Goal Setting: Critical Thinking Skills Success Study Guide (page 3)
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.
- 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:
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.
What Becomes a Goal?
When you are brainstorming, you come up with various possible solutions to a problem. But which one is worth pursuing? Goal setting is about choosing the best solution and creating a plan to make it happen. To do this, you need to clearly define your goal. What is it, exactly, that you wish for an outcome? Since every possible solution is different (by varying degrees) it can lead to different outcomes. Evaluate the ideas you came up with during brainstorming based on the specific criteria you set for your goal.
You work for a company that manufactures running shoes. Compared to figures from a year ago, profits and sales are slumping. You are asked to come up with a solution that will increase both. While brainstorming, you come up with three possible solutions:
- start a major marketing campaign
- limit the availability of the product/service to increase demand
- lower costs so that profit margins are increased
Let's look at these possible solutions and their probable outcomes. A large marketing campaign would most likely increase sales. Limiting the availability to increase demand would eventually lead to higher prices and greater profits, with a possible increase in sales. But lowering costs would most likely result in increasing sales and is a better way to increase both sales and profit. Therefore, it makes sense to choose solution c.
Sometimes, despite all your planning, you may fail to reach your goal. Realize that it's just temporary, take it as a learning experience, and redirect your resources toward a new goal.
Roadblock to Setting Goals
An important thing to remember is not to set a goal that's too big or would take too long to accomplish. People often grow tired of their plans before they're completed. When you set a goal, can you picture yourself following the timeline to its conclusion? If not, break down the original goal into smaller, more manageable ones. Here's an example: Lennie sets a goal to ask for a raise in six months, so he made this goalsetting chart.
In terms of objectives and timelines, Lennie is giving himself six months to improve his job performance and learn more about the company. But he expects to do everything at the same time for the next 26 weeks, which might be difficult. He would have a better chance of success if he set smaller goals one month at a time. For example, the first month he might concentrate on coming in early and leaving late to improve his image with his boss. Then, the second month, he might just work hard during normal business hours and read about the company at home on weekends. The third month, he could check out news about the company once a week while brainstorming ways to help other employees. By breaking down the large goal, he's more likely to reach it in six months.
Success is a choice. You have to decide what you want and how you plan to reach your goal. No one else can or should do it for you.
Setting goals is an important part of problem solving, but always remember to set goals you can reasonably achieve. Use a goal-setting chart to create a map that can show you the way from the problem to the solution. The chart forces you to break down your goal into manageable steps, set a deadline, and spell out exactly what you'll do, and when. That exercise can help to move from where you are—facing a problem—to where you want to be—problem solved!
Skill Building Until Next Time
- Choose a short-term goal for yourself, such as a household repair. Using the list of five qualities of a valuable goal (see page 44), determine how you will get the repair accomplished. Set a deadline, be specific about what exactly you need to do, and write it all down as a visual reminder of what you will accomplish.
- Choose a longer-term goal, something that should take a few weeks or months to achieve. Make a goal-setting chart, breaking down the goal if necessary, and include every step you must take, and when. Follow your map and check off each task as you complete it on the way to achieving your goal.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Goal Setting Practice Exercises.
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