If you want to achieve your goals then you need to add some structure in your goal statement.
Creating structure makes a goal more realistic and doable.
But I’ve got a more important question for you. Do you actually achieve your goals? Here are simple methods to help you on your way.
Back to Basics: What is a Goal?
A goal is like your life compass. It helps you get from point A to point B. It also keeps you motivated throughout your journey.
A goal can be as simple as advancing in your career, or as complicated as solving landfill waste problems. But no matter the size of your goal, it won’t suffice to just say something like, “I want to write a book.”
You must have a goal statement.
What is a Goal Statement?
If you want to hear an example of a goal statement, ask a kid what he or she wants to be someday. Often, you will hear answers such as, “I want to be like Batman so I can fight off the bad guys and save the world,” or, “I want to be a fireman so I can rescue animals from burning houses,” or even, “I want to be like my mum when I grow up, because she bakes yummy cookies. And cookies make people happy.”
They don’t just give you one-word answers. They explain why they want to be whatever they aspire to be. Similarly, a goal statement requires you to be specific about your vision.
A goal statement includes questions such as:
- What goal do I want to achieve?
- How will I achieve this goal?
- How will I deal with the challenges along the way?
- When do I want to achieve my goal?
- Why do I want to achieve my goal?
Asking these questions can feel time-consuming, but trust me, they’re for your own good! A goal statement will give you clarity, confidence, and an action plan to help you accomplish your goal.
How Do You Write a Goal Statement?
There are different ways to write a goal statement. In this article, we will discuss two tried-and-tested methods that I personally use myself: the S.M.A.R.T. method and the W.O.O.P. method. Both methods have helped people from different walks of life achieve their own goals.
S.M.A.R.T goals first appeared in a 1981 article titled, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, which was written by George T. Doran (a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company) together with Arthur Miller and James Cunningham.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. But overtime, people have developed different variations of this method according to their preference.
Even so, the core of this method remains the same and continues to help people reach success.
Have you ever given up on a goal, because you didn’t know how to achieve it?
A vague goal is as bad an idea as having zero goals. You don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going in life! What a complete waste of time and energy.
On the contrary, being specific will increase your chances of success. A specific goal brings clarity, which helps you understand your vision so you can come up with the right action plan.
This minimizes or completely eliminates the possibility of getting lost along the way. And if you do get lost, you can bounce back easily.
Here’s an example of a writer’s career goal statement: In the next 5 years, I want to release a book internationally on the topic of procrastination, so I can help people become more productive.
The given example specifies a goal, deadline, setting, and why it must be achieved. This is important, because it will lay the foundation of your entire action plan.
To be more specific with your goal, ask the following questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why do I want to accomplish it?
- Who will be involved in this goal?
- Where will it take place?
- What do I need to make it happen?
- What might keep me from accomplishing it?
Humans are sensible (often distrusting) beings hence the old adage, “To see is to believe.”
The same can be applied to our progress. If we can’t see how close we are to our goals, we are less likely to believe we can achieve them. Ever wonder why many people give up no matter how far they’ve come?
So, establish how you will measure your progress towards your goal. You can break it down into measurable components like milestones. These will help determine how much progress you’re making, how much further you have to go, and if you’re still on the right track.
Having trackable goals will also help you evaluate which methods work for you and which ones set you back, so you can adjust accordingly.
In relation to our previous example of a writer’s career goal statement, here is how one can turn it into a measurable goal: I will write 5 pages every week and finish a chapter at least every 2 months.
The example above indicates that the measure of progress is by the number of pages and chapters that have been written.
To help you create a measurable goal, ask yourself the following:
- What is my progress indicator? What tells me if I have reached a milestone?
- How do I measure my progress?
- How long will it take me to reach my goal?
- What are my milestones if I have accomplished my goal?
For every milestone you achieve, don’t forget to celebrate or at least give yourself a pat on the back. A measurable goal doesn’t just exist to track your progress, it also keeps you motivated.
Have you ever questioned your abilities after failing at a goal? You did everything you could, and it still was not enough. Well, your goal might be the problem.
More often than not, people create goals that are beyond their reach. They push themselves and their resources to the limit in order to achieve it. And when they fail, they feel defeated, demotivated, and worst of all, incompetent.
