Setting Professional Goals the Easy Way

Goal setting can happen at any time, it doesn’t have to be the first of the year or even the first day of the week. Therefore, we often start by enthusiastically working on our goals. Therefore,  soon after, we stop working on them.  There are many reasons why goals are set without being achieved.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you?

  • Unrealistic goals – they’re just too big
  • Too many goals or lacking focus
  • Goals were not important enough
  • Goals were unclear or complex
  • Goals were not measurable
  • Lack of drive, motivation, or discipline
  • Planning only once a year
  • The all-or-nothing attitude
  • Rationalization – justifying why not to do it
  • Lacking plans and actions to accomplish goals
  • No tracking – out of sight, out of mind
  • No accountability

Individuals who continually set, work toward, and achieve professonal goals are more successful and have more direction and purpose in their lives. These following techniques will help to improve your goal-setting results so you don’t become victim to unachieved goals.

Balanced Goals & Priorities

When setting goals, consider all aspects of your life to create a balance and increase the likelihood of achievement, such as:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Finance
  • Physical and Health
  • Education and Learning
  • Spiritual
  • Personal

Maintaining balance will help to eliminate voids, keep you well rounded, and helps build overall success. Begin by brainstorming possible goal categories and the goals you want to accomplish in each category.

Next, select the top two or three goals for each category. Depending on your goals and circumstances, it might be good to narrow it down to the number one goal in each category. Avoid the tendency of setting too many goals, which can cause a loss of focus or a feeling of overwhelming. It is best to focus on areas that can have the most impact, eliminate the most pain, or bring about the greatest joy.

Defining Why

Determining why the goal is important to you can help in prioritizing goals and creating sound internal commitment. If you don’t care about accomplishing it, your drive to see it through is doomed to failure. For any goal you want to achieve, it’s vital to keep the compelling reasons why you want to get it done at the forefront of your mind. Create a clear picture of what your life will look like once the goal is achieved. In the workplace, setting goals can bring you great happiness in the knowledge, professional credibility, earning potential, recognition, confidence, and job satisfaction in your position.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Professional Goals are more effective when they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound (SMART).


Be as clear and specific as possible, writing out what you will achieve. To be most impacting, specify your desired target or outcome. Determine what will be most impactful and when it is possible to achieve. Next, break out your desired result in actionable behaviors or steps that lead to the completion of the goal. Breaking out actions is a reason why many people fail to achieve their goals. Defining the steps leads to achievable action items.


To the extent possible, define your goals in quantifiable terms so you know where you are in attaining the goal. If you can track your defined goal, it’s possible to know when you are winning or losing and when to make adjustments. Track and monitor your goal often. It is more likely to be achieved by defining and tracking the smaller goals, as listed in the Specific category.


Goals must be realistic and include a challenge to have the most impact. If you make them too easy or too hard, they are less engaging. Review what you have been able to accomplish in the past and then define a new, realistic goal to help you reach new heights. Believe in the goal and your ability to achieve it when setting challenging, yet attainable, goals.


Goals that focus on meaningful outcomes make a greater impact on your life and company, and they are more motivating. Positively define goals as though you have already achieved them. Create positive affirmation statements for your goals. Focus on results and stating them in a way as if you believe it has happened to create a new possible reality. As they say, fake it til you make it.


If the goal is not written and does not have a beginning and an end, it cannot be defined as a goal. Impactful goals have clearly defined time frames defining who will do what, by when. If you define annual goals, make sure to break out quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily steps. Define what you will do and the timeframe to do it, then don’t stop until it’s done.


The last key component in impactful goal setting is to create a relationship of accountability. Be accountable to yourself, but also find colleagues, friends, coaches, and bosses with whom you share your goals. Meet with these individuals regularly or find other means to share results and account for your accomplishments. Leaders can help employees achieve goals by working with them to set goals that have real and personal meaning for them. Encourage employees to be accountable and to track and report how things are progressing.

Setting easy targeted goals that are achievable, S.M.A.R.T., and have built-in accountability will help you achieve more success and happiness in your personal and business life. Review your progress often and make minor adjustments, as needed. Expect challenges and make plans to overcome any obstacle along the way. Goals help you define what you will achieve. You determine your destiny by doing them.

By Ken Spencer, President, HR Service, Inc.


Source: Sandler Training, Goals, Goals Everywhere by Howard Goldstein and Sandler Training Class with Mike Neklason.