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Characteristics of good goals

Updated on November 7, 2013

When did you last time feel the satisfaction after you achieved your goal? … have you sit in a chair, poured your favourite drink and with a smile on your face looked back at the way that has led you to the peak. This may was your first hub, completed cooking course or something more demanding like taking your PhD title after several years hard working, 7-digit balance on your account, lead the company to a leading market position,… However, for sure we all can remember some disappointments when we failed, regardless was it something common like those related to our faculty or our business, or it was something more specific such as to learn a foreign language, to increase earnings, to become a star, etc.

If we ask ourselves why some of our plans succeed and some do not, the answer is certainly not easy and it is difficult to give a general formula for success. The only what can be said, it is that after a while we can relatively easy see what was wrong; so it is the saying “it's easy to be a general after the battle”. Naturally, once we decide to move into action, we will do our best in order to achieve marked objective.

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.

Daniel Burnham

If it comes about learning a foreign language, we may develop a plan that includes the classic courses, correspondence with native speakers through the Internet and one-month intensive course in the country whose language we learn. If, however, we want to increase our earnings, there are much more possible ways to do it and we will choose the one we evaluate the most suitable for us. In any case, possibilities which led to the target should be analyzed in details, in order to implement the plan into the goals as better (meaning easy, fast,…) as possible. However, in addition, it seems that good objectives (that one which will be achieved) have some common determinants.

Below, we specify and discuss the four characteristic of good goals, which increase the likelihood of success if we take them into account when planning. Therefore, here we focus only on the “technical level”, without going into questions like, how to figure out what we want, whether we need to do it etc. - in connection with this, I might just add my opinion: it is much harder to understand what we really want, than to achieve it - but this could be some another topic.

The four characteristic of good goals

The first characteristic of good goals is that they are in a written form. After making a decision, initially we are very motivated and we strive for a goal with a full power. However, usually the initial motivation quickly disappears. Therefore, it is good to have a reminder, written either in our planner or on our desk etc. Simply, in some ways it will help us in achieving the goal. However, although this sounds simple (we would say, nothing easier than to write something on the paper), you'll see that's not so easy. Sometimes will be difficult to write a decision on the paper and this is a sign that you are not completely sure, either if this is a right decision, or you might be afraid of a failure. So, putting goal on a paper is a nice opportunity to reconsider everything once again, before dedicating our time and energy into the implementation.

Another characteristic of good goals is that they are measurable. It is not good to take goals such as “to earn more in next year”, “to increase sales in next quarter”,…but the quantitative component should be included. Thus, instead, it is much better to say “to earn 40% more in next year”, “to increase sales in next quarter by 15%” (and, of course to have a vision how to do that). I would say that of these four characteristics of good goals this one is the most easily accepted.

Let your goal be slightly above the reality, for the purpose to make a challenge for you. On this way we get an additional force that will get us well on the road to success. And don't forget a deadline. Without a time limitation we are prone to postpone and postpone our obligations.

FranklinCovey Principle-Centered Leadership - Softcover
FranklinCovey Principle-Centered Leadership - Softcover
A comprehensive guide devoted to professional managers of any field, explaining the principles of real leadership.

Summary – the four characteristic of good goals

Finally, I will summarise these consideration, into the four characteristic of good goals. So, good goals are

  1. in a written form

  2. measurable

  3. 10% above our capacity

  4. have a deadline.

Don't be afraid of putting goals on a paper, nothing terrible if we don't fulfil all our goals perfectly (in business terms “on time and with quality”), the point of these simple rules is that they help us and push us to the goal.


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