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It is completely normal to want things you don’t currently have. People can spend years wishing they went to the gym more and worked out to get healthier, called their friends more often to establish long term relationships, or put more time into their work to finally get that promotion. It is harmless to want things, but how can we turn that desire into motivation? The answer is simple. Goal setting is a great way to keep yourself accountable for your own progress. It captures a final ambition and sets you to work for yourself to make it happen. Still, it can be hard to gauge the scope of the final aim, or whether it is even feasible. That’s why it matters to set realistic goals.

What are realistic goals?

Realistic goals can be hard to qualify. Simply put, the goal has to be within your current or near means. In order to help their employees break down goals into reasonable ambitions, many organizations reference the SMART goals framework, a comprehensive checklist which mandates that the goal in question can meet 5 criteria. If not, the goal requires some amending. It has to be Specific enough to be able to easily define what is being accomplished and see the steps to achieve it. It also has to be Measurable. Ask, how can this goal (and your progress) be quantified? It might require a specific amount of time, money, work, or any other resource, but make a plan to be able to track your success. Achievable questions the actual grounds of the goal. Say a person wants to put $5 into treasury bonds and reap $1 million in the next week. That is not a doable goal because of the system and resources involved. There are other routes, like investing in the stock market or selling expensive jewelry, but it is highly unlikely that a million can fit into the time frame stated. Next, SMART goals must be Relevant. It should have some measure of importance to continue to motivate you and not give up. Finally, T is for Time bound. There must be a way to estimate or plan a time frame to work at and accomplish the goal. All of these criteria ensure that goals are realistic and attainable.

Why is it important to set realistic goals?

Goals help you stay accountable. Making a plan and scheduling baby steps into your daily life makes a daunting task manageable, and it is only possible by visualizing and strategizing smaller objectives to get you there. It is good for people to be able to celebrate success and achieve their desires, especially when hard work and planning are rewarded in the process. Realistic goals also help you maximize your efforts. By splitting up the work, you can maintain efficiency and work to accomplish multiple goals at a time, all within your means. When people set unrealistic goals, it diminishes their sense of self.

Goals vs Objectives

In the SMART goal setting process, it is crucial that the goal is achievable. This is the closest relative of realistic in the 5, and it relies not only on your own work, but the situation and resources you find yourself immersed in. In the bond example, the motivation and level of work the person is willing to dedicate to their goal is completely irrelevant in the face of a much more complex system that operates in a predictable manner. If an intern had a goal to get to a management role in the company, it would have to be a long term goal, supported by many smaller objectives. Objectives are smaller, more manageable tasks that build up to a bigger, long term goal. The intern’s first objective would be to be hired full time, and then prove their excellence and complete projects to be considered for a management position. It requires a long commitment to networking within the company, working hard to demonstrate capability, and staying motivated by achieving small victories wherever possible.

Why is it important to set realistic goals?

Goals help you stay accountable. Making a plan and scheduling baby steps into your daily life makes a daunting task manageable, and it is only possible by visualizing and strategizing smaller objectives to get you there. In the SMART goal setting process, it is crucial that the goal is achievable. This is the closest relative of realistic in the 5, and it relies not only on your own work, but the situation and resources you find yourself immersed in.