Karin’s Leadership Articles

A Better Way to START your SMART GOAL process

by | Sep 29, 2014 | Authenticity & Transparency, By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

If you’re really stuck in the creative process, your heart is telling you something. Listen to it. I did, and found myself backward mapping my entrepreneurial journey and found the START before SMART goal process.

The Start of START

I was recently asked to give a workshop for the National Speakers Association on SMART goals to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses. This is an important audience whom I care about deeply and wanted to help. But as I went to craft the talk, I found myself just staring at my computer, hopping on Twitter, and finally finding time to take that run… as Steven Pressfield would say, I was deep into the resistance phase of the creativity process.

Sure I could talk SMART goals–almost every leadership development person can. And possibly, this would not feel as old news to this crowd as it did to me, but I wasn’t certain. More awkwardly, the truth is that I can’t attribute any of my early success to S.M.A.R.T. goals.  I really resisted all the advice that well-meaning supporters gave me as I launched my business. “Set a specific revenue goal and break down which markets your income will come from.” “Set a measurable goal for the number of subscribers you’ll have by when.” “Identify a concrete strategy to monetize your blog.” “Contact 20 people a week and ask for the business.”

The truth is, my heart wasn’t ready for SMART goals at that stage of the game.

For me there needed to be a period of focused, deliberate, intense, long hours of what can no better be described as “mucking about.”

I needed to write, to speak, to explore, to connect, to knock on doors, to have doors open, to have doors close, to love, to get ticked off, to learn, to get rejected, to get accepted, to get supported, to support, to get burned, to invest wisely, to waste some dough… mostly to figure out who I really was as this new brand and what my unique contribution could be to the world.

I worked really hard.  But, I’ll admit, I didn’t write down a single goal.

I kept assuring my husband I was planting bulbs. Thank goodness he believed me.

And one by one the bulbs began to blossom and bloom in the most unusual places. I stayed open and the seeds began to spread.

And so today, I share with you an alternative to jumping right into your SMART goal planning: S.T.A.R.T. before S.M.A.R.T.

The S.T.A.R.T. Before S.M.A.R.T. Goals Process

1. S-  Sankalpa: Based in the yogic tradition well outlined in Rod Stryker’s latest book, spend the reflective time needed to truly identify what you most want.

Ask yourself:  What results would truly fill my heart’s desire?

2. T- Transformation: Identify who or what will be transformed as a result of your efforts.

Ask yourself:  What does success look like?

 3. A- Authenticity: Identify your values, operating principles and define your brand.

Ask yourself: What do I most value?

4. R- Relationships: Invest in building deep relationships based on trust and mutual support. Be deliberate with whom you spend your time.

Ask yourself: How will I enrich my relationships?

5. T- Timing: Prioritize your time. Develop a renewal strategy.

Ask yourself: How must I invest my time?

S.M.A.R.T. goals are vital. Everyone needs them. But sometimes it’s useful to head back to the beginning and S.T.A.R.T. Before S.M.A.R.T.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    I like your take on SMART.

    Before jumping in, I determine if the project is in alignment with my values.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I figured the Yogi in you would like this 😉 You raise a good point, it works for project too. Namaste.

  2. Marcia Reynolds

    This is so important so you don’t create the “I should have listened to my heart” situation down the road. Your questions are right on. I tell my clients to first write down the pros and cons from their head, then stop and ask their heart what is important to consider, and then finally ask their gut about possible land mines and alternatives. The information we get from each of these centers in the nervous system is important to consider before SMART. I wrote a post on this for Psychology Today at http://bit.ly/1u67rp3.

    • Karin Hurt

      Marcia, Thanks so much. I loved your article, thanks for sharing. All, Marcia has a new book coming out called, “The Discomfort Zone.” I recently interviewed her… more coming soon.

  3. Terri Klass

    What a perfect way to approach a new journey, Karin!

    I love : “What results would truly fill my heart’s desire?” When I became a leadership training consultant I wanted to pursue a career that would play to my strengths and also provide me with fulfillment. When we feel satisfied with our work, it becomes less tedious and more invigorating. When I feel excited I am more creative and successful.

    Thanks Karin for waking me up on Monday morning to think!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much Terri! I found it to be a wonderful journey so far. Glad you’ve been a part of it.

  4. Solomon Belette

    Karin, I like the distinction between SMART and START. I see the latter as the more personal, substantive enterprise that you go through in order to be more effective on the technical, SMART process. I would argue that the SMART process will have greater meaning and relevance if you have done your homework, as you point out, by engaging in START. SMART and START are mutually compatible and reinforcing and see the two more integrated than happening in separate silos or to think of them only in sequential ways. This might be a challenge but I am sure you have some ideas on how best to integrate the two and create greater synergy.

    • Karin Hurt

      Solomon, So great to have you extending the conversation. I do have additional ideas on this… For me, it really comes down to thinking big, and then breaking into smaller chucks as the goals emerged one by one, setting a plan and taking action.

  5. LaRae Quy

    I smiled as I read this post, Karin! I tend to approach both my business and life a little “organically” but, like you, I am one of the few who do…

    And I’m not sure I’d recommend it for others, because lots of folks really do need specific goals to work toward.

    Most of my career has been a series of strategies to achieve an overall goal. But I am to a point in my life where I truly want to listen to my gut…to stop placing goals in front of me that—truthfully—may be self-limiting in scope. When I move forward listening to my gut, my world tends to expand…not the opposite.

    I think it’s important to have people around me who keep me accountable and grounded, but I do believe that inner voice, our gut, is probably the best strategist in the world!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Great insights, thank you. yes, a crew of accountable supporters is an excellent addition to your gut. I’m all for goals.. trust me, I have plenty… but I’m concerned that sometimes overly specific goals too early in the process could prevent the development of important peripheral vision.

  6. Lisa Hamaker

    Thanks SO MUCH for this Karin. For decades I felt guilty about my career that had so many directions, and now know they beautifully support the work in am doing today. Thank you for helping me to take another step in letting go of the guilt!

    I love how you use “transformation”, it’s really what we are looking for when we say “outcomes” or “results.”

    • Karin Hurt

      Lisa, Thanks so much. I’m always amazed at how the building of the journey prepares us almost perfectly for what we must do next.

  7. Chery Gegelman

    Karin – Thank you for this post!

    When I play video games with my husband, I explore. When I approach life I do the same. And when I started my business I followed my heart, my curiosity, and my natural learning style and explored again.

    It is interesting that both you and LaRae have “planted bulbs” and “approached business and life more organically” as well. Now I’m thinking of other entrepreneurs that are not in our industry. And there is a theme here… Very interesting. Thank you!

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