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How to Set and Achieve Goals: A Guide

Updated: Jun 11


Climber in orange scaling a snowy Andean peak, where each step taken is marked in the snow marking his progress to the top of that mountainous landscape.

Setting and achieving goals is a crucial aspect of development within any context. As we embark on new cycles, such as the new year, new quarters, or even new sprints, understanding how to set and accomplish our objectives effectively can be truly relevant. Here, we'll explore the importance of goal setting, what can be a path to cultivate the mindset needed for success, how to create a plan, and which tools can support this.


Why is Goal Setting Important?


The need for a clear plan becomes apparent when we meet the consequences of not having one. Lack of direction can often be inconvenient, leading to uncertainty and lots of missed opportunities; to better picture that, analogies from movies like "The Matrix" or "Alice in Wonderland" can help to emphasize the importance of knowing where we are headed so we don't wander and end up far from where we envision ourselves.


Having this in mind, it's also crucial to understand that although plans can be set, things are not always going to go down as planned; therefore, backup plans are good alternatives to resorting to, besides the inner belief that even small advancements can get you closer to your goals. 


Embracing a Growth Mindset 


The driving force behind personal and professional development, a growth mindset, is a way of thinking that values approaching challenges as opportunities to learn and improve. Through this perspective, the effort applied to move forward and develop yourself or the task at hand is always honored. Much like a mountain climber scaling new heights, each step towards the destination matters.

The mindset thrives on incremental progress; failures are never seen as obstacles but as stepping stones to trying again differently; everything is a learning experience. Thus, resilience and a deep understanding of subjects are your best friends.

 

Nowadays, the same logic is widely used by the tech industry, such as in the Agile Manifesto, which embodies a growth mindset towards its deliveries. Even great geniuses like Thomas Edison, who encountered numerous failures before inventing a functional light bulb, once remarked, as reported by the Smithsonian Magazine: "I haven't failed 10,000 times; I've just discovered 10,000 ways that won't work.”  So, stay positive and keep trying!


How to Set Goals: A Step-by-Step Guide

 

Step 1 ➜ Discover Your To-Do List


Bring clarity to your plan by asking yourself essential questions about what you want to achieve. Be specific and consider not only professional goals but personal objectives, too, because even those can indirectly impact each other in the sense of communication, teamwork, or migrating to new areas of expertise.


An example of a thread of questions to lead you to goal definitions could be:


1.1    Who do I want to be next year? 

1.2  What can I do to aid this objective? 

Step 2 ➜ Understand Needed Tools and Skills


Add efficiency to your plan by understanding which tools and skills are necessary to reach your goals; this may involve learning new things, seeking resources, or connecting with people who can assist you. Thus, if you are still determining the answers to the questions you've asked yourself, or even about the lack of a deeper level of specifications to become pursuable, now is when you go after that extra level of context.


Some examples of deeper definitions for the list of wishes stated could be:


  • After some research, I've come to know that the best attest for leading a team now is the Management 3.0 certification, so:

2.1   I'll enroll in a "Management 3.0" training course to learn it and apply for its certification.


  •  By asking my superiors, I discovered that providing mentorship to a junior employee is the best secondary project I can have given my aim to become a team leader, so:

2.2   I'll talk to HR so I can request an assignment to mentor a new joiner from the company.


  • Given my last Annual Team Review, I see that many of my internal clients lack track of what has been defined/scoped between my team deliveries and their requests, so:

2.3 I'll start with the practice of sending a meeting summary to be checked and at the end of every planning meeting we have.


Step 3 ➜ Define Your Immediate Goals


Define your final list by dividing each big goal into smaller/manageable tasks; think of this as a continuous improvement process by translating complex things into sets of achievable and organized work.


At this phase, a roadmap is created, ensuring that each smaller batch of effort you're committing to is specific, measurable, and time-bound, empowering a more focused and achievable progression.


A great example of one objective that could be broken down would be the following:


  • I'll enroll in training in Management 3.0 to learn it and apply for its certification within the first six months of the next year.

3.1    By the first two months of the next year, I'll have finished reading introductory materials around the topic.


3.2    I'll have taken training on the mentioned topic by the first four months of next year.


3.3    By the first six months of the next year, I'll have done one simulation test and a test to get certified.


Tools to Aid in Goal Achievement


Given the goals are now set and at hand, it is worth considering and perceiving that during the execution of activities, many unexpected things can happen, and that's when we adjust or adapt. 


Day-to-day forces, from priority conflicts to procrastination, can always be present and represent real threats while pursuing defined plans. With this, there are lots of tools available that can be of help to the delivery process! Below are suggestions for some of them that may help when needed.  


How to Avoid Procrastination and Lack of Pace?


  •  Make use of the Pomodoro Technique to avoid procrastination. This will enhance rhythm and efficiency:


  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes, focus on a single task, and eliminate distractions.

  2. Take a short break afterward.

  3. Repeat this process for four cycles.

  4. Reward yourself with a longer break.


How to Assess Priorities When There Are Conflicts?


  •  Make use of the Urgent vs. Important matrix to prioritize your tasks. This will aid in focusing on what matters given the time and resources present:

  1.  Identify tasks that are both urgent and important.

  2. Plan for less urgent but essential tasks, and push back urgent but less important tasks.

  3. Eliminate tasks that are neither urgent nor important.

How to Keep Achievability in an Unstable Environment?


  •   Make a heavy use of the Check and Adjust phasis from the  PDCA Cycle (Plan; Do; Check; Adjust). This will ensure ongoing growth and development:

1.      Assess the "progress" made on the defined targets.

2.      Identify the issues that might get in the way of deliveries.

3.      Adjust plans accordingly to the perceived scenario.


  • Make use of contingency plans to address unforeseen challenges or disruptions, with this always having some extra/alternative paths defined for any big plans or processes. This will help manage unexpected events, preventing frustration and setbacks.

Benefits of Planned Goals Setting and Pursuing


Given this material on how well-crafted plans can empower personal and professional development, it's safe to state that goals can be sources of clarity and direction and guard journeys from missed opportunities. The growth mindset is the driving force behind achieving success, and failures are stepping stones that echo through world wild principles such as the Agile Manifesto and even the experiences of great minds like Thomas Edison.


With the added confidence from the suggested tools and the understanding of how they can assist in manageable progression against common challenges, your transforming dreams into tangible accomplishments can start. 


This all leads to the understanding that setting and achieving goals can be a dynamic and rewarding experience. As long as discovering, understanding, setting, and adjusting are truly embraced as companions to this transformative journey of self-improvement and accomplishment.

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