HARD Goals; DUMB Goals; SMART Goals

As a curriculum specialist for the Department of Education I have had the opportunity to be involved in many seminars, meetings and strategic planning sessions.  This may not sound like the most exciting way to spend a day, and it is true that a number of times I have left meetings wondering why that was necessary.  However, I have also left meetings feeling a sense of accomplishment, an sense of synergy, and a sense of empowerment.

One particular meeting, revolving around school goals,  I was finding myself slipping into the cynical, unfocused state of mind that typically leaves me questioning a particular agenda item.  I was having a difficult time reconciling the concept of SMART goals with the critically important school Wellness Goals.

It was there that I first started to question SMART goals as a systemic means by which a school sets goals.  I turned to Google to see if others were questioning and exploring this issue.  I came across two other goal setting acronyms that were intriguing: DUMB Goals and HARD Goals.


Of the three models, I find myself drawn towards the HARD goals as defined by Mark Murphy.  The model strikes a balance between the highly motivational DUMB goals and the potentially limiting and data bound SMART goals.

HARD goals accept the challenge.  HARD goals force us to examine what we truly value and provide direction to help us achieve them.  Because HARD goals are connected to emotion (Heartfelt), the motivation and determination to achieve them becomes intrinsic.  This provides the stamina that is need to face the challenge.  Hard Goals are connected to a vision and and designed to address a required need.  This allows them to be very supportive of strategic initiatives such as Jeff Clow’s “Moving and Imporving” vision and action plan.

I believe we can sometimes become paralyzed by the goals we set and I agree with Brendon Burchard when he says that goals not tied to vision (Dream-Driven) can lead to an increase in busy work.  Critical pedagogy is key to examining school goals as it helps to expose potential marginalization of particular demographics and to avoid silencing voices.  The goals we set for our schools should be considered against a variety of goal setting models thus ensuring that our goals do not become the victims of a bad acronym.  There is a place for each of these types of goals within our work in schools as there are times when we need to focus on specific and measurable tasks, but there are others when we need to focus on the “moon-shot”.

Connected Videos – further viewings

Video – Brendon Buchard (DUMB Goals)

Video – Mark Murphy (HARD Goals)

Video – SMART Goals

and my personal favourite

TED Talk on Moon Shots!

Connected weblinks/articles/books – further readings

HARD Goals – Mark Murphy


Achieving Your Dreams Through D.U.M.B. Goals

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