‘Tis the season for New Year resolutions! Yet why is “goal-setting” one of our least favorite personal progress activities? Whether or not we care to admit it to ourselves, nearly every one of us is a goal setter, in that we all have something that we look to accomplish in the future—a better job, a new home, losing that last 10 pounds or even qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Keep reading and you will hopefully find out that goal-setting can actually be fun!

Mingling Professional and Personal Goals

To help our API Registered Professionals get the ball rolling with their goal-setting process, I usually share with them our list of thought-provoking questions.

Before our candidates get started writing out the answers, I advise them to carve out some time to review the questions with their spouse or significant other. Why, you might ask? Because the personal aspect of goal setting is equally as important as—and intimately connected to—the professional side.

It’s easy to grasp the idea when you put it in context: imagine if something positive or negative happens regarding your job or career; it impacts a lot more people than just you alone, doesn’t it?

Following are a few examples of the many questions that API asks our job-seeking candidates to consider before they attempt to set goals.

  • How do you like to spend your time?
  • What is important to you when it comes to family, hobbies, faith, relationships, leisure pursuits, finances, location and your work environment?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What kind of income levels would you like to achieve?
  • How do you want to contribute? What type of people do you want to work with?

Engaging in this self-examination process is a great first step—a warm-up, of sorts—for your goal-setting exercise.

Take Action When Goal-Setting

As mentioned above, making the time to think about your interests can be one of the most constructive tasks to engage in before setting your goals. But the second step will require action and follow through. You must write them down and review them often. I’m even guilty of writing my goals down in January, then sticking the list in a drawer, only to find it six or eight months later.

And I’m not alone.

At API, we see that few people have the focus to remember in June what goals they set for themselves in January. The first critical step to successfully reaching your goals is to write them down and look at them monthly, if not weekly.

Map Out Your Goals

One of the surest ways to impede progress on your goals is to go about setting them haphazardly, without an appropriate structure. The key is to create a plan—like a roadmap—in which you patiently move ahead a little bit at a time. Write down the things that you are happy with and then the things that you want to alter over time. Include small changes—e.g., “read your company’s Form 10K and annual report.” For larger chances, perhaps it’s getting your house “sale” ready to put it on the market.

Then review your goals once a month. Ask yourself what occurred during the past month that either helped or hindered your progress toward your goals. Focus on what you can do better or differently to effect even greater progress next month.

What Makes a “Good” Goal?

As a next step, you’ll want to consider how to structure your goals. As important as taking the time to setting your goals might be, making sure that the ones you create for yourself are good ones is just as critical.  One helpful clue to setting good, solid, reasonably achievable goals is to use the “SMART” rule. A SMART goal is “SPECIFIC,” in that it targets a particular area for improvement. It’s “MEASUREABLE,” because it has a quantifiable indicator of progress.  It’s “ATTAINABLE,” because it’s practically achievable. It’s “REALISTIC” because it states what results you can expect to achieve and how you’re going to get there, given available resources. And, lastly, it’s “TIME-BOUND,” in that it’s written to be achieved within a specific time frame.

Let’s take a look at a potential goal, and how it can become achievable.

Creating a goal that states, for example, “I want to make $250,000 a year and fly a Gulfstream 650,” is not optimal goal setting. In order to have a good, long-term goal, you need to consider all of the other aspects of your life and factor them into your plan.

A better, more specific and realistic example might be a goal that states: “I’m going to take on additional responsibilities as a safety captain and manage the SMS and bring my department to IS-BAO stage III certification so that my organization recognizes that I’m taking the lead to be considered for development opportunities.”

As you can see, the goal doesn’t shoot for the moon; instead, it suggests realistic small steps to achieve a larger overall success.

Your Turn

Of course, these are just a few of the goal-setting tips that we at API discuss with some of our candidates to help them be successful. Now that you’ve seen some of the fundamentals for good goal setting, how would you like to really get started with your own goals?