Goals. We set them for ourselves every day. We assign them to others. We write them down, even after we have done them, just to have that feeling when we crossing them off. However, we also avoid them, pile them up, make excuses, and even dread our goals.
So why is it that something we set out to attain that will improve our work, lives, and wellbeing is often a source of stress or resentment?
Simply put— it’s because we often don’t set “good” goals. Setting good goals is not an overly complicated process, but it can mean the difference between reaching your finish line and sitting down in the middle of the metaphorical race.
Below are 7 key steps to setting Great Goals. It is written as a checklist so you can evaluate and update your goals as you create them.
7 steps to setting Great Goals
Is your goal actually achievable? Do you have the resources (time, money, effort) to reach this goal? Have you set a goal too lofty, too fast?
Bad Goal: I will answer 300 emails over my lunch break.
Good Goal: I will answer 30 emails over my lunch break for the next 2 weeks.
Great goals are measurable, meaning you can count, time, or schedule them. This allows you to track your progress and evaluate or change your plan if you are not satisfied with results.
Bad Goal: I will answer emails.
Good Goal: I will answer 20 emails per day.
Specificity helps people attain their goals because it defines multiple aspects of the process and helps to identify problem areas at the beginning. Also aids in setting attainable and measurable goals
Bad Goal: I will go running
Good Goal: I will go running during my lunch break at 1pm, downstairs in the Gym for 30 minutes
4. Small Wins:
Split your larger goals up into sections along the way and celebrate each of those milestones. For long-range projects, acknowledging achievement can not only increase your own energy, but can increase the morale of your team.
Overarching Goal: I will lose 50 lbs. this year.
Small Win Plan: I will buy a new dress or go to a ball game at the 25 lb. milestone
All too often we focus on our weaknesses and make our goals harder because we make them a fundamental attribute to overcome in order to achieve our goals. But how can you use your strengths to help you attain your goal?
Good at talking to people? Then maybe joining a support group will help you achieve your goals. Super organized with all your excel docs, lists, online planners, etc.?, then create a tracking plan that is detailed for each of your goals. Enjoy tech?, then be sure to track and plan on your devices.
6. Learning vs. Performance:
It’s hard to do everything perfectly. But what do you do when you make a mistake or fail to reach your goal? Do you learn from your mistakes or quit? Learning goals focus on improvement, increasing knowledge, and/or overall betterment from the goal whereas performance goals are focus solely on attainment. Both get you working toward your goal, but if you fall along the way, individuals with learning goals are more likely to look around, assess what happened, and keep on moving toward their goal with new information (because they didn’t “fail” they “LEARNED”)
Performance Mind-set: I am going to get all 5 out of 5’s on my next performance review.
Learning Mind-set: I am going to improve on the 2 I received on one of the items on my last
performance review and maintain the other scores.
It’s O.K. to reach for the sky, but be sure you brought a ladder! It’s great to have lofty goals that you are working towards. Maybe it’s to be a supervisor in your department or to learning a new language. With goals like these it may be necessary to identify the individual steps along the way, information you need to learn, and tools you need to get to your final goal. Think of it as scaffolding at a construction site –you need to get to the ceiling but first you need to build a sturdy base. Another level is erected on top of that and so on until you reach where you want to go.
Guest blog post by:
Kira K. Wenzel, M.A.
PhD student, Industrial Organizational Psychology
Seattle Pacific University