If you want to be successful, your goal must be achievable and realistic. But of course, achievable does not necessarily equate to being an easy feat. Otherwise, you might lose interest and motivation.
Set a challenging goal that will stretch you, but not enough to break you and cause unnecessary stress. A difficult goal is ideal because it motivates you all the more, but it should still be possible to attain.
In relation to the writer’s career goal statement, here’s one example of an attempt to make it achievable: During those 5 years, I will study 200 research papers on the topic of procrastination and conduct at least 50 tests on different groups of subjects. This is so I can write a book on that topic.
Now, the example above is definitely achievable if: 1. You will focus completely on writing the book. 2. You have access to that amount of research paper. 3. You can gather enough participants to conduct the tests.
But if you have a full-time job aside from your writing career, or you don’t have access to 200 research papers, then your goal might be beyond your reach. To fix this, try adjusting your goal according to your resources.
To create an achievable goal, use these guide questions:
- How can I accomplish my goal?
- How realistic is my goal?
- Do I have the resources to achieve this goal?
- Am I capable enough to handle this goal?
- Has anyone succeeded at pursuing the same goal?
It’s normal to doubt your capabilities of achieving a goal. Self-doubt is part of the process, and it pushes you to work even harder. Doubting your own goal, however, is a different story.
When creating a life goal, it should be a reason for getting out of bed every morning. It must agree with your personal values and long-term goals. And you must also be willing to hold yourself accountable for it.
Studies have proven that goals with a positive impact on your life lead to a happier life. So, when you often find yourself asking questions such as, “Why am I even pursuing this goal?” or “Am I going after the right goal?” then there’s a chance you have the wrong goal.
Take a step back, evaluate, and make changes if you have to.
To continue with the example in the previous section, here’s what a relevant goal looks like: Releasing a book on the topic of procrastination will help me reach out to people who suffer from it and hopefully help them live a more productive life.
To create a relevant goal, take some time to reflect on these guide questions:
- Is my goal worth pursuing?
- Is this the right time to establish my goal?
- Does it align with my personal values?
- Does it align with my long-term goals?
- Am I in the right position to attain this goal?
Is there a goal that’s taking you forever to achieve? Or have you ever completely forgotten about one? These can happen when your goals are not time-bound.
Every goal must have a target date. It gives a sense of urgency, helps you set your priorities, and keeps you focused. Without a deadline, it will be challenging to move your goal from the future to the present.
In fact, your goal might not even materialize at all–like a dream that simply comes and goes! As Napoleon Hill once said, “A Goal Is A Dream With A Deadline.” So, if you want to achieve something, make it time-bound!
Again, let’s pick up where we left off with our previous example on writing a book. Here’s how to make it more time-bound: I will finish a total of 18 chapters in the first 3 years, and submit it for editing in the fourth year.
If you can set monthly or even weekly deadlines, that’s even better. The more specific you are with the timeline, the faster you can achieve your goal.
To help you set a time-bound goal, ask yourself the following:
- When do I want to achieve my goal?
- What can I do today to get closer to my goal?
- What do I want to accomplish immediately? (2 weeks from now or a month from now)
- What do I want to accomplish in the long run? (6 months from now or a year/years from now)
Keep in mind that not all goals can be broken down into the 5 elements of S.M.A.R.T. As George T. Doran says, “It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every objective written will have all five criteria.”
When you encounter a goal like those, exercise good judgment.
The W.O.O.P. method was developed by spouses Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer, who are both psychologists and academes. It’s a scientifically proven method, based on a 20-year research, to help people achieve different kinds of goals.
W.O.O.P. stands for wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan.
What do you wish to happen? What is it that you want to materialize over the next few days, weeks, months, or years?
Your wish, which is your goal, can be small or big. But just like with the S.M.A.R.T, method, it should be challenging yet achievable. Once you have figured it out, summarize your wish or goal statement into 3 to 6 words.
For example: gain 3 pounds of muscle
What is the best outcome or benefit that you will feel once you achieve your wish? It should be a positive feeling such as joy, confidence, and fulfillment.
Take your time. Once you identify the best outcome, write it down in 3 to 6 words.
