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What is a Goal?

By Coach Mike Stott

Most of us have created personal or professional goals: Some we have completed and celebrated; some we have had a sense of “so what” about, and others we have abandoned. Our view of goals may not conform to how you usually think about goals.  It’s useful to look at goals during this time of year as we ready ourselves for 2022.  Let’s look at what Dr. Maria Nemeth from the Academy of Coaching Excellence says about goals.

A powerful goal gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what has true meaning for you. Most of what you now consider to be goals are probably tasks or “to do’s.”

What is a goal? An area or object toward which play is directed in order to score.

  • A goal is an expression of one of your Life’s Intentions in physical reality.
  • A goal is a promise that you make to yourself that you really are going to do.
  • A goal isn’t an open-ended process: you complete it, rejoice, and go on to the next.
  • A goal is a yes, not a no: Creating or achieving something, not stopping something.

There is something both exciting and scary about having goals with meaning. They change who you are — or who you consider yourself to be. The very act of creating goals takes both audacity and courage. This is because, at some intuitive level, you know that your journey toward them will reshape your identity. You will learn some great things you never knew about yourself and your world.

Tasks versus goals

Tasks are unfinished items that bring you relief when they are done. They give you breathing room. Examples include: make 10 calls a day, get rid of credit card debt, arrange a caregiver schedule for Mom, go for my annual check-up, fix the roof, and file work documents.

Goals bring you joy, excitement, and a sense of energy that is sustained over a specific time span. Examples: I go to the Caribbean by December 15th, (current year). I obtain my black belt by June 30th. I sing in the chorus performance by March 1st, (current year).

Do I feel joy or relief? Joy = Goal / Relief = Tasks

Creating SMART goals

Often, obstacles take our focus off of achieving our goals. For example, you might ask yourself: Am I listening to Monkey Mind? Do I have a clear direction? Am I focused? Is there unfinished business to handle? Is the timeline realistic? 

All these questions and more might come into play at any given time. By looking at what might be getting in the way of accomplishing goals, we gain clarity, focus, and ease when taking action. Then, we have the room to be grateful, which is grace.

As we set goals and take action toward demonstrating our Life’s Intentions, we see that our lives have meaning and relevance. Simply put, we are taking our life from “ordinary” to “extraordinary.”

Use the guidelines below to stay focused when creating your own goals, and when supporting others to develop their goals:

  • Specific: Is the goal clear and precise?
  • Measurable: How will I know I accomplished this?
  • Attainable: Is it a stretch but not impossible?
  • Relevant: To which Life’s Intention does this goal relate?
  • Time-based: What is the date to be accomplished?

Example: 

Goal: I go white water rafting in Colorado by August 1, (fill in the year)

Life’s Intention: to be physically fit and healthy

To achieve this goal, you might need to build your stamina, which will possibly cause you to lose weight. But losing weight, in and of itself, is a side effect, rather than a goal.

What goals are… and are not

  • A goal must be within your power to achieve. A goal is not something that depends primarily on the actions of other people.

    NOT A GOAL: I am offered a leading role in the play by September 15, (current year).
    GOAL: I audition for the leading role in the play by September 1, (current year)
  • A goal is not a vague intention, wish, or desire: a goal is a specific promise you make to yourself that you really are going to do.

    NOT A GOAL: Having a great relationship.
    GOAL: I take Alex on a 2-night romantic weekend on June 11, (current year).
    (assuming Alex agrees, of course!).

  • A goal is not an open-ended process: you complete it, rejoice in it, and then go on to the next goal. (Imagine the moment “the ball hits the net,” in a soccer game!)

NOT A GOAL: I meditate every day.

GOAL: I attend a 3-day meditation retreat by October 31, (current year).

  • A goal is a yes not a no. A goal is something positive, rather than stopping something or the absence of something.

NOT A GOAL: I lose 20 pounds. 

GOAL: I hike Mount Shasta by May 31, (current year).

Examples of SMART goals

Goal: I knit a baby blanket for my grandchild by (fill in the date).

Life’s Intention: to be a creator of beauty.

Goal: I contribute $1,000 to (a favorite charitable organization) by (fill in the date).

Life’s Intention: to be financially successful.

Goal: I sign up for salsa dance lessons by (fill in the date).

Life’s Intention: to be an adventurer.

Goal: I attend a local leadership conference by (fill in the date).

Life’s Intention: to be a visionary leader.

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