How to Set and Achieve Goals

Stay motivated, committed, and moving forward

Climbers reaching the top of a mountain
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Goals are objectives, targets, or intentions that you aim to achieve. They can be personal or support the objectives of your work organization. Whether your goal is a promotion at work, a streamlined work process, a new customer, or a published article, goals must become yours. You are less likely to achieve goals you are tasked with if you do not take ownership of them.

There are many ways to make goals your own. Reword them to be based on your values or share them with people that are close to you. You can reward yourself and your team for achieving goals. Goal accomplishment is based on how you motivate yourself and others to achieve them.

Goals Accomplishment Based on Values

One recommendation is to link each goal to a value. For example, if diversity in the workforce is a value your organization advocates, then at least one goal must further diversity.

Establish short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals based on the solid foundation of your values, or your company's values. If your goal is congruent with and allows you to live your most important values, you are more likely to accomplish the goal.

Your work-life balance is an important part of achieving your goals. When you are achieving your personal goals, you are more likely to succeed in achieving organizational goals because you are balancing your life.

If you have not considered setting goals for your non-work life, you could set goals such as time with your family, continuing education or physical fitness.

You are less likely to experience conflicting priorities if the important aspects of your life have a value-based goal. Some areas to consider having goals set in might be:

  • Family and home
  • Financial and career
  • Spiritual and ethical
  • Physical and health
  • Social and cultural
  • Mental and educational

Create a Plan

The problem most people have with goal accomplishment is creating a workable plan. Creating a plan might seem to be complicated at first, but it doesn't have to be.

Your plan for your goal should be set up in smaller achievable milestones that relate to the overall goal. If your plan is to complete your bachelor's degree, there will be specific tasks you need to accomplish, which are measurable and achievable. These goals will be realistic and be time-based. This is known as a SMART goal.

The tasks you need to accomplish for your degree are the classes you need to take. The classes will be measured by the grades you receive, and they will be achievable with hard work.

College class completion is a realistic goal, and there are time limits to each class. As you complete each one, you move to the next.

As you set your goals, think of moving to different classes in high school or college. You always have to complete one to move to another, and you can do several subjects simultaneously.

SMART Goals

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed (SMART) goals allow you to develop objectives which you can attain. Goal failure usually occurs when the goals are not achievable or realistic, which leads to frustration and eventually quitting.

A specific goal is not ambiguous. Going to college is an ambiguous goal. Achieving a bachelors of science in management is a specific goal.

A goal needs to be measurable so you can track your progress. Each level of education is labeled as a grade or level. Each level and grade have a number of class credits required for progression. Classes in each level are worth a certain amount of credits. This system allows you to measure your progress.

A goal that is not achievable isn't a goal. You'll need to ensure your goals are obtainable, similar to the way classes are achievable.

Realistic goals are much more likely to be completed. Completing a college program without studying or attending classes is not a realistic goal. There are some people capable of this, but realistically you'll need to work for it.

Goals should be time-based. This means that you should set deadlines for yourself. If you decide to get your degree in accounting, but don't give yourself a deadline, the chances of succeeding are low because you won't be driven to finish.

Advertise Your Goals

Remind yourself of your goals daily. It helps to write them down and place them where you can see them. You might think about motivational notes to yourself at your workspace, on your dashboard, or on the mirror. Reminder alarms set on your phone with motivational messages might work for you.

Whichever method you choose to advertise your goals, read them every time you see them, and re-commit to them every time you do.

Share Your Goals With Others

Friends and family will almost always support your goals. You should consider sharing them. Your manager is likely to support your objectives as well since your successes are her successes.

The people closest to you are the greatest source of motivation you have. They can remind you that you should be doing something, or check in on your progress. Even the comments you receive from naysayers can be turned into motivational energy. You'll never do that, you might as well give up! is a statement that might fuel you to achieve more.

Check Progress Regularly

One of the weaknesses of the annual performance review system is the lack of frequency of progress measurement and tracking. You are more likely to accomplish the goals you set if you review your progress at planned intervals as part of your normal routine.

Whether you use a paper planner, a smartphone, or a computer, enter your goals and schedule daily and weekly actions that support their accomplishment. The discipline of the regular review is a powerful goal accomplishment tool.

Address or Eliminate Obstacles

Simply tracking your goals daily is not enough. If you’re unhappy with your progress, assess what is keeping you from accomplishing the goals. Ask yourself questions such as, “Is there something I could be doing differently?” or "is there a different approach to this?" Perhaps you could reevaluate the goal-related task to ensure it aligns with your plan and is attainable and realistic.

If you are not making progress on a particular goal, attempt to do a root-cause analysis to determine why. A root-cause analysis is a systematic way of identifying a problem, such as reviewing all the steps in a process to figure out what is wrong.

Only by honestly analyzing your lack of progress can you determine the steps to take to change.

Reward Goal Accomplishment

Even the accomplishment of a minor goal is cause for celebration. Don’t depress yourself with thoughts about all that you still have to do. Celebrate what you have done. Then move on to the next milestone.

Changing Goals

Periodically look at the goals you have set. Are the goals still the right goals? Give yourself permission to change your goals and resolutions based on changing circumstances.

Don’t spend an entire year failing to achieve a particular goal. Your time is better spent on achievement than on beating yourself up for lack of progress. Maybe you made the goal too big or maybe you set too many goals. Do an honest assessment, change what needs to be changed, and keep moving on.