How to Write Tangible Goals

  Michael stopped me as I headed to my car after a vision and mission workshop. Members of the small business buzzed about the collaborative process in the parking lot and excitedly swapped ideas about goals in the future.

“How do I make this goals process personal?” he asked.

He whispered his desire to start a small greetings card company.

“I don’t have any idea where to start,” Michael admitted.

I remembered that feeling. For many years, I steered businesses, churches, schools, and nonprofit organizations through vision and mission statement consensus processes and guided groups as they constructed goals aligned with their core values. The challenge of setting personal goals became more difficult, more meaningful, and more risky when I became a private consultant. I did not know how to take my dream and break it down into tangible goals until I persevered through the process myself.

Once you articulate your dream and become clear about a passion that sets your hearts on fire (like Michael’s desire to start a greeting card company), you can start the process of narrowing down how you are going to get from here to there. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you can plan where you have to concentrate your efforts.

Before we move ahead, we must be honest about where we are standing now. If you feel frustrated or anxious as you think about defining your goals, you may, as Amy Lynn Andrews, author of Tell Your Time, observed, feel “stuck” in one of the following areas:

  • You do not know how to define your goals.
  • You do not have a plan to pursue your goals.
  • You have goals, but do not believe you have the resources to reach your goals.
  • You have goals, but do not believe you have the time to reach your goals.
  • You have goals, but do not believe you have support from families and friends.

A dream does not transform into a reality until you create a plan with tangible goals. Stephen Covey, author of The The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, insisted that the act of writing goals puts things into motion. “Your mind accepts the challenge and will consciously and unconsciously work to achieve the goal,” added Covey. “The momentum picks up if you tell someone your goal. The act of stating your goal creates a sense of accountability for its completion.”

George Doran first used the term, SMART goal, in a 1981 issue of Management Review. He explained that a SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. The act of writing your goals packs your dream with power and sets the dream-to-action process onto a course headed towards success. Consider the following questions as you construct SMART goals:

  • Specific – What do you want to accomplish? Why do you want to accomplish it? What are the benefits? Who is involved? Where will it be located?
  • Measurable – How much is needed? How much will it cost? How will you know when it is accomplished? What tools will you use to measure progress? What targets will you establish as you progress towards your goal?
  • Attainable – How can your goal be accomplished? Is it action-oriented? What knowledge and skills are needed to reach this goal?
  • Relevant – Does your goal seem worthwhile? Is it realistic? Is this the right time? Is there a need for this goal?
  • Time-bound  – When will this happen? How often? Is there a time frame for you to reach your goal? What will you do within the next six months to reach your goal? Six weeks? Today?

Here are additional tips to consider as you write your goals:

  • State each goal as a positive statement. Express your goals with positive words.
  • Be precise. Set specific goals; include dates, times, and measurable amounts so that you can track your progress.

Rather than stating “Don’t be afraid to contact clients” or “Attract more clients,” state “I will enthusiastically contact five clients this week.”

  • Set priorities. Prioritizing tasks helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals and focuses your attention to the most important tasks. It is helpful to have a purpose statement when considering goals. When your goals do not align with your tasks, consider modifying your purpose statement or reworking your goals. (Learn more about How to Write a Purpose Statement).
  • Set objective performance goals. As you write your goals, use action verbs that can be observed and measured as opposed to abstract and subjective goals.

Rather than stating “Become a more collaborative staff,” state “Involve the staff in brainstorming sessions once each week.”

  • Arrange time in your schedule to pursue your passions. Breaking down the dream into specific goals that fit into a regular schedule takes work and effort. You must consider how much time you have within a twenty-four hour period that you can devote to tasks that will help you meet your goals.

If you wait for the “right time” to begin the work, your goals will never find a place into your routine. You must allow time to regularly review your goals and plan them into your schedule. As you plan, you may find that you will need to (1) reduce time from other activities to allow more time for your goals, (2) reconfigure how much time is needed to complete particular tasks, (3) find someone else to do some of the tasks, or (4) do not do certain tasks at all.

Richard G. Scott said, “We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.” Commitment to a process is crucial to the development of a successful action plan.

“What do I do next?” asked Michael.

Start somewhere. Begin today.

Describe one of your goals. What can you do today that will take you one step closer to achieving your goal?

On September 30, 2013, posted in: Blog by

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