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3 steps for creating a well defined, achievable goal

Every change needs a detailed, clear and emotionally compelling goal that fits your needs, the environment you're in, and makes the effort of getting there worthwhile!

You also need to set criteria that will let you know you've got there.

Here's what I learnt about creating well formed goals in my Neuro Linguistic Programming Training about 20 years ago, and I've seen no need to change it over all of that time.

I was taught this in the context of setting personal goals, but with a stretch of imagination and interpreting 'you' as your organisation or team, it's equally valid for business goals.

Think of a goal you want, and consider each of these rules, refining the definition of your goal as you go.

3 steps for creating a well defined, achievable goal

  • Your goal needs to be really SMART,

  • You need to discover both your primary and secondary gain - why you do and don't want to achieve your goal...and then use what you find to help you plan,

  • Use the "Cartesian Coordinate" questions to double check the integrity of your goal

Your goal needs to be really SMART


  • Simple - The goal is expressed in clear language that a small child would understand.

  • Specific - there is no room for any misunderstanding. What exactly is the goal? Be detailed in your specification.

  • Stated in the positive so that both the goal definition and your thinking are focused on what you want, rather than what you want to avoid.


  • Measurable - how will you know you have achieved it? What will you see, hear, feel, notice or say to yourself? Do you need to put some new measures in place to establish your current benchmark, set your target and be able to measure when you have achieved it?

  • Meaningful to you - so that it creates a sufficient emotional pull for you/your business to be able to answer the question ‘why bother’ and keep you motivated. Ideally it won't be what you think you SHOULD do, or something that someone else wants for you. If it's a business goal you haven't chosen for yourself and can't change, look for ways to link it to something that IS meaningful to you.


  • As if now - described as if you have just achieved it ("I am/have" rather than “I will..”) .

  • Achievable- you know with certainty that (even with a bit of a push) it is achievable for you with the resources you have available or can acquire.


  • Realistic – you believe it's within your reach given the environment that you are in.

  • Responsible – getting this goal won’t negatively impact anyone (so they won't be tempted to sabotage you when you go for it), and if possible will benefit others (so it's in their interests too and they may help you achieve it). Business goals may have an overall benefit but create issues for some. Make sure you find out where the issues are and figure out what you can do to mitigate them.


  • Timed – the specific moment when you will know you have achieved it, including the date.

You need to discover both your primary and secondary gain

Primary gain – the reasons why you want your goal, what it will enable you to do. Reminding yourself of this often will help with any dips in motivation.

Secondary gain – the (possibly hidden) reasons you might not want to get your goal. The ‘dis-benefits’. You need to address these in your preparation and planning if you want to succeed, otherwise there will always be a pull away from your goal (an internal or real saboteur).

For example, by ‘going for my goal’ I may risk rejection or failure and I want to protect myself from that. So I need to find a way for this to be OK.

Use the Cartesian Coordinate questions to double check the integrity of your goal

Go through these questions and see if your goal definition needs to be tweaked:

  • What will happen if get my goal?

  • What won't happen if I get my goal?

  • What will happen if I don't get my goal?

  • What won't happen if I don't get my goal?

By now, you should have a really clear goal that you are certain you can achieve!

Look at your goal daily and ask yourself, "what will I do today to get me closer to that goal"...and then take action :)

If you're really serious about achieving your personal or business goals and want to accelerate your progress, I would recommend working with a coach. It certainly works for me and my clients!

If you'd like to consider getting some coaching support to set and achieve your goals, please book a free call.

And if you'd like to make sure you see all of my blogs, sign up here for my monthly email.


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