Does goal setting actually restrict us? 

It’s long been the perceived wisdom that whether in business, sport or in life we should set ‘SMART’ goals for ourselves.

In doing so, creating focus and clarity…. but…. is it restrictive to our creativity and the sense of possibility?

Sometimes I wonder if what we should actually do is set an intent, a dream without being too specific. Then take one step in that direction, see where it takes us and then take the next step based on what we have learned from the first. We can continue to colour in our vision as it slowly comes into focus.

In other words… start somewhere and follow it everywhere!

In 2014 following an arm-chair view of the British and Irish Lions tour, my then business partner Martyn Phillips and I talked about what it might be like to work within rugby; a passion we shared.

Over a beer we pictured a time four years away at the 2017 Lions tour, where we visualised ourselves being involved with the team’s cultural and leadership development in some way.  We got excited about it, agreed we’d head roughly in that direction and see what we could learn on the way.

“Starting somewhere” involved a call to the Director of Rugby for a Premiership club who I’d had a tenuous link to 25 year ago. He invited us to help with some end of season review/preview work and from there we “followed it everywhere!”

So, four years later and here we are, sat in the British Lions team hotel in Wellington, having breakfast this morning and reflecting on a great journey.

If we’d set a ‘SMART’ goal I guess we would be reviewing our failure. However, we followed a dream and an intent and coloured in the vision as we went along.

Martyn is now Group Chief Executive of Welsh Rugby Union and I work with England Rugby’s most talented young players as well as many Premiership clubs. Feels like a success to me!

Patrick Marr Martyn Phillips
Patrick Marr and Martyn Phillips

My advice on goals is don’t go too ‘SMART’, instead set a compelling vision, then be prepared to refine and adjust it as you go. Take a step in its general direction, see what you learn and then take another step based on that learning.

I say…  “Start somewhere and follow it everywhere!”

Patrick Marr
@Marr_Patrick