The Case for H-SMARDT Goals

As a leader, you’ve no doubt been exposed to or used the SMART goal formula. You know, the one that says that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-limited.

The problem? SMART goals are completely uninspired and uninspiring! Mark Murphy articulated this exceptionally well in a January 8, 2015 article in Forbes Magazine entitled, “‘SMART’ Goals Can Sometimes Be Dumb” ( There and in his book, “HARD GOALS: The Secret of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” (, Mark makes a strong case for the fact that “Attainable” and “Realistic,” in particular, do very little to motivate anyone. Instead, Mark argues that HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult) inspire greatness.

I completely agree. But let’s not kick SMART goals to the curb entirely. As Mark agrees, there are parts of the SMART goal formula that help to drive purposeful action. So I propose we loosen our tongue muscles a bit and work on embracing H-SMARDT™ (you can refer to these as “Heart Smart”) goals. What’s a H-SMARDT goal? Simple. It takes the power and traditional understanding of SMART goals and combines those with the passion and feeling inspired by Mark’s HARD goal formula. So a H-SMARDT goal is one that is Heartfelt, Specific, Measurable, Animated, Required, Difficult and Time-limited. (For a detailed understanding of what Mark means when he refers to Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult, please read his Forbes article or, better, his terrific book on HARD Goals).

Let’s take a look at John F. Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 challenge that the United States “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” (BTW: this goal was announced publicly before much of the technology required to make it happen even existed!) Was it a H-SMARDT goal?

Let’s see. Heartfelt? Yup. There was passion and purpose in his challenge. Specific? Absolutely. Landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth is about as specific as it gets. Measurable? Sure. The measure was contained in the goal itself. Animated? No question. Listening to Kennedy’s words and even reading them today, one gets a chill because of how vividly one could feel what it would be like to actually accomplish such a significant technological feat. Required? Certainly, especially given the Cold War threat that existed at that time. Difficult? Indeed! Listen to Kennedy’s own words from his “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University in 1962: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” Time-limited? “Before this decade is out” leaves no room for doubt as to the date by which this goal was to be accomplished.

History shows us that in response to Kennedy’s H-SMARDT goal, the nation rallied to create the technology, endure the loss of life and the myriad setbacks along the way, and ultimately prevail with the success of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

So the next time you are looking to develop a powerful goal – either for yourself or for your team – challenge yourself and your team to think in terms of H-SMARDT. It will inspire greatness and lead to more innovation, determination and resilience than any SMART goal!