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The inconvenient truth within the world’s most famous SMART goal statement

SMART goals must include the price we pay

If you study Goal setting in any way, you have probably come across President John F Kennedy’s famous goal about the Moon mission in 1961. Here is something important that many people don’t know about that famous SMART goal statement. Something I think it is equally important for us personally and at work. Something our current crop of Politicians should also be far more explicit about.

Many people know the simple sentence that JFK delivered to Congress on 25th May 1961 when he was asking for yet more federal funds for the incredibly expensive space race in the height of the Cold War.

‘I believe that this nation 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.’

It is rightly held up as an outstanding example of a SMART goal. The reality, though, is that he invested many more words articulating the Purpose, Positioning and Price than he did in articulating the goal itself.

Worthwhile Goals are not easily achieved. They demand much. They force priority decisions. They carry a cost.

This is not a treatise on goal-setting though.

All I want to highlight here is that when we create our SMART goal statements we should also include the price we are prepared to pay, the purpose and the positioning.

President Kennedy’s Price  statements:

‘Our security and progress cannot be cheaply purchased; and their price must be found in what we all forego as well as what we all must pay’.

‘There is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful’.

President Kennedy’s Purpose and Positioning statement:

‘These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.’

I think that President Kennedy’s Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs, 25 May 1961 merits study by anyone looking to master goal-setting or improve their public speaking skills and I include links below to facilitate this.

Official Audio recording of President Kennedy’s Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs, 25 May 1961. Start it at 29:30 for the section of his speech on his Moon goal. It is awesome!

Official transcript of President Kennedy’s Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs, 25 May 1961

In subsequent speeches, including his Moon Speech at Rice Stadium a year later, (start the video at 13:20) he spoke explicitly about the costs of ‘Leadership in space’ including diversion of funds away from other much needed Government expenditures.

That’s it; Goals carry costs. Accepting the price in the same way we accept the dream will help us break through the challenges as they appear – and many challenges do appear, as we know.

 

 

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