How to Set a D.A.M.N. Goal
4.1 (72 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,639 students enrolled

How to Set a D.A.M.N. Goal

Like SMART Goals... But Smarter
4.1 (72 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
2,639 students enrolled
Created by Ethan Brooks
Last updated 1/2019
English
English [Auto-generated]
Price: Free
This course includes
  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 3 articles
  • 7 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What you'll learn
  • Why S.M.A.R.T. goals often miss the mark
  • How to identify guaranteed wins before tackling a project

  • The importance of avoiding meaningless goals, and why most people don't

  • Specific questions you can use to clarify your thinking
  • Loss Aversion - the psychological principle that can boost success by 200-300%
  • How to identify meaningful action steps in complex situations with no clear path forward
  • The D.A.M.N. Goal Framework - An alternative to SMART Goals
  • Case Study shows how to apply the D.A.M.N. framework to a real life situation
Requirements
  • Students should be critical thinkers - capable of questioning commonly held beliefs
  • An entrepreneurial background is not required, though many previous students are freelancers and business owners
  • Ownership - students should take responsibility for asking questions, getting value out of the course, and applying the systems as they see fit.
Description

I’m writing this towards the bottom of my second glass of wine. A fine ten-dollar Malbec I bought from the bottom shelf at the local Whole Foods. Normally, I wouldn’t have two glasses on a work night. But that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for you, dear student. I’m hoping that if I drink enough, this description won’t sound like a scam. I’m hoping to drink the scamminess right out of my writing.

It’s tougher than you might think. It’s difficult not to write something that sounds like a damn infomercial.

Get it?… D.A.M.N. infomercial?

I’m hilarious. Oh, hey! There’s a reason to take this course. It’s not hilarious, but it is a lighter take on goal setting than you’re probably used to. It’s good for people who have a sense of humor, or who are naturally skeptical of success gurus.

I’m not a guru. I suppose that’s another reason to take the course. I’m a web developer by trade and I developed the D.A.M.N. goal framework to help my clients. 

For years, they would come to me and ask for a new website. I’d ask them what their goal was and they’d say something like “Well, we want the site to bring in more clients.”

That’s nice, but that’s not a damn goal. At best, it’s a dream, and unless — hang on, I have to refill…

Okay, back. Unless you get much more specific, it’s going to remain a dream.

This doesn’t just apply to business owners and their websites. It applies to anyone who’s got their heart set on something. Whether it’s fitness or financial, artistic or otherwise, the fundamentals are the same.

What I’ve found is that most people put very little effort into defining their goal, instead focusing all their energy into taking action. Admirable, but ultimately not a great strategy.

Like many things, I liken it to food.

There is a restaurant in Tennessee that haunts my dreams. I ate there once and it was amazing. Every time I’m back in the area, I try to find it again. The problem is I don’t know its name or even the road it was on. The only thing I know is that it had rocking chairs on the porch. So whenever I’m near Pigeon Forge I drive the streets up and down, searching for rocking chairs.

This, unfortunately, is similar to how most people set goals. They have a vague idea of where they want to end up. And yeah, if you search long enough, you might find it. But it’d be better if you had a map.

The D.A.M.N. framework is designed to help you create that map.

"So... What makes D.A.M.N. goals better than S.M.A.R.T. goals?"

This is usually the second question people ask when they hear about my damn goal course, the first question usually being a chuckle followed by “What’s that?”

I have an answer, but first, a caveat. The best system for goal-setting is the one you use consistently. So if you’re already using smart goals and you’re happy with your results, damn goals might not be better.

I’m familiar with smart goals, used them for some time myself, and even taught the framework to clients back in the early days. They can work well.

That said, there are a number of things which I found frustrating about the smart framework, and which ultimately led to the creation of the damn goal method.

Too Many Cooks

To begin with, there is no common definition for what each letter of S.M.A.R.T. stands for. When the framework was first introduced in a Management Review article co-authored by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in 1981, the letters of smart stood for goals that were specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-based.

In the years since, many have championed the idea, making it their own and adjusting it to suit their view of what makes a quality goal. As a result, there are now dozens of variations of the smart framework, each with very different meanings.

For example, I have seen the S stand for both specific, and simple, the M for measurable, and meaningful, and I would be willing to be 99% of the people reading this have never heard of the original assignable meaning behind smart’s A.

This is all innocent enough, but it can make it frustrating to try and collaborate on goals. If my idea of a good goal is one that’s specific, motivating, audacious, relevant, and time-based and yours is simple, maintainable, achievable, realistic, and trackable, we’re not likely to be prioritizing the same things.

