Setting Realistic Goals

Setting goals is important, but making sure those goals are realistic is even more important. For example, if you have played basketball your entire life and can shoot a free-throw blindfolded, wanting to join the NBA is probably a realistic goal. However, deciding that you want to join the NBA when you have never played basketball may not be such a wise move. You want to make sure the goal you set is something you’re capable of doing in the time that you have. For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds in a month, you’re probably going to fail, but if you want to lose 50 pounds in a year, there’s a strong chance you will reach your goal.

Write down a goal you have set for yourself.


Think about your goal as you answer the following questions:

Is the goal specific?


Does the goal explain exactly what you are going to do? For example, instead of setting a goal to improve your grades, you could set a goal to get a B in English or get a 3.0 GPA for the grading period. If you want to get a job, your goal may be to get a job mowing lawns or working at a specific store.

Is the goal measurable?


How will you know when you have reached your goal? If your goal is just to be nicer, to save money or to become better at a sport, there’s really no way to tell when you have reached your goal. You can always keep working towards being nicer, saving money or becoming better at a sport. You need to set a goal that has a definite end. For example, you may set a goal to be nicer by not putting anyone down for 30 days or if you want to be a better baseball player, you may set a goal to hit a set number of pitches at the batting cages without striking out.

Does the goal have a set timeframe?


Having a set timeframe makes it easier to track your goal and make sure you can and will reach it. If your goal is to run a mile, it could be years before you actually try to reach your goal, but if your goal is to run a mile by the end of the month, you have a set timeframe to reach your goal.

Is it possible to reach the goal in that timeframe?


Sometimes you can become too ambitious and want to reach your goals right away. However, some goals take time. If you want to raise money to take a trip to Paris and think you will have enough raised in a week, you will probably be pretty disappointed when you do not reach your goal. Think about your goal and the time it will realistically take to complete your goal, then write your goal down with that timeframe in mind.

Look back at your goal and the answer to the questions. If you can answer yes to every question, you are ready to start trying to reach your goal. If the answer to one or more of the questions is no, you need to take a second look at your goal before you starting working towards it.

Suggested Activities
  1. Make a list of 2-3 goals that are bad goals and then rewrite them to make them better.
  2. Think of a goal you previously did not reach. Was it because the goal was not specific, did not have a realistic timeframe or was not measurable? If so, rewrite the goal to make it more realistic.
  3. Sometimes it helps to get a second opinion. Share your goal with a friend and ask him/her to determine if your goal is specific, measurable and can realistically be completed within the designated timeframe.

Discussion Questions
  1. What is an example of an unrealistic goal?
  2. How do you think you will feel if you set a goal with an unrealistic timeframe?
  3. Every year people make New Year’s Resolutions and they usually fail at them. Thinking about the components of realistic goals, why do you think most New Year’s Resolutions fail?