Goal setting for success

Do you know what you want to accomplish in a month, or a year? Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years? Learn how to set goals that will lead you to greater success.

Why set goals

Goal setting is a valuable exercise that can clarify your priorities and help you stay on track. With both short- and long-term goals in place, every decision becomes easier and every task becomes more meaningful. When you know you’re working toward a larger goal, and you understand how achieving that goal will help you advance, you’ll inevitably attack each day with more energy and enthusiasm. And as you see yourself meeting your goals, you’ll enjoy a proud sense of accomplishment.

How to set great goals

According to David Van Rooy, author of Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, great goal setting, in its simplest form, looks like this:

  1. Think big.
  2. Act small.
  3. Move quick.

Think big

Look ahead and picture what you want your career or personal situation to be like in three, five, or even 10 years. The timing depends on how big your goal is. Even if you’re not sure how much time you need, make an educated guess rather than leaving it open ended. You can always revisit your goal and adjust the timeframe if needed.

Act small

Break down your larger goal into smaller milestones. You should set annual goals as well as weekly or monthly and daily goals. Beginning each day with a specific goal in mind is a powerful habit that fuels meaningful action. Your goal for the day might simply be to conduct a successful meeting or talk with your boss about a new idea you have. The point is to have a goal in mind that makes you feel like you’re taking one step closer to your larger goal each day. As Brian Tracy, a widely recognized motivational speaker and self-help author, said, “The habit of acting every day on one or more of your major goals is life-transforming." Likewise, get in the habit of setting a weekly or monthly goal that will keep you focused over slightly larger blocks of time and give you the opportunity to enjoy a sense of accomplishment at week or month end.

For example, you may set an annual goal to complete a training or professional development program. Your weekly or monthly goal could involve completing a specified portion of that program. And a daily goal could be to spend 15–30 minutes reviewing material related to your training. The key here is to be sure that your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals all relate to one or more of your long-term goals.

Move quick

Goals cannot be left open ended. You must assign a deadline to each goal — no matter how big or small — to hold yourself accountable and stay on track. For larger goals, revisit your timeline every year and make adjustments if necessary. Maybe an unforeseen obstacle arose and you need to reset expectations. That’s fine. Just choose a new timeframe that is both aggressive and realistic. With every goal you set, you don’t want to give yourself too much or too little time. Giving yourself too much time allows for procrastination and you could lose interest or even forget about your goal. Setting a deadline that doesn’t allow enough time will make you feel stressed and overwhelmed, and you may give up on your goal or start to feel like a failure. Goal setting should be motivating and boost your confidence, not the other way around.

Goal setting tips

  1. Remember to set SMART goals – they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
  2. Put your goals in writing – either on paper, in your online calendar, or another visible place.
  3. Track your accomplishments – make a notation to indicate when each goal is completed. This will not only boost your sense of pride but will document your achievements for the year, which will come in handy during performance reviews.
  4. Tell your manager about your goals and ask for his or her support. This could mean giving you assignments that align with your goals or approving learning and development opportunities.
  5. Think outside the box – consider asking to shadow another employee or volunteering with a community organization to gain exposure to people or activities that relate to your goal.

Sources: “BSQ: The Only Goal-Setting Framework You Will Ever Need,” David Van Rooy, Inc.com, January 14, 2015; “The Real Reason Setting Goals Is So Critical to Success,” Mareo McCracken, Inc.com, November 21, 2017; “10 Steps to Setting and Achieving Goals at Work,” TopResume.com.