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SMARTER Goals and Developing Good Habits | MED #10 Class 5 | Podcast #169


Sky Matsuhashi

on December 12, 2017

I discuss making SMARTER goals to achieve your dreams in 2018, along with developing the habits that will drive you toward them.

In episode 168, I discussed the importance of getting enough sleep, eating healthy, moving more and improving your mind through some self-improvement techniques I follow.

SMARTER Goals (3:15)

“Set your goals high and don't stop till you get there.”

– Bo Jackson.

I discussed SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) in episodes #2 and #121.  But I recently learned of a new way to make goals, a new formula called SMARTER Goals. I learned this from Michael Hyatt, best-selling author of Your Best Year Ever and Living Forward.

SMARTER is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting and Relevant.


A specific goal is made very clearly and says exactly what you're shooting for.

Bad Goal: I am going to move up in stakes

SMARTER Goal: Play consistently at 50NL by April 1st


Measurable means that we can assign a quantifiable and trackable number.  These goals are better because you either hit them or you don’t.

Bad Goal: I am going to increase my bankroll this year

SMARTER Goal: Increase my bankroll by 20% to $6000 this year


Actionable means that your goal begins with an action word (verb), not what you want to be.

Bad Goal: I will learn more from podcasts

SMARTER Goal: Listen to one podcast per day, take notes, and put into action one thing from each podcast


Risky goals are hard to hit because they push you beyond what you’ve done in the past.  Hard to hit goals command more of your attention. They force you to get creative, to focus more and to put forth so much more effort. These goals take you out of your comfort zone and put you into your discomfort zone, which is where all the magic happens.

The discomfort zone pushes you beyond the limits of what you know you're capable of. But, you don't want to get into the delusional zone. I've made this mistake in the past. I used to make goals of playing 300K or 400K hands, when in the prior year I played less than 100K hands. So, a risky, discomfort zone goal for me might be 150K or 200K hands.

Bad Goal: I will play more hands than the 2,000 hands per week I’m playing now

SMARTER Goal: Play 600 hands each day, Monday through Friday, with weekends available to get me to 4,000 hands or more per week


This means that you give yourself either a deadline or a specific time frame to achieve the goal.

Bad Goal: I will create my poker vlog this year

SMARTER Goal: Record, edit and post 13 episodes of my new vlog called “Vlogging the Dolphin” once per week starting January 1


You want to set goals that you are pumped to achieve and that you have an internal drive towards. These are goals set around things that you just love to do, and maybe you can’t see yourself doing anything else.

Bad Goal: I will play in a high buy-in local tournament this year

SMARTER Goal: Play the $5,000 PLO at the 2018 WSOP


Being relevant means it fits in with the season of life you’re in.  So, I have a wife and 2 kids to support. Deciding to go off and become a traveling tournament grinder just is not in the cards for me right now. What I can do instead that fits with where my life is right now, is to grind all the PM online tournaments every Monday and Tuesday.

Bad Goal: I will study every day for one hour (but you have 2 kids, a job, commitments and other hobbies)

SMARTER Goal: Study 30 minutes Monday through Friday by waking up 45 minutes earlier than the kids do


Failed Goals

If you’re using the SMARTER framework for your goals, you won’t be hitting all of them.  You’re going to fail sometimes.  The biggest reasons these failures will be because they’re Risky and Time-keyed.  Another reason for failure is because you may have been excited at first, but once you dove in you realized it wasn’t really what you wanted.

Your job, once you fail to hit a goal, is three-fold:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. Accept the failure as part of the growing process.
  2. Answer this simple question, “Why did I fail?” Your answer here is your lesson learned: make different choices next time and do not repeat the actions that led to failure.
  3. Decide if it’s worthwhile to re-dedicate yourself to this goal. If it’s something worth striving for, set a new goal and commit to it again.

Developing Good Habits (10:45)

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.”

– Aristotle

How are you going to achieve your goals?  Goals aren't accidentally hit. It takes intentionality and action to achieve goals.  Those two things are related to the habits we have, and good habits help you achieve your goals.  They are the driving force behind great achievements.

What are habits?  Habits are routines that we do on a regular basis that we feel compelled to do on a subconscious level. There are bad habits like smoking, eating too much sugar and staying up far too late every night.  And there are good habits like exercise, drinking a daily green smoothie and studying poker every day.