All of this variability ultimately led to the second problem…

Needless Redundancies

The most common current interpretation of smart goals is that they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.

Engineers are probably rolling their eyes with me right now.

Excuse me, but what is the difference between something that is specific and something that is measurable? If we can measure it, is that specific enough? Do we really need both reminders?

And what about achievable, and realistic? If something is achievable, doesn’t that also mean it’s literally realistic?

As a developer, I was trained to relentlessly trim the fat in systems.

Like George Carlin going to work on the ten commandments, I saw lots of waste in the smart framework and it irked me. Surely we could do better.

Dangerous Ideas

Aside from the redundancy, I found the focus on achievable and realistic particularly problematic, especially when working with people who were new to goal setting.

Simply put, people tend to confuse the word realistic with ###i/i###. In case after case, I watched as teams talked their goals down in order to make them feel more realistic.

On the surface, this makes sense. Smaller goals feel like a safe bet because they seem easy to achieve.

The problem with small goals is that they are also:

  1. Less inspiring – and therefore less likely to garner outside support, or spur massive, meaningful action.
  2. More common – and therefor open to more competition.

It seems counter-intuitive, but bigger goals are often actually easier to get off the ground just because they capture people’s imaginations and no one else is attempting them.

I understand the point of the realistic reminder is to shoot for things that are possible. And if people could continue to think big while remaining realistic, it wouldn’t be an issue. But that doesn’t seem to be in our nature.

Speaking of Human Nature

People who ascribe to Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet™ regularly achieve outstanding results, many of which were previously thought impossible within the fitness industry. How?

One of the primary reasons is that the diet itself works with human nature —  focusing on small changes, avoiding complex tracking, and allowing for regular binge-eating — rather than relying on developing multiple new habits and exercising will-power.

While it’s admirable to want to be disciplined, strong-willed, logical creatures, there’s an overwhelming abundance of evidence that says we’re just not. We can either struggle against this, or we can accept it and use it to our advantage.

The damn goal framework opts for the latter, incorporating ideas from disparate fields like investing and behavioral psychology in order to discover novel approaches, avoid common cognitive biases, and spur meaningful action.

And Finally...

It’s just fun to talk about. The damn goal framework is the only system I know of which allows you to swear at your boss, at your client, or at your children while appearing to share actual helpful information.

Joking aside, it’s memorable. If you lead a team, one of the most important habits you can develop in your direct reports is that of regularly talking about goals, and ensuring they’re on the right track.

One way to do that is to inject a dose of humor, and that’s exactly what the damn framework does.
So, is it better than smart goals?

I certainly think so… But ultimately, I leave that judgement to the damn students, and to your own damn experience.
 

Who this course is for:
  • If your income depends on demonstrating your ability to accomplish goals, take this course.
  • If your job requires you to set goals with a team or a client, take this course.
  • If you've ever dreamed of swearing at your client, your boss, or your kids, while appearing to share useful information ("Okay, Hank, but what is the D.A.M.N. goal here?"), take this course.
Course content
Expand all 12 lectures 51:55
+ Introduction
2 lectures 04:47

Most online courses have an abysmal completion rate. Let's lay down some ground rules for success up front.

How to Fail This Course
04:11
Conclusion to Section 1
00:36
+ Introducing D.A.M.N. Goals
1 lecture 06:37

An examination of the traditional SMART framework, and the introduction of DAMN goals.

The End of S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Introducing the D.A.M.N. Framework
06:37
+ D is for Deadline
1 lecture 03:39

Learn how to choose a deadline, and the importance of setting a time limit for your accomplishments.

D is for Deadline
03:39
+ A is for Actionable
1 lecture 04:19

What does it take to make a goal actionable?

A is for Actionable
04:19
+ M is for Measurable
1 lecture 05:12

Perhaps the most important step in the goal-setting process.

M is for Measurable
05:12
+ N is for Negative Consequences
1 lecture 06:56

Learn to use a twist of human psychology to double or triple your chances of success

N is for Negative Consequences
06:56
+ Case Studies
2 lectures 13:40

See the DAMN Goals framework live in action.

The One Required Video
13:04
Conclusion to Section 2
00:36
+ The Next Step
3 lectures 06:43

Put your subconscious mind to work, moving you towards success.

The Secret Sauce: Write it Down
04:31
The Next Step
01:43

Congratulations on finishing!

Congratulations!
00:29