TIB #41: How I set DUMB goals instead of SMART ones (and why you should give it a try too!)

Written by Arno Jansen

Read time: 5 minutes

In this episode, I’ll take a closer look at why setting SMART goals might not be the best goal-setting method for creators and solopreneurs. Instead, I want to introduce you to the DUMB goals method as a better alternative.

Note: There are already other interpretations of the DUMB acronym with regards to goal setting. This is just my take on it and works well for me. 😀

I guess you’re probably all too familiar with the concept of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound – they’re the gold standard of goal-setting, right?

Well, I hate them. With a passion. 

Especially as a “personal development method” during my 22 years in corporate environments.

For many creative people and professions, the pressure of setting and meeting SMART goals can actually hinder productivity and stifle innovation.

I have always felt bogged down by the pressure of meeting specific, often artificial, deadlines or metrics.

Now that I am building my lean one-person business, I wanted to come up with a useful and motivating goal-setting method.

That’s why I came up with the DUMB method for setting goals. It started as a bit of a joke for personal use. But after several iterations, I think it is worth sharing this idea with the world.

By flipping the script on traditional goal-setting methods and embracing a more lighthearted, intuitive approach, you can set goals that are both meaningful and achievable.

This framework helps you set goals that move your business and life in the right direction, aligned with your values and purpose in life. 

Let’s have a look at the parts that make up a DUMB goal and create a real-life example along the way.

D is for “Dream”

The first step in setting a goal is to dream about what you want to achieve. This is the “what” of the DUMB goals acronym. Your dream should be specific and inspiring, but it doesn’t have to be realistic at this stage. You may not even know what is realistic. Dreaming big can help you tap into your creativity and generate new ideas.

Example: “I dream of having a big online audience of people earning a living doing work they love. I want to be of value to those people. For that audience, I want to create free and paid content, products and/or services to help them in a meaningful way, so that I can provide for my family while increasing my personal autonomy.”

U is for “Urgency”

The next step is to identify why this goal is important to you. What is the sense of urgency behind your goal? What motivates you to achieve it? The more urgent and important the goal is to you, the more likely you are to stay committed to it.

Note that “urgency” does not mean “How fast can you get it done”. It only says something about how important this is to you.

Example:“This is important to me, because I believe strongly that creators/founders/solopreneurs are a force for good in the world. People who are willing and able to go through the ups and downs of earning a living helping other people, are worth supporting to me. It is important to me to help them staying “willing and able”.


M is for “Method”

Once you have identified your goal and the urgency behind it, the next step is to figure out how you will achieve it.

What steps do you need to take to reach your goal? What resources do you need? What skills do you need to develop? This step helps to get clarity on the actions that will help you stay focused and motivated.

Note that at this point, the method you come up with is your best guess. If you have a lot of experience achieving similar goals, this maybe a well educated guess, but a guess nonetheless (hey that rhymes 😀).

That’s exactly the point!

Articulating what you expect you need to do, helps you come prepared. You’ll understand better what effort you need to put in, so it reduces the chance of getting caught off guard.

You may even describe alternative methods you can think of beforehand. Describe multiple scenarios that may move you in the right direction.

No plan survives first contact with reality though, so expect to follow the process, not the method to a tee.

Example: “I will start with twitter as a platform to try and build an audience. After some research, I decided to post and engage on twitter for 90 days in a row. That way I expect to learn how twitter works and get a sense of the effort needed to find the right people.”

B is for “Boundaries”

Finally, you need to set boundaries around your goal. This is where you bring your Dream back to earth.

When will you start working on your goal? Will you schedule time repeatedly or do you finish it all in one go? If you dedicate time, effort and energy to this: what will you no longer do? In other words: what constraints to you impose on yourself and your goal. By which means necessary will you try to achieve this dream?


  • I commit to 90 days of posting on Twitter only. (Pacing myself)
  • Connecting with people is more important than boosting the number of followers. (Quality>Quantity)
  • Figure out how to be authentic, so that I find people I would expect to click with in real life. (Honesty)
  • I am no longer publishing 2 newsletter issues per week and the planned and announced podcast will have to wait (ouch, but necessary to prevent spreading myself too thin)

Now what?

By using the DUMB acronym, you can set goals that are both inspiring and achievable without pinning you down too much on trivial criteria.

In the example I described along the way, I articulated (to myself!) what I want to achieve, why, how and under which criteria.

Compared to SMART goals, this DUMB goal is way too vague.

As a creator though, I do not care about meeting a specific outcome in terms of number of followers on a specific date in the future.

I care much more about experiencing what it takes to build an audience online.

Don’t let the fear of failure or the pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Instead, try setting DUMB goals that align with your values and inspire you to take action. It works very well for me, maybe it does for you too.

Go ahead, give it a try and make it fit for you – you might just be surprised at what you can achieve!

That’s it for this issue, I hope you found this useful. 

Until we meet again, next week!

Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

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    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

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