Goal setting is an important part of every project and of life at large. Goals provide one with a distinct sense of purpose in life, equip one with a yardstick to measure progress, reveal the potency of one's actions - which are seen to bring one closer or further away from one's goal - and help one recruit, focus and harmonize their diverse capacities. However, to be of such benefit goals must fulfil a few conditions:
1. Goals should be clearly defined and specific:
'My goal in life is to be happy';
'I am in this world to fulfill a mission';
'My aim is to progress as swiftly as possible';
'I endeavour to be the best I can be'...
In each of these statements the goal is obscure, making it hard for an individual to know what they really want. For instance, to pursue happiness one must first define what it is. Otherwise one can spend a lifetime searching for happiness aimlessly, pass it by without recognising it, or may search for it in all the wrong places. If a goal is clearly defined, however, one has a 'search image' and knows what to look. They are also able to measure their rate of progress relative to their vision, and can formulate a structured action plan that allows for incremental progress toward the desired destination.
It has been said that regardless how straight one shoots an arrow, if it's not aimed correctly it will miss the target. One may have everything under control, an excellent action plan, and the discipline to progress through it, and yet, on account of the vagueness of the goal discover that, in the end, they still haven't achieved much.
2. Goals should be relatively simple and concise: A simple goal fosters sophisticated and complex plans of action, while complex goals results in confused and stupid plans of action. Goals must be straightforward and clear, one must envision what they seek to achieve, only then can a coherent and well structured program to reach it be formulated.
3. Goals should not be too easy or too difficult to attain. If too easy, one will not grow optimally; if too hard, one sets oneself up for failure. A goal must be realistic and set in light of self knowledge.
4. Goals should be written down. In writing down goals one is forced to clearly understand and articulate them. One is also given the opportunity to reflect upon goals, see whether they match one's ability level, and to decide whether they are really worthwhile. Writing also serves as an intermediary between thought and action. On the one hand, writing is largely an expression of one's thoughts on paper. On the other hand, however, unlike pure thought, writing involves action and has a visible impact on the world. Writing can thus inspire action.
5. Goals should be broken up into sub goals. As one chews food into tiny pieces before swallowing it, one should divide goals into series of smaller secondary goals and action steps which, in combination, lead to the fulfilment of a primary goal. This requires patience.
6. Goals should not be set in stone. If a goal turns out to be insurmountable, too easy or too trivial - remembering that priorities change as one progresses, matures, or finds himself in new circumstances - one should have the flexibility to modify or even replace goals when necessary.
7. Goals should have deadlines. Deadlines speed up progress and foster focus. The challenge of a deadline also brings out people's best. Without deadlines goals are often postponed indefinitely, and action plans - if any - easily dissipate and unravel. Deadlines thus keep the entire program structure tightly bound together.