Start to Set Goals: It is not as hard as it seems!

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Written by Tami Moser Ph.D., DBH

I’m a professional learner and professor. After spending 15 years in the corporate world, I moved to the crazy world of Higher Education. My learning journey resulted in a Ph.D., DBH, and a MPA. My free time is spent as a coach for working professionals and academics looking to expand their careers through higher education.

July 22, 2020

Goals drive us to achieve and create opportunities for thoughtful forward momentum. The goals we choose create a deeper understanding of our inner world and dreams. Our goals can also be scary as all F?. Right!


Goals. There’s no telling what you can do when you get inspired by them. There’s no telling what you can do when you believe in them. And there’s no telling what will happen when you act upon them.” – Jim Rohn


What if I’m not good enough? What if people laugh? What if I try and fail? And one of my favorite, what if I actually reach the goal? Fear of failing is often coupled with a fear of succeeding. Lions & Tigers & Bears….OH MY~! The inner world of a human being (you, me, us) is so complicated‼️

The emotional challenges surrounding goal setting are astounding. Even when you appreciate what goal setting does for you, there can still be a struggle to create and complete them. I’ll come clean, I enjoy goal setting. That doesn’t mean the process doesn’t scare me or create some internal stress. Because once I’ve put those puppies on paper, the next step is to take action or face the feelings of failure at the end of the year ?.

If writing them down was the only step, then it wouldn’t be so hard. The truth is a goal without consistent thoughtful action is actually a dream. Having dreams is important, but I’d rather live my dreams by hitting my goal ? . So, the goals need to be clear and provide an opportunity for action and achievement. I’m sure all of you have heard or read about SMART goals. Not the sexiest way to approach goal setting but effective.

Starting with a SMART goal means that you are able to articulate a specific goal that can be measured, achieved, is realistic and a deadline can be set. Realism in goal setting might hold you back. I kid you not! I’m a proponent of realism in setting goals related to concrete business outcomes. But, not as sold on the usefulness in my personal life.

You might not think the goal is realistic but that does not mean that it is not possible if you are willing to take thoughtful consistent action. So, take the R with a grain of salt. [refer back and contemplate the quote by Jim Rohn]


? Take Action:

  1. Write at least one goal down that you want to make progress on by the end of this year. [Goal setting is not just reserved for the first of the year.]
  2. Goals can bridge years. [If you are pursuing a degree, you will be looking at 2-7 years depending on the degree].
  3. Write down the milestones that need to be achieved to reach the goal. Long-term goals can be split up into yearly Milestones to keep the focus more immediate, but this is not necessary.
  4. List a few projects that would be associated. [A class would be a project.]
  5. Attach the projects to a milestone.
  6. Now write down three action steps that you would need to take associated with a project.
  7. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are now a goal setter.

These steps seem simple, but can be a real challenge. Take some time to think about what you want to achieve. Now that you have a goal in place, you need to conduct a gap analysis.


Gap Analysis: A comparison of your current state to a desired future state. In other words, what is it going to take to get from where you are to the desired goal?


The gap analysis gives you the information you need to start to plan your journey forward. Keep in mind, the gap analysis is not just about identifying action steps that you need to take. For instance, finishing a degree requires that you complete classes. During a gap analysis, you also need to think about what you need to do personally to be prepared at an emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical level to reach the desired goal. Identifying gaps in all of these areas, provide a more robust roadmap for actions you need to take to be successful.

If pursuing an education is your goal. Ultimately, you want to graduate ? with a specific degree/certificate within a specific timeframe. Every class completed is a milestone met. Every passing grade a step toward the degree. However, this type of goal is more complex. You need to stay healthy [mental, physical, emotional, spiritual] to get to the end successfully.

Pursuing a doctorate degree has some large milestones. Passing all of your classes is just the first one. Now, you need to successfully pass comprehensive exams. As if that wasn’t enough, you have to journey up and over a final mountain ??‍♂️ ————

The Dissertation! [Sinister music playing]?

The dissertation can be viewed as a challenge unlike any other. This is often a lonely process that stirs up some of your innermost fears about your intelligence, knowledge, skill, and ability. Getting over this final mountain requires patience with yourself and a high level of perseverance, grit, and dedication to daily action.

You may not have treated your pursuit of a degree like a goal. But, I believe that going through the process of writing down the goal, milestones, and action steps for a degree help keep you more focused on what needs to happen to be successful. This is especially crucial when you get to the final mountain.Subscribe


? Take Action:

  1. Write down the Milestones achieved and check them off if you have already started on your education journey. Now reflect….This is a feel-good moment.
  2. Complete a gap analysis. Make sure that you write down what you need to do to stay healthy [mental, physical, emotional, spiritual]. Think about the deficits you may have faced in these areas up to this point.
  3. If you are in the COMPS Milestone, write down any knowledge, skills, ability (KSA) gaps that you believe need to be addressed to improve your ability to successfully climb the Dissertation mountain.
  4. If you are at the Dissertation Milestone, I would recommend creating mini-goals or objectives that need to be met to reach this Milestone. For instance, each chapter is a mini-goal/objective/project. There are a number of action steps that will need to be taken regularly to complete each chapter of the dissertation. [This is a whole other article].

Taking these actions help provide a sky level overview of the goal. This also helps you create a plan to achieve the end result. Being overwhelmed during the dissertation stage is not uncommon. But, it can be done one step at a time. The process of goal setting is really about creating those bite-size pieces so that you are not overwhelmed and instead feel capable of reaching your goal one step at a time.

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