‘Tis The Season … To Set Goals


It’s that time of year when people start thinking about what they want to accomplish over the next twelve months.  And as all the research shows, actually recording those desires as written goals gives us a much better chance of accomplishing them.

The format in which a goal is written is more important than it might seem.  To illustrate, you might enjoy seeing the text of an actual e-mail I received from a young man applying for a job at the advertising agency I manage:

Please accept this letter in application for one of the following positions possibly available within your company: Account Executive, Loan Originator, Account Manager, Office Support Staff, Branch Manager, Office Manager, Supervisor, HR Support Staff.

It’s hard to achieve your goal when you don’t know what it is.  On the other hand, define your goals, state them properly, focus – and you’ll be on your way to great things.

Here is a format for setting and writing effective goals.

  • Start with the word “To.”
  • Then add the verb that describes what you’re going to do.
  • Next insert a quantity… and make it a range.  This is called “stretch.”  You will wind up with a basic goal and a stretch goal.
  • Fill in the text that explains your goal.
  • End with the word “by” and the date or time frame by which you intend to accomplish your goal.

Here are some examples:

  • To read five to seven books on the topic of self development by December 31 of this year.
  • To call my brother three or four times by the end of each month.
  • To reduce my overall cholesterol twelve to twenty points by July 1.

This format, of course, is not the only way to write a goal, but it does create something  specific and measurable, with both a basic version and a stretch version.  It allows you to very quickly see exactly what you need to do. It gives you the opportunity to know, at any moment, where you are in relation to your desired result, and how much time you have to make up the gap.  It includes a built-in mechanism for going above and beyond.  These elements make the whole process much more dynamic.

I wonder if the person who sent me that e-mail ever got his dream job.  I don’t know, and chances are he’s not sure either.  By using the format described in this paper, however, you would be clear as to whether or not you’ve achieved a successful outcome.  And that’s the very reason we set goals.

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