Writing Realistic, Reachable Goals
Follow this template to fill in your own
1 - Goal statement
Create a brief summary statement of the goal, and include details such as timing, cost, location etc to make it real.
2 - Measure of success and goal assessment
A measure of success is how you will know your goal has been achieved, and to what degree. You need to make some specific, measurable statements about what the possible outcomes will be, but how do you do that? You have two main choices; “discrete” or “continuous”.
You could use a “discrete” measurement of goal achievement, that is, you either hit or miss a goal. This is a simple way of measuring success. Use with caution though, as missing a goal by a whisker and calling that ‘failure’ can be discouraging.
Or you could measure success using “continuous” results or a sliding scale. This method is common in most large organisations or companies. A rating system determines how effective an employee has been in meeting their goals, e.g. a range of 1-4 where 1 is unsatisfactory and 4 is distinguished performance.
The continuous measurement system takes more effort and subtlety of thought, however it encourages optimistic thinking. Perception of “shades of grey” encourages optimistic, non-depressive thinking and diffuses any emotional response to a goal outcome due to the multiple possibilities.
This is best explained by an example. Your goal is to better manage your monthly budget, and start saving money. What you would “measure” is your monthly bank balance and your possible outcomes could be;
- overdrawn by 10% or more - unsatisfactory
- not overdrawn – could do better is some areas
- saved at least 5% - expected outcome
- saved at least 10% - distinguished performance
Giving yourself a range of results helps you succeed by keeping you motivated. Also, the top rating may be an aggressive stretch target that will push you to achieve, and provide a challenge.
Question: How do you eat an elephant ?3 - Tasks
Now list the major tasks needed to achieve the goal. Keep this fairly high level to avoid getting bogged down in detail.
Top Tip - If you are struggling with this, consider working backwards from goal achievement through to your first step. This exercise is sometimes called “chunking”, as you are breaking down a task into manageable sub-tasks.
The secret of working backwards is to keep it creative and fun; done well it really takes the stress out of goal setting. You start by ‘living in the future’ - telling the story of how your life is now you have achieved your goal and describing how you got there. This description will contain your tasks.
It can be useful to have a friend ask you questions as this will fill any gaps in your plan and they may spot flaws e.g. the funding for your goal came from winning the lottery!
(Answer on next page)
Next, Writing Goals Part 2
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