A good place to start thinking about setting and achieving goals is what a goal should be. I other words, what characteristics should it have? The characteristics that an effective goal has will determine how we should approach our goals so that we can get the most out of achieving them, not only to ensure that the time we invest in pursuing our goals is well used, but also to make sure that our goals themselves are worthwhile in achieving.

Determining What Goals Should Be

When determining what a goal should be, there is a wide range of opinions about the elements that should be included. Acronyms like SMART, FAST, and CLEAR have emerged to encapsulate the characteristics that each of their creators have determined to those that a goal should exhibit.

The SMART acronym is the most well known of these acronyms and is by far the most influential. Its letters represent the following characteristics that most agree a goal should have;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

However, while all of these characteristics are essential for an effective goal, the SMART acronym is by no means the final word on the matter as it is missing several important characteristics (It’s a long story – see the GREATER² Goal Achievement System).

The Characteristics of an Effective Goal

Unlike most other authorities on the subject, I won’t be using the SMART acronym as the foundation of a worthwhile goal – although there is nothing wrong with doing so if additional characteristics are added to “plug the holes”.

Instead, I will be using the characteristics represented in the GREATER² acronym for reasons explained in depth in another article on this blog.

According to the GREATER² system, a goal should be;

Your Goal Should be Gaugable

A gaugable goal is one that can be gauged, in other words, it can be measured. To be measurable, a goal must, of necessity be

  • Specific. It must be precise and detailed enough that the goal setter is able to clearly and objectively determine whether or not the goal has been reached. A goal like “I want to lose weight” is not precise enough as it is vague and non-committal. However, a goal like “I will lose 20kg by July first this year” spells out what must be done and by when, and so would be specific enough.
  • Time-Bound. The goal must also have a deadline as without one, there is no compulsion to act and so the entire process would be pointless

Your Goal Should be Exigent

A goal must be challenging or ambitious to be effective. Studies show that when people are challenged, they perform better. A goal that is uninspiring will almost certainly not be achievable. If you end up in a situation where you have to achieve a goal that does not inspire you, try framing it in a different way or use things like rewards or penalties to push/pull you to the goal.

You Should Have an Emotional Connection to it

There must be a desire in the goal setter to achieve their goal. The chances of attaining your goal are increased exponentially when you are trying to achieve a goal you care about.

Your Goal Should be Divisible

The goal should be divisible into smaller “chunks” (what I call “step goals”) that are easier to achieve than the full goal. Taking your goal apart and structuring it so that you can start easily will help you build momentum quickly so that by the time you encounter a lack of motivation, you have already gone a substantial way towards achieving your goal.

You Should be Able to Create a Goal Path

Once you have determined that your goal is worthwhile using the characteristics listed above, you can set up your goal path. Your goal path is a step-by-step plan that will take for from where you are to your goal. You can use the step goals (mentioned in the Can be Taken Apart section, above) as mini-targets that you will try to achieve in sequence, with each successfully complete one carrying you ever closer to your ultimate goal.

Your Goal Should Include Reminders, Rewards, and Journaling

Staying focused and motivated can be a problem, especially where your goal takes a long time to achieve or is extremely challenging. There are several techniques and tools you can use to keep you on track, however. These include;

  • Reminders, which are small notes placed strategically around your home and/or office to remind you to take the actions (or refrain from taking them if you are trying to give something up).
  • Rewards, as well as Recognition and Penalties, can be used to make sure you hit your step goals. Rewards “pull” you towards your goals, Recognition allows you to celebrate your achievements when you do achieve your goals and penalties help “push” you towards your goal.
  • Journaling helps you stay focused on your goal and offers an outlet for you to explore your thoughts and feelings about your experience.

All three of these tactics are incorporated into the GREATER² Goal Achievement System and are designed to help you achieve your goal. Click here to download a FREE PDF DIY Goal Planner and Journal.

Conclusion

In the end, whether or not you achieve your goal depends entirely on you. However, the system you choose to use to help you can make a big difference. An incomplete system can lead to failure due to you not “covering all of your bases”. Make sure that you know and understand exactly what your goal should be and that you properly make the preparations you need to before you start out on your goal path.

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