So how do we create good habits?

  1. Decide on a habit that will help you achieve your goal.
  2. Schedule the habit into your daily routine. At 10am every day I’ll meditate, or at 5:30am every morning I’ll study, or at 9:30 after the kids hit the sack I’ll watch a training video for :30.
  3. Track the habit-forming actions over 66 days. This is how long, on average, it takes to develop a habit.

Example Habit: Daily Writing

As I told you in the last podcast, I'm currently writing my third book that might end up being 50,000 words long. So, what kind of habit can I work to develop right now that will help me achieve my 50,000-word book? I think the habit of daily writing would be most helpful.  If I write 500 words per day, then it's only gonna take 100 days to hit the 50,000-word mark. That means in just over 3 months, the 1st draft will be ready for review.

Example Habit: Daily Poker Play & Study

Let's say there are two magical poker numbers that lead to mastery of our beloved game:

  • 5,000 hours playing poker
  • 2,500 hours studying poker

Two great habits to develop to get to these magical numbers are 2 hours of play per day, and one hour of study per day. If these were your habits, you’d hit these numbers after 2,500 days.  Sounds like a long time, but it’s less than 7 years.  I bet most of you have been playing for 7+ years.  If you had these habits for the past 7 years, you’d be a poker master right now.

How do we break bad habits?

  1. Identify the bad habit
  2. Understand how it’s detrimental to achieving your goals
  3. Identify the trigger and the routine for the bad habit
  4. Identify the reward you gain from this bad habit
  5. Consciously choose a different behavior

Habits are tough to break and you need to be understanding when you revert back to your old ways. Be kind to yourself when this happens and don't chastise yourself. Just recognize your mistake and bring your focus back to what you need to be doing.  Maybe try to adopt a new healthier habit to replace the bad one.

Habits in Relation to the SMARTER Goal Examples (15:20)

Specific goal example: moving up in stakes.

SMARTER habit to adopt: bankroll management. This could be playing at 40 times your buy-in, 50, 100 or even 200. The level you choose is up to you. Once you’ve chosen the level, commit to it.

Bad habit to break: jumping up in stakes to try and win it back.

Measurable goal example: increasing your bankroll.

SMARTER habit to adopt: don't withdraw money. Keep it in your roll and keep it building until you hit your goal.

Bad habit to break: withdrawing money to buy frivolous things.

Actionable goal example: learning from podcasts

SMARTER habit to adopt: always listen with a notepad and pen.  Keep it with you whether it’s at your desk, on the couch or going for a walk.

Bad habit to break: listening while doing the dishes or another activity where your hands aren’t free.

Risky goal example: playing at least 4,000 hands per week

SMARTER habit to adopt: plan your play schedule at the beginning of the week and block the time on your calendar

Bad habit to break: nightly Netflix bingeing

Time-Keyed goal example: starting your own poker vlog

SMARTER habit to adopt: schedule your weekly video creation. For example: Idea Monday and keep a list of ideas; Record Tuesday; Edit Wednesday; Post Thursday.  This schedule keeps you busy Monday through Thursday, and frees up your weekends for play and study

Bad habit to break: procrastination.

Exciting goal example: playing a big buy-in tournament at the WSOP

SMARTER habit to adopt: save $5,000 over the next 30 weeks by saving $167 per week

Bad habit to break: the habit of never saving and maybe the habit of living paycheck to paycheck

Relevant goal example: studying every morning

SMARTER habit to adopt: commit to waking up 45 minutes earlier than you do now

Bad habit to break: not having a sleep schedule and going to bed at different times every night

Challenge (17:50)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Take the time to draft 3 SMARTER Goals for yourself RIGHT NOW. They can be poker or life related.  Make sure to run them though the SMARTER filter.  Are they Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Risky, Time-keyed, Exciting and Relevant? If the goals that you set fit all of these 7 criteria, then you're good to go to attempt achieving that goal.  Also, work to add any habits to your life that will help you achieve them.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

German Rincon picked up the Poker Mathematics Webinar.  This guy's serious about study!  Click here to see the list of webinars available and use code 5OFF to receive $5 off any webinar.

Jack Benge and WM each purchased their own copy of my Smart HUD.  Get 'em!!!  Pick up your own Smart HUD here.


Sky Matsuhashi

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