Personal Goal Setting

Goal Setting

Goal setting is oft spoken about in workshops and talks for young people. It is usually one of the main topics handled in career seminars, induction & refresher programs in industries and so forth. Yet most youngsters do not plan their goals and many a times prefer to just go with the flow. Many do not know how to go about the planning process. What makes goal setting such an important issue and how does it really help youngsters?

Mainly Goal setting helps in:

  • Deciding what is important for you to achieve in your life
  • Separating what is important from what is irrelevant
  • Motivating yourself to achievement
  • Building your self-confidence based on measured achievement of goals

The most important benefit to plan goals is that goal setting helps you to live your life your way. By setting goals on a regular basis you can decide what you want to achieve, and then move step-by-step towards the achievement of these goals. The process of setting goals and targets, allows you to choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know what you have to concentrate on to do it. You also get to know what is merely a distraction. Thus it is a goal, which can give you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge and helps you to organize your resources.

However before we launch into setting goals it would help to know what a goal is? A goal can be very simply defined as an end towards which some efforts are directed. That is, some target that we set out to achieve.


Beginning with the end in mind means developing a clear picture of where you want to go with your life. It means deciding what your values are and setting the goals accordingly. It is vital that you decide where you want to go and draw up a map to go there. Of course by saying being with the end in mind does not mean deciding every little detail of your future. It simply means thinking beyond today and deciding what direction you want to take with your life, so that each step you take is always in the right direction.

Often, we all set goals but are unable to follow through them. There are five keys which can successfully set and reach goals.


Many a times we set goals and then we don’t have the strength to go through it. Why does this happen? This is mainly because we don’t count the costs associated with that goal.

For e.g. if a student sets a goal to get better marks this year. But before setting this goal, he needs to consider what all he will be required to do. For instance he will have spend more time studying up late at night or getting up early, watching less TV, etc. Now having counted the costs, ask him to consider the benefits. What could good marks bring to him? A feeling of accomplishment? Entry into a good college? Scholarship? High self esteem? Praise of parents and teachers? Now the student has to ask himself, “Am I willing to make the sacrifice?” if not, then don’t do it. Don’t make commitments to yourself that you know you are going to break. A better way is to make the goal small-sized. Instead of setting a goal for getting better marks in all subjects, you might instead ask the student to set a goal of getting good marks in say two subjects. Then in the next semester he could focus on two other subjects.


The difference between a goal And a dream is the written word is what Gene Donohue had to say about goal setting. It is said that a goal not written is only a wish. A written goal carries ten times the power. Writing forces you to be specific, which is very important in goal setting.


Once we are fully committed to doing a task or reaching a goal our power to reach it increases. It seems to dig up goldmines of willpower, skill and reactivity, which we didn’t even know we possessed. Of course this commitment has to come from within, and not imposed on us by others.


Certain moments in life contain momentum and power and these moments can be used to set goals. For e.g. New year is a good time to make resolutions. Or if a student happens to fail in a subject in one exam, he will obviously be very disappointed and dejected. But you can help him derive inspiration even from that episode. He can take it up as a challenge and work harder.

Like mentioned earlier, even negative moments can be inspiring. In fact, many a times, it is negative experiences that make us stronger. Often tough experiences carry momentum. Thus you can regenerate yourself or rise out of a bad experience.


This can be understood better by an example. Sagar had gone for mountaineering for the first time. He was terrified and as they descended the mountain turned treacherous. One false step and it was sure shot death. At that point they roped up; i.e., they tied themselves with a rope to aid them in climbing and save their life if one slipped. On two occasion’s, that rope kept Sagar from plunging to his death. The moral of the story is that you can accomplish more in life by roping up or teaming up with somebody.

Setting Goals Effectively

The following broad guidelines will help you to set effective goals:

  • State each goal as a positive statement: Express your goals positively – ‘Execute this technique well’ is a much better goal than ‘Don’t make this stupid mistake’
  • Be precise: Set a precise goal, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.
  • Set priorities: When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
  • Write goals down: this crystallizes them and gives them more force.
  • Keep operational goals small: Keep the low-level goals you are working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward. Derive today’s goals from larger ones.
  • Set performance goals, not outcome goals: You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. There is nothing more dispiriting than failing to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control. These could be bad business environments, poor judging, bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck. If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.
  • Set realistic goals: It is important to set goals that you can achieve. All sorts of people (parents, media, society) can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions. Alternatively you may be naïve in setting very high goals. You might not appreciate either the obstacles in the way, or understand quite how many skills you must master to achieve a particular level of performance.
  • Do not set goals too low: Just as it is important not to set goals unrealistically high, do not set them too low. People tend to do this where they are afraid of failure or where they are lazy! You should set goals so that they are slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not so far that there is no hope of achieving them. No one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they believe is unrealistic. However, remember that your belief that a goal is unrealistic may be incorrect. If this could be the case, you can to change this belief by using imagery effectively.

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