Are SMART Goals Actually Derailing Your Success?


Are your goals achievable, or so big that they may require divine intervention?

We often set achievable goals in and outside of work. We’ve all been taught the SMART acronym where goals are supposed to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. But some people believe achievable goals weaken our motivation to pursue them.

Luke Barnett is the pastor of Dream City Church, with 25,000 members and multi campuses in and around Phoenix Arizona. He leads the Phoenix Dream Center, which offers hunger relief, medical programs, a shelter for victims of human trafficking, transitional housing for homeless families, and other community services. His brand new book is, The Dream Centered Life: Discovering What Drives You.

I recently interviewed Barnett for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where he discussed what it means to live in a first-hand revelation and find your life’s purpose. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: What's the big idea of your book?

Barnett: The big idea is: life gets really fun and exciting when you live it by a first-hand revelation from God, or a dream. A God-given dream, as I like to call it. For the first 20 years of my ministry life, I'm convinced I was living on a second hand revelation from God. That is, I love the Lord, I was raised in a great family, I love the church, I believe in the work of the church. But, I operated according to the way my dad did things, and the way that his dad did things. Things that worked for them. From that, we saw addition. But I was wondering why we never saw that multiplication, that surge of God's presence and power in the churches that I was leading.

So, I did the only thing I knew how to do. There's a mountain right behind our church, and when I was a little boy I'd watch my dad go up on that mountain every day. He would pray, and seek God. He would take a cup of coffee, a newspaper, and his bible. He'd read the newspaper with the Lord in the morning, and look over the city, and just get vision from God.

I decided for 40 days, I'd go on a Daniel Fast. Eat nothing but bird seeds, and twigs, and fruit, and go on that mountain every single day. On that mountain side I learned a few things. I learned that our church was going to be 100 years old in the year 2023. I began to ask God, “What do you see for our church in the year of 2023, what will we look like?” On the side of that mountain, God began to show me a picture of our future that produced passion inside of me. That's what vision really is. It's a picture of God's preferred future, that produces passion inside of you.

Here we are three and a half years later. We have six physical campuses now. Going back to my statement where I said ministry gets more fun when it's a first-hand revelation, ministry was kind of a drudgery for so many years. It was just very hard work, and staying in the game, and fighting quitting all the time 'cause we're just not seeing it.We are having the most fun, these are the most exciting days of the ministry, because we're now living in that first hand revelation.

Kruse: Do you believe the real power is to come up with a vision that feels huge?

Barnett: I believe you have to let the size of your God, determine the size of your goals. If there's a goal or dream that you can make happen yourself, it's not a God dream. But, so many times here, we not only ask God to help us, we are sunk unless God does help us. We put ourselves out there.

Kruse: What advice do you have for others who are trying discover what truly drives them?

Barnett: The Bible says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” I think a lot of people feel that slow perishing taking place on the inside year after year. It doesn't mean you keel over and die, it just means that over time your shoulders start to slump a little bit, you want to sleep in a little more, and the problem is, you just need fresh vision.

If any listeners feel that slow dying on the inside taking place, I would encourage you to take two or three days, and go to the mountains, or a hill somewhere. Sit under a tree and say, “God, I'm not going to leave this place until I get a fresh revelation from you.” When your friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you doing this?” Just say, “‘Cause I want to know God's direction for the next five years of my life.”

Will you charge into next year or continue to go through the motions without any true energy, passion or focus? If you’re lacking motivation consider creating a vision, a dream, so big that others may think it’s impossible to achieve.

CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE demo of the LEADx platform at