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Last Updated on August 30, 2021

How to Start Setting Strategic Goals for a Successful Life

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How to Start Setting Strategic Goals for a Successful Life

There are different types of goals that you can set in your quest to become successful in life. However, when it comes to taking a leap, changing status, identifying opportunities, maximizing possibilities, and surmounting obstacles, strategic goals can take care of everything and help you get to where you want to go.

Strategic goals produce strategic results, and these include attaining positive change and repositioning of your life and status, gaining competitive advantage, achieving optimum performance, and living a balanced life.

In this article, I will share some insight into the thought process that leads to setting strategic goals, and how you can develop and make use of strategic goals to boost the key areas of your life. You will also find specific examples of strategic goals for your personal development.

What Are Strategic Goals?

Strategic goals are specific objectives and results that you, as an individual, aim to achieve over a period of time, usually three to five years[1]. They are long-term goals and often emerge when you engage strategic thinking or undertake a strategic planning process.

Perhaps, what differentiates setting strategic goals from other types of goals is that they are based on strategic responses to some identified opportunities or challenges. When you want to make a new move or make major changes in your life, what you need are strategic goals.

Why Are Strategic Goals Important?

Strategic goals play a major role in keeping you on track. Since these are long-term goals, you always have a vision in mind. Everything you do in life, the final picture is always clear. So, if anything seems to be disconnecting you from this aim, you know you’re going the wrong way.

As Pablo Picasso said, ‘Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan. There is no other route to success.’

What better way to plan this way to success other than strategic goals?

A sense of direction keeps you focused. With focus, you are more productive. Hence, your effective approach to life leads you to guaranteed success.

This focus also allows those around you to contribute in a useful way.

For example, if you’re a team manager, you can clearly communicate the expectation that your team has to fulfill. Similarly, your friends and family can push you in the right direction with their moral support.

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Strategic goals are about small measurable goals that add up to fulfill your big vision. Each measurable goal gives you a time limit and benchmark. At no point in life will you ever feel lost. Strategic goals will always have you working on something worthwhile. You will also be aware of whether you are succeeding or failing in life.

Setting strategic goals and following them is the best way for you to get the maximum worth out of your time, which ultimately leads you to success.

Different Types Of Strategic Goals

Before you get on with planning your strategic goals, you must understand the anatomy as well as the different types of these goals. Of course, each type serves a different purpose and so, you should opt for the correct category for the right results.

A strategic goal starts with a label. This describes the ‘what’ of the goal. The label is simply whatever your ultimate aim is.

Next, you need a strong verb to describe this label. It is an action word aimed at a strong push. These verbs should be assertive. Avoid the use of passive verbs here.

The last part of the goal is the ‘how’. This answers the intent of the goal along with the impact of the action. You can add a couple of sentences to this statement of impact. Be clear, descriptive, and open so that you and everyone else who is involved works on the same page.

What Are Hard Strategic Goals?

Hard strategic goals, simply put, are measurable strategic goals. They have a set time and aim. There is no ambiguity in terms of ‘when’ and ‘how much.’

For example, your goal is to increase your customer satisfaction. To make it a hard strategic goal, you’ll add a deadline and a measurable amount to track your progress. So, the hard goal version will be to increase customer satisfaction by 20% within the next 6 months.

What Are Soft Strategic Goals?

Soft goals have all the components of a strategic goal but they’re not measurable. A soft strategic goal must have a label, verb, and intent statement. However, there is no measurable aspect.

How to Plan for Strategic Goals

In the strategic planning process, the environmental scan and SWOT analysis are two important tools you can utilize in your evaluation. Although these tools are primarily used in business strategy, they can be applied to your personal situation as well and will be very helpful to you in setting your strategic goals for success.

Environmental Scan

Environmental scanning is an ongoing tracking of trends and occurrences in an organization’s internal and external environment that bear on its success, currently and in the future[2].

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The results of this scanning are said to be extremely useful in shaping goals and strategies.

As an individual, internal and external situations affect your success and future, as well, and you need to track them to be successful. Your internal factors include your strengths and weakness. You have control over these two, and you can utilize, manage, or improve on them for your own success.

Brian Tracy highlighted 9 factors that can influence your personal success; they include education, skill, contacts, money, good work habits, positive mental attitude, positive image, creativity, and character.[3]

Other factors that can affect your success also include market share and trends, economic outlook of the country you live in, government policies, advancement in technology, family situation, social influence, etc.

You need to study these factors and review how they impact your success and progress positively or negatively.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats[4].

    Maximizing your talents and opportunities and managing your weaknesses and threats can boost your success rate in life. The personal SWOT analysis will help in ordering your thinking and give you different perspectives about your life. It will also help you to identify areas where you need development.

    How to Set Strategic Goals

    When you have identified the areas mentioned in the previous section, you will then be able to set strategic goals and objectives towards making the needed changes.

    Identify Strategic Issues for Strategic Goals

    Strategic issues are issues that can contribute to your success or failure, or are capable of affecting a needed change in your life. When you carry out an environmental scan and SWOT analysis, you will be able to identify strategic issues and goals towards the end of the process.

