People set goals because they want to move from one point to another. The problem is that not many people set goals and are able to achieve them. It is a fact that many people make New Year resolutions and break them within that same first month of January. While to a large extent why people are unable to achieve their goals is because of lack of sheer determination it is also true that many people fail to meet their goals because they do not even know how to set achievable goals in the first place. If the goals you set are unrealistic it is bound to fail right from the start.

Setting goals that are achievable is not that so easy, yet it should not be a herculean task. The following tips are a guide to help you set goals that are achievable.

1. The goal must be clear. If someone said ‘my goal this year is to stop drinking’, would you consider that as a goal? Certainly not! It could pass for a New Year resolution but beyond that it is just a wishful thinking. Two things are not clear about the goal. (1) When do you want to stop drinking, immediately, by mid-year or by end of year? (2) What kind of drinks are you talking about, all alcohol including wine, only beers or just a particularly expensive brand that keeps eroding your earnings? So a goal in that direction should sound like this ‘By the end of March 2013 when I become 50 years old I will stop drinking all types of beer’. So move from making New Year resolutions to stating clear goals.


A clear goal statement answers questions on when, what and sometimes how. So if I am resolved to increase my income this year one of my goals may be ‘increase my income by =N=50,000 in the first 3 months through part-time after work hour jobs’. This goal is clear since it answers the questions; what (increase my income by =N=50,000), when (in the first 3 months) and how (through part-time after work hour jobs)


2. Break the big goal down into smaller measurable goals. Your goal can either be broken down in terms of the amount of what you want to achieve or the time it will take you to achieve it. The essence of breaking it into smaller measurable goals is to avoid being overwhelmed or intimidated by the seemingly huge challenge of your overall goal.


So the guy whose overall goal is to stop drinking all types of beer by March ending could break the goal down in months or in quantity. Breaking it down in months he may have three goals like this; (1) ‘by January ending I should stop drinking all types of beer at the pub’, (2) ‘by February ending I should quit drinking all kinds of beer at social parties (3) ‘by March ending I should quit drinking all types of beer privately. By trying to break down in months (by time) he is able to identify what can be achieved almost immediately, midway and by the end of the time-frame.


If the places he drinks alcohol is inconsequential he may just want to break it down by amount. In that case his goals may be; (1) ‘reduce amount of beer I take to 1 bottle per day by end of January’, (2) ‘reduce amount of beer I take to 2 bottles per week (1 each, Sunday & Saturday) by end of February’, and (3) ‘reduce the amount of beer I take to zero bottle per month by the end of March’.


3. Allocate specific time-frame that are realistic. Give yourself enough time to be able to achieve your goals. The common mistake is to try to achieve much within a short time. The result of that is when the goals for the first few months of the year are not met; panic sets in and you become demoralized. How do you estimate a realistic time-frame? Look at what you or your peers have achieved before under the same condition.


What if you can’t find any historical event to use as benchmark? Apply scientific (systematic) and if necessary statistical means to estimated what you can achieve with the available resources within a desired time-frame. For example, if my overall goal is to increase my income by =N=50,000 through part time after office hour job, then I have to estimate the total number of hours I could possible use for the type of job I am considering for a month period. I also further have to estimate how much I could possibly earn per hour for the type of job I am considering. With this I should be able to estimate the total earning per month. If I have 2 hours per day after work for 25 working days per month then I have 50hours of after work hours per month. If each hour gives me an income of =N=500, then I have =N=25,000 per month extra income per month. =N=25,000 means I can increase my income by =N=50,000 in 2 months. But because in life there are always uncertainties I will give myself an allowance to meet the goal in 3 months. That to me is a realistic time-frame.


4. Identify possible ‘roadblocks’ to achieving your goal and provide mitigates in advance. There are some obvious ‘roadblocks’ (and some hidden) that you have to identify and provide mitigates in order to make your goal achievable. For some it may be conflicting interests, scarce resources, or external factors like competition. If you want to save money and at the same time you want to undergo capital projects within the same period there obviously is a conflict of interest and you may not meet your goal. Your possible mitigate is to set your priorities right. You either shift the project forward or you extend the goal time-frame. If you know you don’t have enough resources to meet your goal then you can be sure that you may not meet your goal. So you have to create more resources. Most ‘roadblocks’ are obvious and can be mitigated. But if you cannot mitigate any identified ‘roadblock’ you may have to change the ‘what’, ‘when’ or ‘how’ of your goal or forgo it entirely, because you can be sure that as long as there are ‘roadblocks’ you will fall short of your goal.


I believe these four tips will get you going on the path to setting goals that are achievable. However, remember that even when you have mastered the art of setting achievable goals the fact remains that you need to be determined to keep the goals in focus and meet the goals within the time-frame allocated. You also need to celebrate and encourage yourself to move ahead each time you move a step forward to meet your overall goal.

Being able to set goals and meet them is one of the products of effective people. Personal effectiveness is a time saver, lifesaver and a highway to success. We therefore recommend that you or your employees consider attending our training programme on Personal Effectiveness or Time Management Workshop if you want know more about setting goals and how to keep them. You may also want to check out or training calendar for the year 2013 for other relevant training programmes you need to increase your knowledge.

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