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Setting Strong Goals and Objectives

Updated on May 6, 2012

As we're inching into the start of a new year, many of us are pondering new year's resolutions, goals, objectives and maybe even bucket lists! Perhaps the goals we set for last year didn't exactly pan out... Well, I'm here to tell you there may be a very good reason. And, it may not actually have to do with laziness or lack of trying on your part. Instead, it could have to do with your goal-setting techniques.

"Say WHAT?" you're asking.

If you're not setting well-defined and measurable goals, chances are you're not going to achieve them. Conversely, you wildly increase your chances of success if you master the skills involved in setting your goals. It's a revolutionary idea, right? Well, no... not exactly. Goal setting theory has been around a long time. So, let's pick it apart a bit.

The Five Hallmarks of a Well-Defined Goal

  1. It's specific. Ask yourself how EXACTLY you will be doing this.
  2. Your goal is stated in the positive. Ask yourself what you will be doing INSTEAD.
  3. Keep it "in process." Ask yourself how you will be doing this. USE "-ING" VERBS.
  4. Keep it in the here and now. Ask yourself what you would be doing if you were on track to solving your problem or meeting your goal.
  5. It's in your control. Ask yourself what YOU will be doing to reach your goal.

Be Specific!

Tell me what you think about the following goal: "I will be a better parent."

Is this a workable goal? Is it specific enough? Is it descriptive?

While I agree it's a respectable goal, it's just not well-defined, as such... it's pretty useless. You need to hone in on your goals to make them as specific as possible. I used to practice solution-focused, brief therapy with clients and we would ask them a series of questions to assist them in refining and narrowing down their goal(s).

Taking the "I will be a better parent" as an example, there are two questions you need to ask yourself in order to drill down to the specifics:

  1. What will you be doing when you are a better parent?
  2. What will you be thinking when you are a better parent? Or what will you be saying to yourself?
  3. What will others be noticing about your new behavior when you're a better parent?

You may need to drill down your answers several times. Perhaps your answer to the first question is "I will be more patient with my child(ren)." Again, you haven't gotten specific enough. Go back through questions 1-3 as many times as it takes to get as specific as possible. Your end goal might look something like this: "When I begin to feel frustration growing inside me, I will walk out of the room to calm down for 5 minutes."

State Your Goal in the Positive

Stating your goal in the positive is referring to linguistics. This means don't state what you won't be doing or thinking, but rather what you WILL be doing or thinking. "Why?" you ask... Well, you will have a lot more success creating a positive representation of yourself successfully conquering your goal. You can make a representation of something in the negative, in other words.

Uh oh, am I confusing you? Okay, let me give you some examples. Say you want to quit smoking and you set your goal as "I will not smoke anymore." I'd be willing to wager the first thing you picture when you repeat that goal to yourself is a cigarette... and probably yourself smoking one. I might as well say to you "don't think of a cigarette." The more you try to NOT smoke anymore, the more you are likely to be obsessed with smoking.

The solution is to formulate your goals in the positive. Consider what you WILL be doing or thinking. Examples might be: I will attend smoking cessation support groups, I will take Chantix, I will use nicotine patches, etc...

If you accidentally formulate your goal in the negative, ask yourself what you will be doing instead.

Don't Forget the "-ing"!

When you set your goals, you want to formulate them "in process." In other words, they are on-going and not static. You will recognize in process goals since they will use "-ing" verbs. They might be couched in the future or the present tense.

They sound something like this: "When I feel myself getting angry, I will be giving myself a 5 minute time-out to cool down before I speak to my child again." Or "When I find myself craving a cigarette, I will be calling one of my support group members."

You can liken this to the power of a motion picture versus a still picture. An ongoing, moving motion picture creates a much more powerful and lasting image than a still. This will assist you in creating that visual of yourself doing something powerful and proactive to change your situation or help solve your problem.

Ask yourself "how" to assist you in creating your in-process goals.


Stay in the Right Here and Right Now

Say your goal is to make a decision about something, perhaps it's something you've been putting off for a while now. For example, perhaps you want to make a decision about whether or not you'd like to have a baby. Your challenge is to stop behaving like the goal is way off in the future. You want to bring it into the here and now so that it's something you can begin to work on immediately.

So, how to do that?

Ask yourself the following question: "If I were on the right track to making the decision, what would I be doing or saying to myself?"

Keeping it in the here and now will assist you in feeling like you have control over the problem, that the goal is attainable, not something existing way out in the future that you'll never quite get to. Back to the baby example, perhaps your answer to the above question would be "I will be talking to my husband about starting a family instead of avoiding the topic."

Your Goal Must Be Something YOU CAN Control

If the success of your goal hinges on the actions of others, you are setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. Just don't even go there... Trust me, solving your intimacy issues, for example is not solely up to your wife!

Whatever goals you set, they must be stated in terms of a condition you have control over.


Submit a Comment
  • drspaniel profile image


    9 years ago from Somewhere, where the sun shines once a year...

    Reminds me of the words of such geniuses like Anthony Robbins, but this is certainly a much more manageable, as well as accessible than a £100 7 day audio course!

