14 Sep

4 Questions to Ask When Determining Goals

Most of us have heard–from childhood on–how important it is to set goals in our lives. What seems to be talked about less is setting the right goals for whatever it is you want to accomplish. Setting goals that are worth achieving is one of the hallmarks of a true leader.

True leadership understands that having a concrete goal is the difference between activity and accomplishment. But if that goal isn’t really where you want to be–individually or as a team, personal or for business–you’re wasting time. So the first thing a strong leader wants to know is if a goal is actually worth the time and energy required to achieve it.

How can this be determined? The best way is to ask yourself a series of questions about the goal itself. We’ve come up with a sample list to get you started, but don’t be afraid to expand the questions to fit your personality and the situation:

Who are you doing this for?

Achieving a goal requires patience, commitment and determination; it can be extremely difficult to supply those things for a goal you only half-heartedly believe in, or worse, one that you’re doing because someone else thinks you should.

Goals are usually difficult to achieve–that’s part of what makes them goals, and not simply tasks. Author Mark Manson frames it another way: “What are you willing to struggle for?” That makes sense, because goals can be almost impossible to reach without a deeply rooted desire and passion for what you are attempting to accomplish: if you don’t believe in the goal enough to endure the pain, you’re crippling yourself before you even get started.

What results are you expecting?

Before you think about what it will require to a reach a goal, it’s good to try and imagine where you will be after the fact. What is the “goal behind the goal”: Will you be happier? Have more time or money? Will you be in a better position to reach your other goals? Or to put it succinctly, Will you be satisfied?

If the answer is “yes,” then expand the question: will you be satisfied with accomplishing the individual tasks that will lead you to the goal? The most effective leadership strategies are built on the idea that the day-to-day steps that lead to goal fulfillment bring the satisfaction and fulfillment required to continue on the path. Despite what Mr. Jagger and company proclaim, you can get satisfaction … and if you’re not getting it, it’s time to reassess the goal.

Is your goal on-target?

In a recent article on, entrepreneurs talked about situations where the customer voice should or should not affect the goals of the company. If the goals of your business and what customers are saying about your company don’t jibe, you need determine which of those two things is more accurate, and adjust accordingly.

The same is true for personal goals: if what you are setting out to do can be easily affected by other “voices,” you may not be targeted enough. Make sure you know–as exactly as possible–where you want to arrive. Then put your back to the wall, set your eyes on the prize, and strike out.

Can you get there from here?

You cannot build a solid house without a blueprint, and without a plan there is no path to success. To reach your goal, you need a road map (better yet, GPS!). A wish or a dream is not a goal: a goal requires strategy, planning, and the ability to adapt if the situation changes. Make sure before you start that you not only know where you’re going, you’ve set the most efficient course to get there.

When you take ownership, are passionate about what you’re doing, and create a strategic plan, you exponentially increase your chances of reaching your goals. As a leader, you need to instill this idea in your team … and the best way to do that is by example.