“I want to increase my turnover”, “I want my customers to be satisfied”, “I want my colleagues to be more collaborative”.
We often hear such statements in our sales seminars when we ask participants to come up with some examples of objectives, but are we sure that statements worded like this represent achievable goals? Or do they instead represent a wish to leave an unsatisfactory reality behind?
If worded correctly, objectives are like headlights that illuminate the road to success. That’s why we need to be very careful when we define them. Here are a few tips to do it correctly.
A wish for change
A wish implies the will to change something in the present. Wishes are imaginary journeys.
Everyone has experienced tough or unsatisfactory situations in their lives, and it’s only natural to imagine future scenarios where problems have been replaced by a fulfilling life, where there is pure well-being, and all negativity is gone. Our mind is so powerful that we might get lost while daydreaming for hours about imaginary worlds, with such detail that we might even forget that we are dreaming.
Believing that a wish is equivalent to an objective results in frustration when it cannot be achieved and the ultimate outcome is a condition of impossibility. “I’d like to, but I can’t…”
A wish is expressed vaguely, dreamily, and is detached from reality, while an objective is rooted in the world of possibilities and has some innate and distinctive characteristics.
Photo Almos Bechtold on Unsplash
Reaching your destination
Goals are the tangible expression of our values, what we believe in, those core drives that make us act.
The more we are aligned with our values, the better we get at setting achievable goals and, consequently, at preparing the necessary actions for their achievement.
The word “objective” comes from the Latin word “obiectum”, the past participle of ōbĭcĭo, to put in front of, and by extension, it means the destination, the end, the result we want to achieve.
However, to reach our destination, our journey should follow a well-defined route and submit to precise rules.
Rule 1 – Objectives are expressed in a positive form
To be achievable, the objective must point us towards our desired destination.
If I say, “I don’t want to work like this anymore”, I haven’t set an objective yet: I have a vague idea of what I don’t like, but I don’t know where to direct my efforts.
Conversely, “I want to be more organised” allows me to take an important step. That is, it directs my thinking towards a slightly clearer course.
- Therefore, what we should be asking ourselves is “What do I want?”
Rule 2 – Objectives are specific
What does being more organised mean for you? It might mean planning appointments, keeping your schedule up to date, or categorizing activities and calculating how long they will take. These examples show how important it is to define what we want to achieve in a tangible and quantifiable way. If the objective is vague, we will find an alibi not to achieve it, and the impossibility of the goal will confirm our sense of frustration. Moreover, when our ideas are more clearly defined, it is easier to share them with others.
- Ask yourself now, “Can I clearly express what I want to achieve?”
Rule 3 – Objectives are measurable and have a deadline
Once we have zeroed in on what we really want to achieve, we should focus on the timing and the deadline, i.e., the timeframe that defines the necessary steps to reach the finish line. We, therefore, need a short-term and long-term procedure so as to know, each step of the way, whether or not we are in line with our goal.
- The question now is “By what date do I want to achieve this?” and immediately after “What’s the first think I can do?”
Rule 4 – Objectives are my responsibility
The objective must be in accordance with the reality principle and be achievable autonomously.
We cannot control what happens out of our reach, how clients should behave or how colleagues should act. When we set unachievable goals, we find endless excuses, and we give up. Conversely, if we take responsibility for our success, we will be fully satisfied.
- Every step of the way, ask yourself, “What can I do to achieve that exact result?” and assess whether it really is in your reach.
Rule 5 – Objectives are in line with who I am
We often suffer because we can’t turn our plans into reality, not realising that they might differ from our own values or might be incompatible with what we deeply believe to be important and, therefore, with those other objectives we are pursuing.
We aren’t compartmentalised, and each part of us interacts with the other elements of our system. Once we have determined the goal we want to achieve, we should also determine whether it might cause repercussions on other parts of our life, both private and professional.
- The question is: “Is there a reason why I might not want to achieve my goal?”.
Prioritising on the path to success
At this point of our journey, it’s good practice to stop and look at what we have outlined. If the definition of our objective follows the correct wording rules, then we need to broaden the framework and evaluate it in relation to higher level objectives.
Our objectives are to be placed in a hierarchy based on what our priorities are, and if they are aligned with our values and are in line with who we are, they will contribute to satisfying the ultimate goal of our existence: the full realization of our well-being and success in life.
And now, we can set off. Have a good journey!
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