What's Your Goal

What’s on your life-goals list? Nope, this is not a “Bucket List; not a before I die list.” Think about your future-state. I’m sure you’ve heard or been asked, where do you see yourself in five, ten, or twenty years from now. What’s your answer? Stop, before you answer that question let’s talk about a few things as to realistic goals, converting goals to a project, a “to-do” and action plans.  

GoalChart1Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

In Youth

When we are young it starts out as the answer to questions like:  what do you want to be when you grow-up; what do you want to accomplish or achieve in your life. And, as we grow older, those answers can change; they can expand or become refined and narrowed. Thus, age has a little to do with the answers; and with age we are more likely to set realistic expectations and make better decisions towards the goals and objectives we desire in life.

In youth our dreams and aspirations were often of fame and fortune; rarely will a young person have a life goal of mediocrity. As we age, although we may refine our dreams and goals, sometimes we retain a few perceived unattainable goals. That is not a bad thing. Hopefully, maturity brings a sense of reality, priorities and focus – But not always.    

Reality Check

Is it realistic and achievable? You might think that whatever you dream-up is realistic and achievable. You might believe that you have a talent that only you recognize. Let’s get this out of the way right up front:  If you are the only person in the world that thinks you can sing, or act, or perform a skill (besides your parents), it’s time for a reality check.  I’m not trying to throw stones at anyone; however, performance oriented goals require you to be marketable. It’s no different for someone who thinks they are a great guitar player even though they only know how to play three or four chords.  It does not mean that you can’t get better, but everyone will have a skill-ceiling or talent-ceiling. It’s just a fact of life. Not everyone can be a great singer or even a good singer. Not everyone can be a great musician or a great athlete or even a brilliant business person. Having a lot of “likes” on YouTube does not translate to being a success in the public and wealth.

MusicCredit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

What is Important to You

Get a little selfish for a few moments: think about your life goals and what you want to accomplish for yourself. We’re not talking about a “Bucket List,” although some of the items on your bucket list might also be life-goals. Life-goals are the things that accomplishing them will have special meaning in your life; something you want to achieve because it satisfies a desire in you, even if that desire is a benefit to someone or something else. Examples: future retirement and retirement at an early age, start a new career, purchase of something special and expensive, vacation, writing a book, completing a college degree, starting a business, creating a work of art, starting a fund raising program for a special interest such as animal rights, feeding the homeless, or something environmental, just to name a few.   

Project Planning Your Goals

Start by defining one goal. What is it? Why do you want it? What does the end-state look like, as in how do you know when that goal has been achieved?  Break the goal down into objectives. Objectives are definable, quantifiable, measurable and thus, manageable. If you are familiar with Project Management Methods; managing and achieving goals can be done in much the same way. If you are not familiar this method, there’s no problem. Here is a brief explanation of what to do.

Goal Setting 2Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Break it Down

Break the goal down into smaller pieces. Look at the goal as if it is a product or service. Picture it as a structure and think about what it is made up of; what are its parts. Then determine the steps, tasks and activities necessary to accomplish or create each part. Then what are the tasks and activities necessary to assemble the parts to complete the goal; as in build the final product or service.


Once you have identify all the pieces, parts, tasks and activities required to achieve that goal, sequence the work in a logical fashion. In other words, do the first things first. Plan and schedule those tasks and activities to include cost and time requirements and a due-date. Be realistic – yet be deliberate, not arbitrary. Even time lines, due dates are objectives, and sometimes just as important as the task itself. If a task or activity can be broken down into smaller manageable parts, do so. The smaller and more manageable a task or activity is the easier it will be to track, accomplish and measure goal success. The bigger and more complex a task or activity is and you attempt to work it as one big object, the more likely that you are to stumble along the way. And, over-reaching what is realistic will often lead to giving-up, giving-in, failing to achieve that goal you really desire.

Process ChartCredit: Pixabay, November 2014

Adjust the Plan

As you progress on tasks, you might discover that your sequencing is wrong or needs to be adjusted. That is fine. There is nothing wrong with revising the sequence of tasks and activities, the time, duration, and suspense or completion target dates. It’s done all the time in the business world of project management. Don’t sweat it and don’t get discouraged. What’s important is to check your plan regularly and make sure that you add and update tasks and activities.   

Question:  How does a poor person become a millionaire?

Answer: One dollar at a time.

Tracking and Gauging Success

The traditional mind-set of a To-Do list is to create a roster of tasks that are required by either someone other than your-self or by circumstances of necessity. Examples of tasks that fall in this “traditional” sense are: pick up groceries, do the laundry, make dinner, take the kids to school, fix the car and mow the lawn. Your job/career has to-do tasks, for example: schedule a meeting, prepare a report, call a client, type a letter, coordinate an activity, or complete a defined unit of work. Even, students have to-do tasks such as register for a course, complete a reading assignment, complete a writing assignment, complete a lab activity, attend a lecture, and purchase course books.

To-Do and ScheduleChecklistCredit: cory stophlet, 2014

Having a “To Do” list is not uncommon and everyone is familiar with it. You make a list of things that need to be done, just try to order your list in a logical sequence. In project management all tasks and activities are charted in a manner not unlike a process diagram. If your goals are large and complex, it might be advantages for you to go to that detail. The advantages of drawing and detailing your goal-plans include:


  • Keeps all the tasks and activities in front of you.
  • Let’s you see the logical relationships between tasks and activities.
  • Allows you to add notations and identify items that can be further reduced to smaller tasks and activities.
  • Easier to see and measure progress towards your goal.

Time, Duration and Effort

Set task/activity timelines and suspense dates that are realistic; that should be obvious.  Don’t put things off out of discouragement. Stay on course and adjust dates only when necessary. The amount of effort it takes to achieve a life goal is no different than the effort it takes to accomplish a major task in your career.    

Goal Examples and Advice from Brian Tracy


Find a coach or someone who has walked that path or someone who is supportive, yet will give you a sanity check every once in a while during your travels towards goal achievement.

Stay positive. When things look bleak, take smaller bites of the task. Focus on one small thing and complete it. Then you will be one step further along that you were when you felt frustrated with your progress.

Keep Your Eyes Open

  • Pay attention to opportunities to recruit help in achieving your tasks, activities and goals.
  • Don't be afraid to ask and accept help.
  • Do something every day that leads towards accomplishing one of the tasks, activities, and goals.
  • Regularly measure your progress against the goal and make sure that you are on track.
  • Make adjustment when necessary.
  • And remember that if the goal is really important to you, then all the sweat and struggles will be worth it in the end.