get set go-al

Action plan to attain your goals: GET! SET! GO-AL!

Do you aspire to accomplish a lot of goals in life? Do you have a set plan to achieve those goals? Goal setting is not just thinking, “I want all this to happen in my life.” It involves a lot of hard work and patience to break your goals down and devise an action plan to achieve them within a time frame. 

By Suman Kher


There are so many goals: personal, financial, health, educational and so on. They can be long term with a horizon of 10 years or more or short-term goals for 5 years, 1 year, or a few months or weeks. One of the most important things to remember is that the goals you set should motivate you. Goals that are just nice-to-have will never sustain themselves. A great way to motivate self is to ask, “Why do I want to accomplish this goal?” The ‘why’ helps you make it worthwhile. This is an important motivating factor. For instance, you might be a working professional and wish to enhance a set of skills. The answer to ‘why add to your skills’ could be improved performance in the workplace, better chances of promotion to higher positions, boost in self-confidence etc. When you make a list like this, you have reasons to keep you going.

Smart goals
A powerful way to form your goals is to remember the mnemonic SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The pioneering research into goal setting by Dr. Edwin Locke, an American psychologist, shows better chances of achieving them.
Specific: Be specific! Vague goals like “I want to lose some weight” or “I want to have a lot of money” do not provide sufficient direction. The problem with such rough goals is that they remain indefinite ideas in the head never translating into specific, doable goals.
For instance, “Going around the world when I have enough money” doesn’t have the urgency to sustain it. Rather, a goal like “saving up percent of my salary every month for the next 5 years for my world trip” sounds more action-oriented. Now you know exactly how much to save for a known duration of time and you can work towards it.
Measurable: Goals should be measurable to know the extent of your progress. There should be answers to how many, how much and to what extent. “Read motivational books” doesn’t specify when and how do you intend to achieve it. “Read 4 motivational books by the end of this month” is measurable and the deadline will prod you to go on. Quantifiable goals easily tell you it is time to celebrate when you finally achieve them.
Attainable: Goals should be obtainable with some effort. Goals that are beyond reach will only demotivate you and you will never reach them. Trying to lose 10 kilos in a month by working out 4 hours a day is not a realistic goal. At the same time, a goal shouldn’t be too easy to achieve lest it makes you complacent. The key is to have a balance between attainability and sufficient challenge.
Relevant: Goals should be relevant to your life and career. Goals inconsistent with your life plan are of no use. Scattered and irrelevant goals will only add clutter to your scheme of things.
Time-bound: Goals should have a date by when you will have fulfilled them. When you set a date to a goal, you know the time you have and the urgency of achieving by the deadline keeps you going. “Learn to play the guitar” is a goal that can take forever to realise. “Learn to play 2 tunes of medium difficulty by the end of 3 months” informs you the time within which you should be able to play the guitar.

The following points are also crucial to effective goal setting:
Prioritise: The motivation is likely to be high for goals that are on priority in your life. List all your important goals and assign A for high, B for medium and C for low priority. This will help you identify important goals and focus on them since they mean the most to you at the moment and have immediate implications in your life.
Set small and incremental goals: Once you shortlist the goals, it is time to begin working on them. Break them down into smaller steps that will gradually take you to the final goal. For instance, if your goal is to “get certified in a particular skill”, break it down into identifying the best colleges and getting into it, studying for the qualifying exam and writing the actual exam. Set deadlines to each one so that you know by when you will be certified.
Write down as positive statements: Writing your goal as positive statements is one of the most effective ways to make your goal tangible. Avoid using words like might, would or would like to. Frame affirmative sentences like “I will make customer service more responsive in a month’s time by responding to complaints within 24 hours”. Put them up at prominent places around you or read them often to keep you inspired.
Make a plan of action: It is not enough to know what exactly you want to achieve within a time frame. It is equally important to know how to achieve it. Make an action plan with individual steps that lead to your goal. Identify obstacles and ways to overcome them. Determine people you might need to work with or additional knowledge required to arrive at your final destination in the stipulated time.
Stick to it: Setting targets are not the end of your task. You need to stick to the action plan. Put up reminders where you can see them often. Give yourself little treats as you accomplish each step towards your goal. Review your goals regularly and update your plan of action, if needed, to suit changes that happen in your life.

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Setting up goals keeping the above points in mind assures you success to a large extent. But there might be times when things do not work out the way you planned. Do not let such failures bother you as long as you learn lessons from your mistakes and use them to set goals afresh. Your regular review of goals should help you check any obstacles you are likely to come across. Having goals to achieve gives a purpose and a sense of fulfilment to our lives; the only way to truly accomplish our goals is to – do it now!


Appeared first in Advanc’edge MBA, magazine.