    These issues and goals usually come from strengths to be built on, weaknesses to be strengthened, opportunities to be taken, and threats to be avoided.[5]

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    Clarify Strategic Priorities to Set Strategic Goals

    From your analysis, there is the likelihood that many issues will come up. Also, you might find that some of the problems are urgent, while some are important. Therefore, to be able to come up with more definite strategic goals, it is better to focus on the important issues.

    These important issues will represent your strategic priorities. When you know what your priorities are, you will be able to set your goals based on those priorities and create strategies around them.

    Examples Of Strategic Goals

    Here are some examples of strategic goals you can get inspiration from. These goals can be easily modified to fit the needs of your organization. You can also adjust them to suit the goals of your personal life. You’ll have to add the intent statements yourself depending on how you plan to fulfill these goals with your resources.

    For Personal Development

    To illustrate examples of strategic goals for personal development, I will assume that you have taken the environmental scan and SWOT analysis, and you have also been able to identify the issues of importance. These have now become your top strategic priorities, say over the next three to five years.

    For example, your strategic priorities for your personal development for the next three to five years can be the following and they can be turned to strategic goals:

    • Develop self-confidence
    • Boost personal image
    • Advance in education
    • Acquire more skills
    • Achieve work-life balance

    1. Develop Self-Confidence

    Whatever it is that you do, exuding self-confidence is crucial to your personal success. Having self-confidence can help you perform to your highest potential, as it gives you the energy and confidence to develop an action plan. It will help you influence others as you become attractive and noticeable. It can also earn you a promotion at work.

    Furthermore, you’ll be more positive and make better decisions. Other than that, you will be more productive and happier.

    The lack of self-confidence can bring apathy. You will be unable to take the necessary action that can lead to your success, thus missing out on great opportunities.

    If you have identified a lack of self-confidence, you can set a strategic goal to boost your confidence by reciting daily personal affirmations, reading books on personal development or attempting things that scare you.

    2. Boost Personal Image

    Like self-confidence, the way you appear to other people says a lot about you and your chances of success. Paying attention to personal grooming, how you look and what you wear, can boost your personal image and open more doors for you.

    There are specific ways to dress for success. You can achieve this and still be on a budget.

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    Besides dressing, you will also need to learn other attributes, like wearing a warm smile when meeting people, giving a firm handshake, practice good posture, etc. All of this will say much about your self-image. When you consciously develop this habit over an extended period of time, it becomes part and parcel of you.

    3. Enroll for Professional Masters Degree or Doctorate

    There is no end to learning, and education is key to success at any stage in life. No matter how confident you are, there are some opportunities you will never be able to access if you do not have the required academic qualifications.

    In your analysis, you might have identified some opportunities in your industry which you have not been able to access as a result of a lack of qualification. It may also be that you sense that some new opportunities are emerging in your industry, and the technical skills are not readily available.

    It could be your strategic goal to study in that area so that you can acquire the requirements by the time such an opportunity presents itself.

    4. Acquire More Skills, Develop Existing Ones

    Skills are one of the most important assets that determine success in life. Skill-gaps limit growth, productivity, and opportunities. If you have identified a skill-gap in your analysis, it’s about time to set strategic goals to acquire or develop those skills.

    Some of the skills you’ll probably need most are problem-solving skills, creative thinking skills, management and leadership skills, IT skills, and communication skills. Acquiring and developing any of these skills will require some training, reading, learning, and conscious practice.

    5. Achieve Work-Life Balance

    One of the markers of a successful life is balance. Attaining work-life balance in this ever busy world definitely requires some strategic planning around time management.

    You have to allocate time and resources to every important aspect of your life: work, family, health, social life, spiritual life, etc. and stick to your schedules as much as possible. This can be a long-time strategic goal for the next three to five years, so that you can confidently say that no aspect of your life is suffering as a result of the other.

    For Organizations

    The following examples are focused on what an organization would want to achieve. They can also be implemented on your small-scale business or just one particular department of a big company that you have authority over.

    • Revenue expansion: increase revenue generation by 10% in one year
    • Boost employee communication: expand communication channels for employees to voice their opinions
    • Go green: reduce waste production and transition to eco-friendly options
    • Expand business: produce 5 new products every year
    • Improve PR: plan and implement 3 new marketing projects every month for 2 years

    Now that you know some examples of strategic goals, check out this video to learn more tips on how to achieve them:

    The Bottom Line

    Climbing the success ladder in life requires strategies. In order to make strategic moves, you might have to carry out an environmental scan and SWOT analysis to identify your potential and limitations, as well as identify the opportunities around you.

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    This analysis will open you up to issues in your life that require attention in order to become more successful. You will then be able to set your strategic priorities based on the issues you think are most important to you.

    More Goal Setting Tips

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 27, 2021

    8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

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    8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

    The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

    Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

    Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

    1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

    It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

    But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

    Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

    Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

    “Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

    And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

    Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.

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    So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

    2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

    Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

    You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

    Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

    Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

    So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

    3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

    A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

    But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

    Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

    Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.

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    So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

    4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

    This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

    Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

    What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

    This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

    If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

    So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

    5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

    This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

    What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

    The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.

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    Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

    So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

    6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

    Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

    For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

    A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

    Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

    So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

    7. Goals Make You Feel Good

    Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

    Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

    Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.

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    If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

    So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

    8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

    I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

    Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

    Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

    There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

    Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

    So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

    If I could leave you with something, it would be this:

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    Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

    More Tips About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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