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Term2.png Goal
An end result or achievement where effort is directed.

It is important to differentiate a ‘goal’ from a ‘want’, ‘desire’ or ‘dream’. The latter three terms refer to outcomes you think or fantasise about achieving or having, without necessarily take action towards them. They are also often not ‘concrete’ or specific. A ‘goal’ by contrast, is an outcome (clearly specified) that you direct your effort and take steps towards achieving.

For example, the desired result of owning a Ferrari, could be considered a goal, if you have taken meaningful steps towards making this a reality – e.g. Investigating purchase prices and models, opening a savings account which you contribute money to regularly etc. However, if no steps have been taken or planned, and purchasing a Ferrari remains a wish/desire you have only thought about, it can’t be termed a goal.

Goals can be further broken down into different categories and typologies :

Short-term vs. long-term – The nature of a goal can differ according to the time reference you have for achieving it. E.g. The goal of exercising 3 times this week, has a very different time horizon to the goal of retiring comfortably.

Step/target vs. Outcome – Goals can be ‘stepping stones’ or ‘baby steps’ directed towards achieving a larger meaningful goal. For example, the goal of applying for 10 jobs today may be one step taken in the direction of securing a new job. In order to achieve the outcome of purchasing a Ferrari by 2020, a person may set a savings target of $20,000 for 2012, $40,000 for 2013 etc.

Lower and higher order goals – Goals can operate at different levels. The goals of owning a Ferrari and securing a new job for instance, could both be lower order goals contributing to the higher order goal of feeling security and happiness in life. This can also play out in organisations and politics. For instance a political party may set the goal 4% annual GDP growth, in order to achieve the ultimate goal of being re-elected.

Personal vs. Organisational – Goals can be set for individuals or for organisations. A manager may set them self the goal of getting promoted, which may or may not be in alignment with an organisational goal to increase profit and market share.

Guideline for Goal-Setting – SMART goals: Goals should be:
Specific Goals should be çoncrete’, not general. E.g. Instead of ‘increase profits’, a company may set the goal ‘increase profit by 10 percent in 2013’
Measurable Goals should be able to answer the questions ‘How much/how many?’. For instance, instead of the goal ‘to be thin’, a better goal would be ‘to lose 15 kg’.
Attainable Goals should be something you can achieve with your skills and abilities.
Realistic You should set goals for which you are willing and able to work towards. For instance, doubling profit by 2013 might be unrealistic for an established and large company. However, by 2020, doubling may well be possible.
Timely A time-frame gives a sense of urgency for achieving your goal. The goal of ‘Owning a Ferrari’ for instance, would probably not push an individual to action, the same way ‘Owning a Ferrari by December 31st, 2020’ would.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goal (07 November 2012), http://giftedkids.about.com/od/glossary/g/Goal.htm (07 November 2012), http://www.diffen.com/difference/Goal_vs_Objective (07 November 2012), http://topachievement.com/smart.html (07 November 2012)