Goal Setting: Critical Thinking Skills Success Study Guide

Updated on Sep 19, 2011

Lesson Summary

In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.

Robert Heinlein, American novelist, science fiction writer (1907–1988)

When you have a problem, you want to solve it, right? So you make a plan, or set a goal, to resolve the problem. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve and the steps you'll take to do so, the more likely you are to reach your goal. In this lesson, you'll discover how to do that.

A goal is a clear statement of something you want to accomplish or a problem you want to solve in the future. Goals may be personal, educational, or career oriented. For example: "I'm going to learn to play soccer this year," "I want to earn an A on my term paper," "I'm going to ask my boss for a raise in the next six months," or "I want to refinance my mortgage while rates are low." Whatever the goal, you need a step-by-step plan for reaching it. You also need to identify any obstacles in your way and things you might need, such as research or help from others.


Always set realistic goals over which you have as much control as possible. Don't set yourself up for failure because of reasons that are beyond your control.

Why Set Goals?

Important skills include defining, understanding, and focusing on problems, and brainstorming their possible solutions. Goal setting is the next important skill that will take you to those solutions. By setting a goal, you make things happen by focusing on exactly how to get from where you are to where you want to be.

       Understand Problem Clearly → Brainstorm Solutions → Set Goals to Achieve Solution

Five Qualities of a Sound Goal

Valuable goals are:

  • in writing—create a document of your goal
  • specific—use as much detail as possible to explain what you want to accomplish
  • measurable—describe your goal in terms that can be clearly evaluated
  • realistic—don't set the goal too high or too low; you must be capable of reaching it with time and effort
  • deadline-oriented—determine a completion date; the achievement of your goal must happen in a reasonable time, not "in a few weeks" or "some time in the future"

The following Goal-Setting Chart is a guideline. Depending on your goal, you may not need to fill out each section, or you may need to add a section or sections. Be flexible, but keep these five qualities in mind.

Here's an example of how a Goal-Setting Chart can help. Fran's grades aren't good and she knows she can do better. So first, she brainstorms possible solutions on a Problem/Solution Chart.

Goal-Setting Chart

    What is in my way:
    How I will achieve my goal:
    Step 1:
    Step 2:
    Step 3:
    What I need to accomplish goal:
    Timeline for accomplishing goal:
    When needed:
    Monthly or long term:
    What I will get from goal:

Five Qualities of a Sound Goal

Possible Solutions

limit time on phone and computer after school, pay better attention in class, buy and use workbook on improving study skills

To create a goal based on this problem, you will need to focus on the solutions you brainstormed, and create a plan to implement them effectively.

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