Goal Setting

by Arielle Essex

Goals come in different sizes

Goals come in different sizes and shapes, and there seems to be no common agreement about what a goal actually is. It could be a New Year’s resolution to check that you always wear matching socks, or it could be one like John F Kennedy’s goal in 1960: to put a man on the moon within a decade.

Goals fall into a hierarchy and at each level they may be called by different names. Use whatever works for you, but be aware that others may mean something different when they use the word ‘goal’.

1. Purpose, mission, vision, aim, direction

Arguably these are not goals, but the precursors of goals. They make up the bigger picture of your desired future. Put these in place first and then all the goals you set later will be in alignment with your deeper values. These vital goals form the important framework into which more practical, everyday goals can fit. Ideally, they should precede the initial steps of goal setting. Therefore it’s worth your time to clarify your values, purpose, vision, aim and direction before you set any goals.

The ultimate goal

Purpose and personal mission

2. Goals, outcomes

These two words are often used interchangeably. Goal setting procedures aim to create well-formed, specific goals. Outcomes tend to be larger in scope and more general, sometimes incorporating several goals.

People often group goals together into a ‘Key Results Area’ to achieve an outcome. For example, you may have a group of different goals about specific aspects of fitness, to achieve an overall outcome of better health. It’s more practical and easier to focus on achieving those specific goals, rather than directly trying to attain the larger outcome of better health.

Setting goals

3. Targets, objectives, milestones

These are precision statements that specify what you will do, by when, with whom and so on. They are still goals, but these terms are more often used when working on the desired future for an organisation than for you as an individual. There is more emphasis placed on measurements and time deadlines, and possibly less flexibility.

Setting goals

4. Daily goals, to-do lists, tasks

These are the small things you set yourself to do each day. Cumulatively, over time, these small things – these small steps – will achieve goals that move you towards your vision and fulfil your purpose. Every time you make a choice, or decide between two options, you have some goal in mind, whether you are aware of it or not. Every little decision, habitual or conscious, has some kind of objective. Whether you realise it or not, you are making and achieving goals all day long.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.