I’ve had a lot of problems with goals throughout my lifetime. I’ve had some little ones, that ran like little piglets squealing around my ankles as I tromped on them with my baggage and ego-laden combat boots. I’ve had some pretty high and lofty ones, only to find them careening down screaming through the sky as they crashed and burned. Lots of problems.
The following is what I’ve learned over the years from reading a variety of texts on the subject (read: ‘self-help books’). And then doing the exact opposite of what they told me, which then resulted in abysmal failure. Go figure.
There are basically three criteria I try to meet on every goal I set. I’m not saying that these are a magic bullet to success, but they seem to be working out pretty well. The criteria are: is it quantifiable, is it achievable and is it reasonable.
1) Quantifiable: This, to me, is the most important aspect of goal setting. Is this goal something that is both measurable and schedulable? For example, when I planned for this blog, one of my early goals for doing it was ‘to become a better writer.’ But the question came up very early on – how do you measure that? The problem is you can’t, because the word ‘better’ is completely subjective. My mom would tell you I’m a ‘better’ writer already, but I think a few publishing houses would disagree. The point is, you have to frame your goal as impartially as possible, make it as ‘black and white’ as you can. Only then can you say with any clarity whether or not it’s been achieved.
For a goal to be quantifiable, it should also be something that can be scheduled, something actionable. It may be a singular item, or a long term goal that requires multiple steps along the way. Regardless, both situations are handled the same – each item should be assigned to a specific date and time to be accomplished.
2) Achievable: Another important aspect of goal setting is that your goal should be something that’s possible for you to do. No matter how much you wish for it, you’re never going to fly to the moon on the back of a winged unicorn. I know in our American ‘Can Do!’ culture hearing that we can’t do something is sometimes hard to take, but it’s true. Unicorns aren’t real, and the gravity of the moon would just pull you in so you’d be like, stuck there anyway, so, it would be totally boring. The point is, make sure what you want to achieve is even possible for you to achieve in the first place. I’m not trying to back you in a corner, but some things in this world are just not possible for you to do. Talk to the unicorn.
3) Reasonable: Finally, make sure your goal is something you really can do. This is when we cut ourselves a little slack and say, yeah, little Suzie over there has all the latest Barbie dolls, but do we really wanna be like Suzie? No, no we don’t. And then we ease up off the gas a bit. Sometimes we need to keep our baggage or our ego from driving us on into goals we shouldn’t be pursuing in the first place, as if another pink flamingo in a trailer park. This is one of those ‘subjective assessments’ you have to put on for yourself.
An example of a new goal I have for this blog is to have 100 followers by September. It’s clearly measurable – it’s a number, can’t get more measurable than that. I can schedule for it – I just need to continue doing my daily blog posts, make time for SEO reinforcement, research in strengthening my posts, reading for blog post material, etc.
However, this isn’t necessarily an achievable goal, because I can’t accomplish this goal by myself. I need other people to accomplish it, and I can’t control what other people think or do. Statistically, I should be able to get the numbers given the amount of time I’ve given myself, the amount of work I’m scheduling, and the low number I’ve set as my goal, but it’s not a ‘given’ that that number will be realized. I can only hope. So this goal has a weakness, but that’s ok because life isn’t without some risk!
But, on the bright side, it is a reasonable goal, in that I can be reasonably sure, based on the statistics, that I can accomplish it.
Goal setting is an important part of being human. If you have no goals, you sort of wander aimlessly like an amoeba in an oil spill in a gas station parking lot. Don’t be the amoeba. Set yourself some goals, go out there and do something. Sure, some are going to get squished, and some are going to crash and burn, but that’s ok. That’s all part of the process. Because we can’t get better at life without taking a little risk.