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, MT. It can take a lot of practice and diligence. But, at least you're trying! Thanks for coming by!

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    9 years ago from USA

    These are great useful ideas. I am working on being more positive and stating what I do want instead of what I don't want.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Melovy, thanks... I'm glad you found it interesting and hopefully helpful as well.

    carol3san, thanks for the read and vote. I've also been enjoying this week's inspiration topic.

    DzyMsLizzy- positive visualization is very powerful, good for you for practicing it! Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

  • carol3san profile image

    Carolyn Sands 

    9 years ago from Hollywood Florida

    Great advice wordscribe43. I feel that I am armed to carry out practically all of my goals now. So far everyone has given something a little different from the others...but with the same great purpose. Voted up.

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 

    9 years ago from UK

    A useful hub. I think your last point is possibly most important of all - though I also agree it’s very important to phrase goals in the positive and in the here and now. I haven’t heard of the “ing” idea before, so that’s interesting to read about. Thanks for the hub.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Nancy and Zac, thanks to you both. I appreciate your coming by and commenting.

  • Zac828 profile image


    9 years ago from England

    Excellent hub Wordscribe and just what is needed. Really important to follow these simple guidelines to achieve success. Thanks for sharing and voted up!

  • Nancy Owens profile image

    Nancy Owens 

    9 years ago from USA

    Great Hub, Wordscribe43! I really liked what you said about setting goals you actually have some control over. It is so true.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Good advice, indeed! We must not set ourselves up for failure by including negative words. I've only just learned this recently myself, and am still in the process. Leave "I won't do" out, and instead, phrase, as you say, what "I WILL do..."

    A step further bit of positive visualization I've learned is to state it as if it's already there. "I am a patient parent." Or, "I'm looking in the mirror, and I look fantastic in my new slinky outfit!" Say it as if it's already a fact/done deal.

    Great concept, and one that works. Voted up, interesting, useful and awesome!

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Holy smokes, guys! Thanks for all the comments, I'm flattered. Cagsil, I decided to post a real picture of myself, think it's better to have a real face than a pair of legs and a cat. Thanks again to all who commented.

  • sunkentreasure profile image


    9 years ago from RUIMSIG, SOUTH AFRICA


    You are the architect of your life.

    Create your own opportunities

    and make things happen.

    Set yourself a specific goal

    and monitor your progress.

    Be of service.

    Keep doing things for others

    without counting the cost.

    Turn your defeats into victories.

    Control your environment.

    Mix with the kind of

    people who inspire you.

    Keep your attitude positive

    and your health in fine trim.

    Let God go before you

    in everything you do.

    Pray regularly with feeling.

    Always be planning

    something constantly.

    You are the magnet of

    your circumstances.

    Never give up!

    © Bernard Levine

  • barryrutherford profile image

    Barry Rutherford 

    9 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Nice work love this hub will bookmark & tick the boxes

  • Cagsil profile image

    Raymond D Choiniere 

    9 years ago from USA

    Hey Wordscribe, you scribe some pretty good words in this fantastic hub. :) Btw- I love the new profile picture also. You look Awesome! :) I certainly hope your hub reaches those who really need it. Voted up and marked useful and AWESOME! :)

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    9 years ago from England

    Hi, thats so clever about in 'ings' telling yourself you will be taking a break etc is so much better than 'I am going to do this etc' this is bookmarked! thanks!

  • cardelean profile image


    9 years ago from Michigan

    Very important tips listed here. I think that so many people inadvertently slip back into the negative when both formulating and attempting to achieve their goals. Thanks for the great reminders.

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    Accept-ing that reach-ing our goals is within our power is a beautiful th-ing! I enjoyed this read very much!



  • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

    Jyoti Kothari 

    9 years ago from Jaipur

    Tips are interesting. "ing" is very useful. Thanks for a good hub. Rated interesting and up!

  • mljdgulley354 profile image


    9 years ago

    Very informative hub. Being specific in setting goals has been helpful for me as well as setting goals that I have control over.

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, Jynzly... that's a good place to be.

    Thanks for coming by, starstream! Glad it's helpful.

  • starstream profile image

    Dreamer at heart 

    9 years ago from Northern California

    You have given good and very specific examples. This is helpful.

  • Jynzly profile image

    Jenny Pugh 

    9 years ago from Marion, Indiana, USA

    Very sensible. I am into the "here and now."


  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, Simone. I'm glad you found it useful and hope it will help others as well. You're right, the more specific you are, the better chances you will have to succeed. Here's to a fabulous 2012!

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    9 years ago from San Francisco

    This is positively fabulous. I've bookmarked this Hub and shall be referring back to it as I finalize my goals for 2012! Thanks so much for outlining these important hallmarks. The one about being super specific about concrete things you will do has made the biggest difference for me in the past :D

  • wordscribe43 profile imageAUTHOR

    Elsie Nelson 

    9 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks for reading, Taleb80!

  • Taleb80 profile image

    Taleb AlDris 

    9 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this steps.

    I find the last one is very important.

    I voted Up & Useful.

    I hope you have big goals to achieve in 2012 & you will achieve them all on time.


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