As simple as it sounds, the question, what are goals, is a very important question to answer if making the best out of our daily lives is something of great concern.
Anyone will assume they already know what goals are, they’ve probably been setting goals all their lives. However, when we get too familiar with certain concepts, we tend to forget their real meaning and essence. Hence, it is not surprising that people set many goals but achieve too little.
When you don’t understand what goals are or what they are meant to be, you might scribble anything on paper and call them goals and then get frustrated when you fail to achieve them.
There are different perspectives on goals and what they represent. However, this article looks into the real meaning of goals and provides clarity on some misconceptions about goals. It also suggests better ways to look at goals; in a way to use them as progress markers rather than yardsticks for measuring success or failure.
Table of Contents
What Are Goals?
There are different definitions of goal(s) out there, however, let’s look at this one from the early pioneers in goal-setting theory:
A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieve.
Goals represent the decisions we make and the commitments we take in order to reach attainment, break some bad habits, adopt useful habits or achieve more in different areas of life.
Goals enable us to achieve focus in life by helping us to determine what we want. They keep us motivated and propelled, constantly putting us in state of action.
Goals, when properly conceived and pursued can help us to maximize the one and only life we have to live.
Goals can be applied to different areas of our lives and they can also be based on a time range. For example, life-based goals can be personal development goals, career goals, educational goals, health goals, family and relationship goals, spiritual goals, social goals, etc.
Moreso, goals can be set based on time and duration such as life-time goals, long term goals, short term goals and even stepping stone goals which are small unit goals that we undertake in order to achieve the short, long and lifetime goals.
Common Confusions About Goals
In order to put goals in their proper perspectives and make the most of them, certain clarifications are required between goals and its related concepts.
The following are often confused with goals, although they have their own relevance on goals and goal setting:
Goal vs Dream
Dreams are aspirations fuelled by desires. They exist in the realm of imagination and often give us inspiration.
However, goals are action-based. Goals stretch us and help us to achieve results. Our dreams can only be actualized by setting realistic goals and working diligently to achieve them.
Goal vs Vision
Visions are important in life but they are not the same as goals. Your vision represents where you want to go or be in life, a destination you aim to arrive at. However, the paths that will get you to that destination are often undefined until you break them down into goals.
Goals help you to understand and quantify the steps you will have to take in order to actualize your vision. Having a broader life vision will help you to achieve more goals.
Besides, vision will bring focus to your goal setting when your goals are directed at getting you to the final destination of your vision. When this happens, you will not only be satisfied with achieving a particular goal, you will view your progress and success in terms of their contribution to your overall vision.
Goal vs Expectation
Goals should not be confused with expectations. Expectations are things that we think we should have or heights we feel we should attain. It is said that expectations can generate frustration when you feel you aren’t performing up to your potential.
Do you notice that when some Olympic teams are being interviewed before a tournament, many of them expect to win a medal? But do all of them win medals?
When you listen to the real winners after the tournament, they will tell you how their goals helped them to structure their attention and focus, and keep them involved to strive for excellence.
Goals demand more focus and clarity whereas expectations are often not realistic.
Goal vs Desire
We all have desires, they represent the things we want. However, in order to get our desires, we might have to set goals.
While desires are usually pleasant, goals may not be.
For example, slimming down feels good, but exercising does not. But it takes a reasonable amount of exercise to burn fat.
Vacationing on a cruise ship feels good, who doesn’t want it? However, working extra hours to save money for the trip is hard.
Goals are the specific actions we set to accomplish in order to satisfy our desires.
Goal vs Objective
Objectives are the tasks we must accomplish in order to achieve our goals. It will be more useful to differentiate between goal and objective by looking at the differences between a broader term G’SOT which stands for Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics.
- A goal is a broad primary outcome
- A strategy is the approach you take to achieve a goal
- An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy
- A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy.
The Intel example below is also useful to illustrate the difference:
Goal: Make our Core PC microprocessors a category leader in sales revenue by year X
Strategy: Persuade buyers that our Core processors are the best one the market by associating with large, well-established PC manufacturers.
Objective: Retain 70 percent or more of the active worldwide PC microprocessor market, according to Passmark’s CPU benchmark report.
Tactic: Through creative that underlies our messaging, leverage hardware partner brand awareness to include key messages about the Intel Inside program.
What Most People Are Wrong About Goals
According to a study, only 8 percent of people get to achieve their goals. When goals are not properly conceived or when we go about goals with the wrong perspectives, we might not be able to achieve our goals and even get frustrated as a result.
Some people have abandoned their goals or given up on setting goals altogether as a result. Others have gotten to the point of staying frustrated for failing to achieve their goals. These are not unconnected to the misconceptions that many have about goals.
Let’s look at the misconceptions about goals:
Goals Are Used as the Only Measure of Success?
When goals become our only measure of success, we might get obsessed with the results we want to achieve that we don’t consider the process that will lead us there.
Process goals and outcome goals come to mind on this. Most people set outcome goals rather than process goals. Outcome goals are only based on results while process goals are based on undertaking the right activities that will eventually lead to a great outcome.
Let’s say I currently make $1000 a week and then I set a goal of making $2000 but only ended up with $1300 after putting in all the work and strategies. If this is an outcome goal, I would probably be unhappy for not attaining my goal. However, if it’s a process goal, I would be happy that I have improved on my earning and would be motivated to do more.
Goals Are Connected with Happiness?
Another myth about goals is that achieving them brings happiness. Of course, it feels good to shed the weight or spend a vacation on a cruise ship. However, there are no guarantees that you will always be able to achieve all your set goals.
In order not to get frustrated often, choose to always be a happy person rather than letting outcomes determine your happiness.
So, what really are goals if you want to succeed with them?
Goals Aren’t Connected with Deep Ambitions
Many people have the wrong motivation to set goals. They might have been genuinely inspired by what they see other people achieve, however, such goals may not connect with their deepest ambition. This might lead to a lack of the required motivation to pursue and achieve the goals.
Genuine goals must connect to a bigger and broader life vision. Goals are not an end in themselves, they are supposed to be stepping stones to achieving something bigger.
Goals Have to Be Achieved to Prove Commitment
If the target is to achieve ten and you are only able to achieve six, it doesn’t mean that you are not committed. It might have been that there are greater obstacles you didn’t think would come up.
This is why your goals must be flexible, adjustable and reflective of current realities.
If you’re wondering how to set and reach your goals, take a look at this guide: A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
Types of Goals
Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.
These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.
One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.
There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.
Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.
Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.
Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.
The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.
Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.
Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.
Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.
Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.
Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.
There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.
They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.
Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.
Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.
You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.
The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?
From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.
Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, the ideas shared above will help you to set the right goals and put them in the right perspectives.
You have seen that it is more appropriate to set goals that fit into a larger, broader vision of your life. This will help you to begin to see your goals in terms of the progress you are making towards your broader vision rather than on specific outcomes. You will become happier, knowing that you are taking specific steps in the right direction irrespective of what the immediate results look like.
All these will altogether help you to love setting goals again, and enable you to make the most of them in order to make your life count.
Featured photo credit: Dan DeAlmeida via unsplash.com
|||^||Edwin A. Locke, Gary P. Latham: A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance|
|||^||Proactive: The Important Difference Between Goals and Expectation|
|||^||Forbes: Understanding Goals, Strategy, Objectives And Tactics In The Age Of Social|
|||^||Inc.: Science Says Only 8 Percent of People Actually Achieve Their Goals. Here Are 7 Things They Do Differently|