The “How Will I Know” of Goal Setting

Last week, I reviewed the “what if” of goal setting as it relates to possible obstacles that can arise and the solutions you create to deal with them on your way to achieving your goals.  This week, I’m going to focus on the “how will I know” piece of goal setting.

So far, you’ve drilled down to some concrete specifics on your goal. Now, however, we need to talk about how you will know if you’ve actually been successful in your attempts towards a goal.  This may seem obvious, but again, you really need to be careful here.

The “how will I know” aspect of goal setting speaks to the specific measurements that go with a particular goal.  If I set a goal that says, “I want to lose weight,” I have not given myself a specific or precise measurement that will let me know if I’ve achieved the goal.  Does my goal to lose weight mean that I will be successful if I lose ¼ of a pound?  Does it mean that I have been successful by losing 3 pounds?

When you set a goal for yourself, place a specific measurement with it that clearly indicates successful and acceptable accomplishment.  In the example of losing weight, you would say, “I want to lose 12 pounds over the next 12 months at the rate of one pound per month.” Each month, if you have not lost the expected pound, then you have not met your objective for that month.  If you reach the loss of a pound, you have successfully met your objective for that month.  If you lose two pounds, you are ahead of schedule towards your ultimate goal of 12 pounds.

When you do not list a measurable way to track your success, you set yourself up for the very ambiguity that keeps most people from reaching their goals.  Measurement is a guide or tool that we use to gauge where we are from the finish line.  Do we need to make an adjustment to speed things up or slow things down?  Are we ahead of schedule, behind schedule, or completely off track and going the wrong direction?

In many business environments, rewards are awarded to employees who meet their expected goals.  If measurement is established when the goal is originally set, then there is no room for inference on the part of the employee or the organization.  Either the employee met the goal, or he did not.  If he hit the measurement specified, then he reached the goal. If he didn’t hit the measurement, then he did not reach the goal.  In that case, it’s not about the emotion of the pursuit. It’s about the end result. Either he achieved the desired result, or he did not.

Simply put – if you don’t know where you’re going – how will you know if you got there?

Next Week: Relevance and Reward