In Hot Pursuit of a Goal

In Hot Pursuit of a Goal

In Hot Pursuit of a Goal

 If you intend to achieve the goals you set for yourself, your goals need to be:

* challenging, but reachable;
* quantifiable; and
* associated with a time line.

Challenging but Reachable

Suppose you're 26 years old, have graduated with a Ph.D. in political science from an Ivy League school, and are considered brilliant by everyone who knows you. Your goal is to become a U.S. senator within the next six years. You have the academic credentials, family background, connections, good appearance, strong voice, and well-developed views that have a large constituency in contemporary society.  

The only problem is that your goal is unreachable. Why? You forgot one thing about running for the U.S. Senate. You have to be at least 35 years old.

Not totally out of the question, you say? You could lobby members of Congress to bring about change. Perhaps 32 should be the minimum, since people are, in many respects, more knowledgeable today than their counterparts of generations ago.

Even if you could start working to have this reform enacted, is it likely that it would happen in time for you to run for office and be elected by age 32? If so, it's a long shot.

Boldly Attempting to Go Where No One Has Before

In the scenario above, the goal is challenging, but unreachable. As a general principle, if your goal involves achieving something that no one in history has achieved, such as redirecting large institutions or a government agency or vastly exceeding your organization's historical norms, it's reasonably safe to conclude that the goal you've chosen is unreachable, even if it's worthy.  

When you're bucking up against something as large and relatively intractable as the U.S. Constitution, the prevailing political climate, a government agency, or any other institution or organization with decades of history, it's important to understand the scope of the effort necessary to buck the tide.

Four Steps to High Challenges

To tackle highly challenging goals that you deem reachable:

1. Understand the turf. Look at the historical record, talk to insiders, and read about where things are headed.
2. Prepare to commit yourself on a level you might not have previously considered.
3. Check your time horizon. Is the goal challenging but reachable within the time limit you've
given yourself?
4. Identify crucial resources.  Who else or what else would you need to make this goal a reality?

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Jeff Davidson

Work-Life Balance Expert

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars.

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