Goals are, for the most part, invisible. Most of the goals we set as adults aren’t tangible, but the outcomes of the processes that we use to achieve our goals are. Goals can be purposes or outcomes, depending upon how we define them and how we use them to further our own self-worth.
The first definition says that it’s a “purpose towards which an endeavor is directed, or an objective.” The second one says that it’s “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed, or an aim or an end.” There are similarities in both definitions, though. Both definitions talk about directed efforts or endeavors. These aren’t just random events; goals provide direction along a given path and have some sort of end that helps to establish self-worth.
Goals work best when they are set by the same person for whom they are intended. It’s great for family and friends to have high expectations for you and to provide a source of encouragement, but you need to be the one who sets your goals and puts the plan in motion. When you don’t set your own goals, you’re not as likely to work as hard towards them as compared to the goals that you do set for yourself.
Setting goals for yourself can be an exercise in better knowing how you function as a human being. When you begin to set goals for yourself, ask if this goal is a need or a want. Know what the goal is worth to you, and ask yourself what you’re willing to give up or do extra in order to achieve that goal. Also, make sure that you’re looking at multiple paths. Not every goal requires the same steps in order to achieve the desired outcome. If you can, be flexible in how you define your goal. Can you achieve a larger goal by meeting smaller goals first?
See, setting goals isn’t just about sitting down and writing what you need to do or what you want to accomplish. There’s thinking and brainwork involved… you have to plan to succeed.
Good goals – goals that you can achieve – have six characteristics. Goals should be self-chosen and moderately challenging. You don’t want to get bored with an easy goal that you meet immediately, but you don’t want to give yourself an impossible challenge. For that matter, goals should be attainable. Furthermore, goals are measurable; we set benchmarks so that we know how far we progress in the process. Goals are also specific and well-defined, so that you know what you are working towards. And finally, goals are positive, meaning we write them to state what can and will be done, rather than what can’t and won’t.
So, goals are self-chosen, moderately challenging, attainable, measurable, specific, and positive. Now that we know what they should be, it’s possible to write a goal statement that clearly defines the goal. Keep in mind that goals can be major or minor, and that major goals can require achievement of minor goals in order to attain them.
Writing a goal statement involves a five step process that allow you to consider potential roadblocks as well as available resources that exist on your path to your goal. The process also gives you the chance to refine and polish the goal statement so that you can have all six characteristics in that goal statement.
Start at the beginning, and write down what you want to accomplish. If you can’t get started, complete the sentence “I want to” using well… what you want to do. It can be getting an A in a course, becoming more physically fit, meeting new people on campus, joining a student group, or keeping in touch with friends from high school. Next, write down the obstacles that you think you could encounter. Come up with all the excuses why you might not be able to achieve this goal. Then, write down the resources that you have at hand, and include your skills and interests. Make sure that you include people as resources, since they can help you achieve goals as well.
Now, rewrite the “I want to” part of the goal statement, keeping in mind the obstacles and resources that you’ve uncovered. Use more than one sentence if necessary, but verbalize the obstacles and how you plan to overcome them. Finally, revise the statement to ensure that you’ve included benchmarks and clear positive language.
When you work with larger goals, you should take time to assess your progress and revise your goals when necessary. Perhaps you set a goal of B’s on exams, but you got an A on two of three the first time around. Why not revise the goal to take advantage of your strengths and maintain the challenge?