For example: I will feel more confident
Then, think about your outcome as vividly as you can. Closing your eyes can help you imagine it better. Feel the outcome.
What might keep you from fulfilling your wish? What’s holding you back from within? It might be a habit, behavior, or emotion. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t come from any external factor but from within.
After identifying the biggest obstacle within you, write it down in 3 to 6 words.
For example: I feel lazy
Similarly, think about your obstacle as vividly as possible. Again, close your eyes to give you a better picture of it. Feel the obstacle.
How can you overcome your obstacle? What can you do to keep it from getting in between you and your wish?
Think about one thought or one action that will help you get past your obstacle. Again, sum it up in 3 to 6 words.
For example: count to three, grab exercise mat
Finally, create an “If, then” plan. “If” must be followed by your obstacle, and “then” must be followed by your plan. For instance:
If I feel lazy, then I will count to three and grab my exercise mat.
W.O.O.P. is a simple but powerful method. It can be used for life-changing wishes, short-term wishes, long-term wishes, and anything in between.
Benefits of a Goal Statement
There are many benefits to a goal statement. They can be mental, emotional, and even physical benefits. Here are my top three:
Having a goal statement brings clarity to what you truly desire. When you write down your statement or say it out loud, you get a much clearer vision of your goal. And when you see your goal clearly, you can decide better if that’s what you really want, if it’s too vague, or if it’s way beyond your reach.
When you create a goal statement, you are practically saying what you will do. People who are mature and have a sense of responsibility often do what they say. They are not comfortable with saying something and then not following through with it.
If you are trying to set goals, it will help you to have a mindset that is mature and responsible enough to be accountable to achieving it. Having a goal statement, will help you to be more accountable to your goals, and to yourself.
Creating a goal statement doesn’t just end with a statement. It’s an act of laying your goal on the table for evaluation, criticism, and adjustment. And when you plan your goals carefully, you are more likely to achieve them!
Common Misconceptions on a Goal Statement
Believe it or not, there are misconceptions about setting a goal statement. And sadly, they discourage people from creating their own statements, let alone achieving one. Here are the top three misconceptions I often encounter:
It’s too complicated.
A goal statement is not as complicated as it seems. It’s simply stating what you want to pursue in detail. In fact, not having a goal statement will make matters more complicated. Without one, you will find it difficult to achieve your goal.
I don’t need to write it down.
The brain is fascinating. It can produce 46.8 thoughts per minute, which is an average of 70,000 thoughts per day. In other words, your goal is just another thought that will eventually get lost in your stream of consciousness.
To keep this from happening, write down your goal statement. If you come up with other ideas about your statement, write them down as well before they sink into oblivion!
It’s only for successful people.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re successful or you’re just about to pave your way to success. Creating a goal statement is for everyone. Aside from helping you achieve your goal, it helps you develop habits of success along the way!
So if you’ve identified what success looks and feels like for you, you are more than ready to benefit from writing up a goal statement.
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How do you write a goal statement?
To help you write a goal statement, it should be able to answer the following questions:
1. What goal do I want to achieve?
2. How will I achieve this goal?
3. How will I deal with the challenges along the way?
4. When do I want to achieve my goal?
5. Why do I want to achieve my goal?
What is a smart goal statement?
A smart goal statement must be:
Specific (What exactly do you want to achieve?)
Measurable (What are your indicators of success?)
Achievable (Is your goal possible to attain?)
Relevant (Is your goal important to you?)
Time-bound (When do you want to achieve your goal?)
Which statement is considered a good goal statement?
A good goal statement must be 1. Specific 2. Measurable 3. Achievable 4. Relevant 5. Time-bound.
Typical goal statement: I want to write a book.
Good goal statement: In the next 5 years, I want to release a book internationally on the topic of procrastination, so I can help people become more productive.
Typical goal statement: I want to build muscles.
Smart goal example: I want to gain 3 pounds of muscles within a month.
A Goal Statement Points You to Your Direction
Creating a goal statement using SMART goals or using the WOOP method gives structure and keeps you from being overwhelmed.
I’ve found both of these to be incredibly useful:
For more tips on achieving your goals check out these other great tips on Big Life Mindset: