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How sure are you about that goal?

Posted Mar 27 2013 5:00am

goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)


Lots of self-improvement books talk at length about how to set goals and how to achieve them. Rarely do you see anything about how to test a goal. Is this a goal you should be trying to achieve? Will it really be something you will want once you reach it? Lots of people spend a chunk of their life working towards a goal only to decide once they get there that they picked the wrong objective. 


1. Is this worth doing?


People set off to accomplish something and never ask themselves if they are successful at getting there will they really feel that this was worth doing.


Many a student signs up for a training program without ever asking if there are any jobs in that field.


If you accomplish this goal will it have been worth the effort? Is this about being selfish? Doing something to be better than someone else? Will you really feel good about yourself if you defeat a one-legged man in a race?


Ever heard the one about the girl who went to great length to take a boyfriend away from a rival only to find out that he was not worth having?


2. Is this really possible?


It is possible to devote your life to trying to do something that really can’t be done. Consider if it is possible and consider further getting some advice from people you trust about whether this is a doable goal.


There are those who have accomplished things that the rest of the world told them could never be done. The one thing they had that changed that whole equation was an unshakable belief that this was possible. If you don’t have that belief and can’t convince yourself then you are probably devoting your efforts to a losing cause.


3. Are you the person to do this?


Sometimes there are things that need doing, great important things, but they require giving up other things. If you spend years of your life trying to accomplish something only to find there were other people with more talent already doing this you will be setting yourself up for failure.


We see this often in business. There is an opportunity, there is a need for a product, and this might be profitable. So a small company starts out to do this. But they find that some other much larger company, the one with lots of money behind them is already opening stores to market this product.


Now if you have a different slant on the problem, you will do it differently, then you have a chance. But if your plan depends on working harder or cheaper the end result may be that the goal will not be worth doing.


4. What will get in your way?


The first thought in setting off on a journey is how great this will be, how wonderful it will be to accomplish this goal. What we often neglect to consider is what will get in our way.


Does this goal take more money than we have or can raise? Will it take too much time?


5. What will you have to do to get past those obstacles?


Will you need a lot more education? Will you need to raise some money? Will you need to turn over control to someone else? Will you have to do things that violate your morals or ethics to reach this goal? Will it cost you friends or family?


Having difficult obstacles in your way should not deter you if the goal is really worth doing, but you need to know what is required to overcome those obstacles.


What you do to get past the obstacles will have a price. You always need to consider if that price is one that is worth paying or having given up that much will you resent the price even if you get to the goal.  


6. If you try and don’t get this done can you still be happy for having made the effort?


Some goals are only worthwhile if you can be successful. For other people the pursuit of the goal is sufficient. Be clear if doing your best will be good enough or if you need to reach the goal to feel good about your journey.


7. When you get it all done will the pursuit of this goal have been worth the price you had to pay to get there.


Every time you do something there are one or more other things that you can’t do. If you go away to school you spend time away from your family. If you stay at home then you can’t attend that prestigious school somewhere else.


Those lost opportunities, things given up to pursue a life goal can add up after a while. It is worth thinking about all those possible losses before you embark on a course that you can’t easily change.


This Goal testing process is not particularly new or original. It is found in several of the old mental improvement texts. Many of these older self-improvement books are available on-line and free if you find the right source. They inspired me to think about this subject and to write this post.


What goals have you set for yourself and have you tested them before you embark on the journey to be sure that you will want the result when you get there?


 For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at


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