

You will never achieve a goal perfectly. But what lives on the other side of your goal is a better life than the one you're leaving today.